Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dry Trails Ahoy!

Out early for a solid 19 miles of fun on the nearly completely dry and snow-free trails of the foothills just west of Denver.

Time: 3:23
Distance: 19.1
Effort: Easy
Body: Average
Weather: Cloudy and cool

Met up at 6:30 a.m. with Todd G. at the base of Lakewood's Green Mountain with plans to do a circuit that would include Green, the Dakota Hogback, Red Rocks and Matthew Winters open space parks.

The first nine miles was a sweet circumnavigation of the (mostly) outside flanks of the mountain. We ran a series of official and social trails, missing out on the northwest corner of the park when we ran out of social trail options.

After a quick stop at the cars to drop some clothing and pick up more gels/water, we set off up the Zoro Trail to the upper ridge of the Dakota Hogback. At the top, we hung a left and headed south along the formation's spine, dropping soon down to Red Rocks.

With the massive red rock formations looming above, we headed up the Red Rocks Trail and climbed through meadows and up a gully to the north of the park's namesake rocks.  We topped out on the Morrison Slide Trail and cruised across the high plateau here before dropping down to just above the Matthew Winters parking lot.

Twas here where Todd pointed out an old road bed that snaked west up into the foothills above. "Up for a little exploring," he asked. Some question. So, up we went, hiking most of it as it climbed steeply up. Turns out, the road bed is actually the route of an underground natural gas line. We climbed for about a mile before hitting the western boundary of the open space park.  We soaked in the views of Mt. Morrison and pointed out potential routes visible due to snow in the trail/road treads in the trees and grass far across a big drainage.  We'll be back to find a way to access Mt. Morrison, one of the bigger peaks of the immediate Front Range (clearly there's a road up the backside, since it's festooned with multiple radio/tv towers).

After running back down and rejoining the Red Rocks Trail, we ran through the Matthew Winters parking lot, across Highway 93 and back onto the Dakota Hogback formation, which technically is part of the Matthew Winters Open Space park.  We made relatively quick work of the steady climb to the Dakota Ridge Trail, hung a right and returned to the Zoro Trail and descended back to the cars at the base of Green Mountain.

Felt decent (save for a lingering dry hack from the recent illness) the whole run.  Still working on fully kicking the virus, but progress is evident.  Legs felt good, despite the multiple days off of late (including Saturday).  Really a great day on the trails. Virtually no mud. Almost no snow/ice (save for a really sketchy steep stretch coming down from the Morrison Slide Trail that had both of us on our butts trying not to slide off the trail).  Just a whole bunch of dry singletrack to whet our appetites for the coming spring (please hurry!).

3,899 feet o' elevation gain.


  1. Good to know, didn't get out on the trails this wknd.
    Glad you're feeling better!

    Coincidentally (even moreso because I was wondering about it as well), someone recently posted about the various routes up Mt. Morrison. I guess they're mostly social routes, but fairly well-established (esp. South Ridge).

  2. I'm bummed I missed you guys today. Nice run! I didn't get out until the afternoon, but made a spontaneous decision to head over to Roxborough again. I can tell you the dry trails were sparse. I had a few short stretches of post-holing through 1' of snow on Powerlines...reminiscent of a few weeks ago!

  3. Mike - many thanks! I'll check it out. You'll have to join us one of these weekend mornings. Perhaps we can lure you out to the trails.

    Woody - we missed having you out there this a.m. Next weekend, eh? (Although we'll have to avoid anywhere where postholing is required!)

  4. Jim P. - Cool run. Good to hear the trails are dry, because late Saturday the NE side of Green was pretty muddy. Maybe it was just the aspect that kept it damp.

    Although you can circle the NW corner of Green high up (on the Summit Loop trail), the lower NW slopes are a bit of a dead end. The trail heads north towards Golden then either merges with the bike path or takes a right towards a neighborhood access point. You can take a hard right on a Jeep road (east), but it ends at some sort of tanks with several "No Trespassing" signs. Google Earth doesn't reveal any trails to get around it down that low on the mountain.

    There are a couple of nice trails on the NE side that descend via ravines to the neighborhoods and cross the big field on the NE corner. Going down one ravine and up another would make a nice loop to tack on to a longer run. Trails of some sort go all the way down to Red Rocks Community College. Those are all my go-to trail runs from home.

    Mike - Good find on SummitPost map on the Mt. Morrison trails.