Distance: 20.39 miles
Weather: Sunny and beautiful
Out the door at about 6:15 a.m. for a long loop from home. Felt the early morning chill as I stepped out the door and wound my way through the neighborhood streets to the trail that leads up to the upper parking lot of Elk Meadow Open Space. Here the first rays of the sun were just striking the lot as I jumped on Stagecoach Road for the climb to its apex before dropping down toward Whittier Gulch.
Morning sun on Elk Meadow Park sign at the upper parking lot.
After beginning the descent down Stagecoach toward Whitter Gulch, Mt. Evans and its sister peaks came into full view. Just like yesterday morning, the massif was ablaze in the morning light.
Mt Evans from Stagecoach Road
Soon I was at the intersection of Stagecoach and Whittier Gulch Road. I hung a right and began the 3.17 mile, 1,514-foot ascent of this mostly dirt/gravel road. The climb felt good, as the top 3/4 of the climb was bathed in sun. The road snakes up via a series of switchbacks and ends at Highway 103, also known as Squaw Pass Road. Directly across 103 from Whittier Gulch Road is a trailhead that leads into the Beaver Brook Watershed, which is comprised of U.S. Forest Service land and a Clear Creek County Open Space park. When you put this area together with Elk Meadow and the other national forest land in the area, there's a 20-mile wildlife corridor from Evergreen to Mt. Evans.
Upper Meadow of Beaver Brook Watershed
The conservation of this property has an interesting and fairly recent history. A unique combination of forces came together to protect the area's 5,000 or so acres. It took the combined determination and skill of the Mountain Area Land Trust, Clear Creek County Open Space, Great Outdoors Colorado and, I recall, then-Rep. Mark Udall and then-Sen. Wayne Allard. In addition to some swell hills, forest and creeks, the property includes one of the City of Golden's small reservoirs. Very scenic. The place has a few trails/dirt roads that a great for running and exploring. And, it's just 4-5 miles up Hwy 103 from Evergreen.
Standing this morning at the upper meadow, I was pleasantly surprised to see a very well-packed trail heading down through the meadow toward the forest below. I was feeling great running through here. I could feel the trail running mojo coming back. I had one of those running moments on this descent, where suddenly everything just feels good. A wave of a full-body chill washed quickly over me. A runner's high? I was listening to FoCo's very own Drag the River when it happened. A perfect moment.
A spur trail I explored while running down the main packed trail in Beaver Brook
A frozen Beaver Brook Reservoir looking west
Beaver Brook Watershed - looking west from the east entrance
From Beaver Brook, I headed east down Old Squaw Pass Road to its intersection with Hwy 103, which I followed down to the north side of Elk Meadow Open Space. Just before I was about to jump the fence into Elk Meadow, I big red tail hawk swooped down from the other side of the 103 and landed on a tree just past me.
Red tail hawk near Elk Meadow
From there, it was quick couple of miles through Elk Meadow and up Bergen Peak Drive back to the house. Great morning.
3,138 feet of elevation gain.
3,138 feet of elevation gain.