Friday, February 13, 2015

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge: Lake Ladora Loop

Distance: 1.8 miles loop
Elevation: 5,279 ft
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Dogs: Not allowed
Bathrooms at the Trailhead: Yes
Date Hiked: 19 October 2014

Lake Ladora in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal north of Denver, Colorado
The Lake Ladora Loop is a short trail around an irregularly shaped, but seriously serene lake in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.

Map showing the Lake Ladora Loop in reference to the visitor's center
Standing on the edge of the lake. Trail starts just to the right, outside of the frame.
Leaving the larger road and heading off onto the single track
The Arsenal, as the locals call it,  is an oasis just north of Denver that used to be a WWII chemical weapons plant. Now it is a series of small lakes and trails, a fenced compound filled with rambunctious Buffalo, and a appealing visitor's center with interpretive displays and lectures. I took my parents there when golden grasses stood in stark relief to a deep blue Autumn sky. It was a great family day!

Picnic area
Rabbit Brush in bloom
The Lake Lador Loop starts up the road from the visitor's center at a small pumping station sandwiched between Lake Mary and Lake Lador. The former has very pleasant boardwalk through a forest of cattails, while the route around Lador Lake is more open. Waterfowl hugged the shorelines and cruised in and out of weeds in a cacophony of honks and screeches. We didn't see any of the resident Bald Eagles, but plenty of Ravens and other small birds.

Heading towards the marshy southern end
Crossing the marsh on the pontoon bridge
The route varies between dirt road, single track, and boardwalk depending upon where you are. Signage is limited, but a little thought enables you to take the correct turns. On the southern end of the lake the trail gets very close to the water and several picnic tables grace the shoreline for anglers and their picnic lunches.

Looking at the marsh from the pontoon bridge
On the east side of the lake
The route does step out on the paved road briefly before diving back into the marshy side of the lake. A pontoon bridge claimed by some local Raccoons, leads to the other side, which is mostly atop an embankment.

Looking northwest
On the wide path on the eastern side
There are plenty of trails in the Arsenal and I would love to return to explore them all. I am always looking for shorter, easier trails to enjoy with my parents. After our hike, we did drive through the Buffalo compound where a group of yearlings were frolicking in the dust right next to the road. Snide comments from the back seat about children, mud, and the perils of parenting were deftly ignored.