Run: Mt. Falcon - Lair O' the Bear Loop
Distance: 19.31 miles
Weather: Cool and clear
Started thinking early Sunday morning about where to run today. I had some ideas about what I was looking for...I wanted to run long...wanted to run as much as possible on snow-free trails...wanted to hit something new. After a bit of back-and-forth, I decided on a loop I'd been thinking about doing for a couple of years, but had never gotten around to - a loop run through a series of Jefferson County Open Space parks and Denver Mountain Parks, beginning and ending in Morrison -- the Tour de Bear Canyon Parks.
Before heading out to run some errands with JP and the kids, I jumped on Map my Run to see if I could get a fair guesstimate about mileage (Map My Run doesn't show trails). After a bit of tinkering, I came up with a guess of 16-20 miles. Perfect.
I parked my car in downtown Morrison around 2:45 p.m. and headed out uphill on Highway 8 south and made quick work of the 1.5 miles or so to the Mt. Falcon Open Space parking lot. I jumped on the Castle Trail and climbed about four miles and 2,000 feet to the upper parking lot. From here is was downhill on a series of paved and dirt roads to the small community of Indian Hills. I ran through town on Parmalee Gulch/Meyers Gulch Road, past Pence Park, a 320-acre Denver Mountain Park acquired by the city in 1914.
Directly across from Pence Park, I hopped on the Bear Creek Trail (BCT), a five-mile or so undulating singletrack trail though a gorgeous collection of ponderosa pine forests and meadows. The BCT runs through O'Fallon and Corwina Parks (two more Denver Mountain Parks, acquired in 1938 and 1916 respectively) before dropping down to Bear Creek Canyon and JeffCo's Lair o' the Bear Open Space. (Trail map of the area here.) Here, the trail runs along Bear Creek for three miles or so, including a stretch across from the surprising Dunafon Castle, a residential property used for weddings and such.
By the time I hit the main Lair o' the Bear parking lot, it was pretty much dark. I continued along the BCT until it dumped out into yet another Denver Mountain Park. This time, it was the 400-acre Little Park, acquired in 1914, and located near the Bear Creek Canyon community of Idledale. From here, it was pavement time.
As it was now dark, I once again had to question my thinking...wearing all black while running in the dark down a winding, two-lane canyon road, just like last weekend. I gotta start planning better.
Feeling a bit anxious about the darkness, I picked up the pace (last three miles were 7:28, 7:08 and 7:03) and made relatively quick work of the four miles from Little Park back down to Morrison. There was a decent shoulder most of the way, but enough of a squeeze to keep me constantly looking over my shoulder for cars racing down the canyon. Incidentally, the stretch of Bear Creek Canyon Road (Highway 74) from Little Park to Morrison is actually yet another Denver Mountain Park, acquired in 1928. It's called Bear Creek Canyon Park and is comprised of a 400-foot strip of land (130 acres) that follows the road.
So, for the day that was seven parks, 19.38 miles, 3,411 feet of elevation gain, three gels, two bottles of water and one great work out.