Length: 5.6 miles round trip
Why we love it: A leg-pumping climb up “The Wall” along a well-built trail that alternates between lush forest and open views of the red rocks and the plains to the east.
When to go: Any time of year with Yaktrax, or mid-spring through late fall without.
Pre-hike buzz: The closest coffee is just north of C470 at the Kipling Parkway-West Remington Avenue Starbucks. For a post-hike treat, try the Fro yo spot one block farther north.
Restrooms: Flush toilets at the trailhead.
Dogs: Must be leashed.
This invigorating loop explores the heart of Jeffco’s 1,722-acre Deer Creek Canyon Park, located a few miles west of Chatfield Reservoir. Once a seasonal camping spot for nomadic Arapaho and Ute tribes, this fertile land was also home to enterprising homesteaders and even a few notorious outlaws, including Jesse James and prospector Alferd Packer, who served time in the state pen for purportedly shooting—and eating—his companions when they were stranded one winter in the San Juans.
At the top of the parking lot, veer left towards the foothills on the Plymouth Creek Trail, which is open to mountain bikers and equestrians as well as hikers. The route begins with an easy stroll across 300-million-year-old red and white sandstones, which line the lower creek. But after the trail reaches the much harder—and much older—1.7-billion-year-old rocks that form the core of the Rocky Mountains, the route becomes much more challenging.
After passing the junction with the hiker-only Meadowlark Trail, the route attacks the steepest and rockiest portion of the ascent, known as “The Wall.” Fortunately, during most of the climb the trail is sheltered beneath surprisingly dense stands of tall trees. Instead of turning left at the first junction with the Plymouth Mountain Trail, I recommend going straight to complete the loop in a counter-clockwise direction. This has a slightly easier gradient and allows you to more fully enjoy the views on the descent.
At the second junction with the Plymouth Mountain Trail, veer left to follow it a short distance to a junction with an optional out-and-back, 0.8-mile round-trip trail that leads to some rocky outcrops, a scenic mountaintop view, and a great snack spot. Once you return to the main trail, head left and follow this for 1.7 miles through extensive patches of Gambel oak, the deciduous shrub best known for turning bright red in the autumn. The views to the east along this stretch are amazing; just below the trail are a series of jagged hogbacks, which mark the start of the Rockies. Behind these, the waters of Chatfield Reservoir sparkle in the sun, and the majestic plains stretch to the horizon.
Once you return to the Plymouth Creek Trail, turn right and retrace your steps back to your car. If you wish to continue your hike, complete a “figure 8” by turning left onto the Meadowlark Trail, which adds another half-mile—and more stunning views—to your hike.
Getting there: From Denver head south on C470 to the Kipling exit. Turn right (west) here onto West Ute Avenue, then right again onto Deer Creek Canyon Road. At 2.5 miles from the exit, turn left onto Grizzly Drive. After 0.4 miles turn right into the large, paved trailhead parking lot.