Length: 5.2 miles round-trip
Why we love it: Thriving trees, shade for hot summer days, and a moderate grade and smooth surface that make it a pleasure to go up or down
When to go: Any time of year with Yaktrax, or mid-spring through late fall without
Pre-hike buzz: As you zip along Evergreen Parkway, stop by EverBean by the Lake for a breakfast panini and mango iced tea or the house specialty, a chocolate-hazelnut-flavored coffee called Silver Delight.
Restrooms: Outhouse at trailhead
Dogs: Must be leashed
This beautiful loop circles through the southern portion of Jefferson County’s forested 1,127-acre Alderfer/Three Sisters Park, located in the foothills just west of Evergreen. This open space preserves a historic ranch first homesteaded in 1873 by James T. Hester, then acquired in 1945 by the Alderfer family, for whom the parcel is named. Among other activities, the Alderfers operated a sawmill here, and once you visit, it’s easy to see why; the entire parcel is forested, which makes for a peaceful and relatively shady hike.
This loop, which is open to hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians, begins from the East Trailhead parking lot. From here, cross Buffalo Park Road to access the Evergreen Mountain East Trail, which winds through tall ponderosa pine trees, whose sap smells like butterscotch. After the first junction (with the Ranch View Trail), the route climbs gradually through the ponderosas up Evergreen Mountain’s eastern flank for another 1.5 miles, passing a neighborhood access spur enroute.
At the next three-way trail junction, turn left on the Summit Trail for the short, final climb up to the top of 8,527-foot Evergreen Mountain. The entire route is so well graded that you don’t feel as though you’ve climbed just over 1,000 feet in elevation when you reach the top, where your efforts are nicely rewarded with a wonderful view of snow-capped Mount Evans. As you continue around the Summit Trail lollipop loop, there are several great picnic spots, with nice views and large granite boulders to stretch out on. When you start back down the lollipop “stem,” there is another nice picnic spot and scenic viewpoint to the northeast that’s accessed via a signed 0.2-mile detour.
Once you return to the three-way trail junction, turn left to follow the Evergreen Mountain West Trail, which descends through very dense stands of lodgepole pine trees to the edge of a beautiful meadow. After crossing two junctions with the Wild Iris Loop, continue east to the short Ranch View Trail. This crosses a private driveway, then returns you to the Evergreen Mountain Trail. Turn left (north) on this path to stroll the last 0.3 mile through the forest to your car.
Getting there: From Denver, take I-70 West to the Evergreen Parkway (Exit 252). Follow the parkway (Highway 74) south to Evergreen. Just past Evergreen Lake, turn right (south) onto Highway 73, then turn right to head west on Buffalo Park Road. You’ll arrive at the park’s East Trailhead in about 1 mile. If the lot is full, continue another half mile west and park in the larger West Trailhead lot.