Distance: 6.06 miles
Weather: Cloudy & Cool
It started raining hard just as I was driving over to the upper parking lot trailhead at Jefferson County's Alderfer-Three Sisters Open Space park. Big ol' honkin' raindrops were smacking the windshield, making me wonder if I should scrap the run. But, since this is Colorado, I figured there was a good chance the downpour would end as quickly as it started, enabling me to get in a solid mid-afternoon run without getting soaked.
Right about the time I pulled into the parking lot, the clouds parted, patches of blue, followed by a warming sun appeared. And, off I went speeding down the Bluebird Trail into the lower half of Alderfer. Initially, I planned to run the outer loop of trails that ring this part of the park. However, at the bottom of the first descent, I had another idea as I gazed up at the rounded and rocky hulk of Elephant Butte.
View from the house of Elephant Butte rising from behind the ridge above Bear Creek.
It has been well over a year since I ran up this lightly-used, but prominently visible local mountain landmark. The butte isn't big, but it rises suddenly from the relatively flat Elephant Park that lay below its southern flanks. As Colorado's 3,383rd highest peak -- topping out at 8,405 feet, it ain't going to make anyone's life list, but it is local, it is steep and it's our local version of Boulder's Green Mountain, only smaller. It's got a lot of rocks, a bunch of step-ups, a little scrambling and amazing views to the west of the Evans group -- Mt. Evans, Mt. Rosalie, Mt. Epaulet and Mt. Spalding - and over to Bergen Peak to the north and Evergreen Mountain to the south. I'd go so far as to say it's among the best views in the county.
From one of the main trails in Alderfer, I located the faint track heading west that leads one up the eastern flank of Elephant Butte. The trail is unmarked, and somewhat hard to find from the Alderfer trail system. However, once the trail starts to climb, it improves. Someone has invested a bit of time cutting some downed logs, checking some erosion and very subtly marking the trail with mini cairns.
With the exception of one scramble, I ran the whole thing, hitting the split at 24:44 at the butte's highpoint on the western side of the rounded summit. For the hell of it, I'll make that the FKT from the Alderfer parking lot.
After a few minutes of scenery gazing, I descended a bit and found another likely marked trail that headed out across the southern shoulder of the large uprising that extends off Elephant Butte. I followed this trail over to another high point, then continued on south on a series of ever-fainter trails until I was dumped out on a dirt road that provides access to a few houses and ranches. From there, it was 1.5 miles of road running back to Alderfer. I then ran a quick loop around the Bluebird Meadow Trail to round out the mileage at just over six miles.
Elevation gain: 1,444 feet.