Sunday, March 9, 2014

O'Fallon Park: Meadow View and West Ridge Trails

Distance: 5.5 miles round trip
Elevation: 6,900 ft - 7,500 ft
Elevation Gain: 600 ft (net)  1,172 ft (cumulative)
Bathroom at Trailhead: Yes
Dogs: On leash (Denver Mountain Parks)
Date Hiked: 16 February 2014

View from the vista point in the O'Fallon open space
O'Fallon park, located near Kittridge on Highway 74 out of Morrison, is a typical open space park that encompasses acres of rolling hills and Ponderosa Pine. Like all local open space, this park is great for a quick trail run, fresh-air fix in the off season, or as an alternative to 3 martinis after a stressful day. The park is adjacent to Corwina park, which in turn abuts Jefferson County's Lair O' the Bear Park. The Bear Creek Trail, which runs through all three parks, is primarily used by mountain bikers.

Trailhead
Secondary parking area just past the trailhead
The trails in O'Fallon park, like Meyers Ranch on nearby highway 285, are a series of connected loops that can make for shorter or longer excursions. On this trip we started out on the 0.4 mile unnamed connector trail to the Meadow View Loop (unlabeled on the map), to a vista point at at 1.4 miles, then on to the West Ridge Trail, which IS labeled on the map, and then back to the car. While the map itself lacks detail, there are signs on the ground to guide your way.

Heading up the connector trail
Bear Creek
The winter of 2014 has been a series of Arctic blasts followed by hurricane force winds and 60° temperatures. This meant that the day we hiked this, there were plenty of dry patches intermixed with total ice from the inscesent freezing and thawing of the snow. We wore microspikes the entire time and were just fine although we joked that we should have brought along our ice axes.

Junction of the connector trail and the Meadow Loop
Heading up the left side of the Meadow View Loop
The first 0.4 miles of the trail are relatively flat. At the beginning of the Meadow View Loop, we stayed left and climbed a grueling 600 ft  to a small vista point with lovely views of the surrounding hills. A short distance back down the Meadow View Trail (at 1.9 miles) is a three-way trail junction marked by a large kiosk and trail sign. Here the Bear Creek Trail continues southward and an unnamed spur to the West Ridge Trail heads back toward the parking lot. If you choose the Bear Creek Trail at this point, you can catch the West Ridge Trail (at 2.3 miles) at it furthest extent and thus have a longer hike (see map at the bottom of the post).

View of Mt. Evans from the first view point
Trail junction with kiosk
At 2.8 miles is another vista point covered in rocky boulders. You can scramble all over the area or zoom upwards just another tenth of a mile to the high point of the route at 7,500 ft.

A typical dryer trail segment
On the West Ridge Trail
From this point it is all downhill. Note at 3.3 miles there is another junction with the West Ridge Trail going to the right and the Picnic Loop going to straight. There was no trail sign here, but we were hiking with someone familiar with the trail and so made the turn correctly. At 3.9 miles we were back to the Meadow View Trail and at 4.6 miles we finished the loop and started back on the spur trail to the car.

Blue skies and a small Aspen Grove
By the time we returned to the trailhead, the air was warm and the parking lot was a sea of mud. With the schizophrenic weather this season, you need to make sure you have spikes, skis, water wings, and hip waders on every outing.

The map to O'Fallon Park is hard to read, even when printed. The Bear Creek Trail is dark red and obvious, while the hiker only loops are in light purple and are overpowered by the darker contour lines. Our route is outlined in blue arrows.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Sylvia, you were asking about the distance round Loch Muick. It's quite short - about 7.7 miles.
    As I write this I'm thinking about my daughter, who is away hillwalking in the mountains of the north west of Scotland with her university hillwalking club. The rest of the country is bathed in sun today, but they are having constant rain. I guess they'll still have fun.

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