Length: 4.8 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Easy
Why we love it: Though never far from civilization, this gentle loop has nice views and a peaceful sense of solitude
When to go: Any time of year, although it’s best to hike on cooler days, due to a lack of shade
Restrooms: Outhouse at the trailhead
Dogs: Must be leashed
Distance from Denver: About 35 minutes

Looking for an easy, uncrowded hike to tackle on one of these unseasonably warm afternoons? Head to Jefferson County’s 1,650-acre Hildebrand Ranch Park. Once a seasonal camping spot for nomadic Arapaho and Ute tribes, this fertile land was acquired in 1866 by Frank and Elizabeth Hildebrand, who slowly converted the windswept grasslands into one of the county’s most prosperous ranches. The county purchased the land in 2001.

The property’s only path, the Two Brands Trail, offers a gentle loop around the park, where hikers, mountain bikers, or horseback riders can enjoy quiet solitude. With its mild grades, rows of budding cottonwoods, and grasslands that will slowly be greening over the next couple of months, spring is an ideal time to try this hike.

From the trailhead parking lot, where an old barn still stands, cross the small, cottonwood-lined creek and head up a short rise to a confusing trail junction shaped like a giant X. I recommend turning west to head toward the hogback and complete a counter-clockwise loop. To do this, take the second right (the path that looks like a two-foot-wide trail rather than a rutted road). You’ll ascend two small hogbacks before leveling out and bending toward the south to parallel the largest hogback, which is composed of Dakota Sandstone, the remnants of an ancient beach along which duck-billed dinosaurs once roamed.

After following the base of the hogback for more than a mile, the trail veers eastward and slowly descends toward the TrailMark neighborhood’s southern edge. For the next 1.2 miles, the Two Brands Trail follows signed gravel paths that wind through this subdivision. After directing you past a tiny reservoir, the signs lead to the west but then briefly disappear. Walk west across Flower Way, and then north across West Trailmark Parkway, to reach the Hogback Hill Park, where the signs reappear and eventually lead you to the neighborhood’s northeast corner, where the narrower, dirt Two Brands Trail resumes. After 0.6 miles this path returns you to the X junction. Turn right here and descend the small incline to return to your car, taking with you a sense peace captured from the windswept grasslands.

Getting there: From Golden follow C-470 East for 13 miles to the Kipling Parkway exit. After exiting, turn right to follow West Ute Avenue/South Owens Street for about 0.8 miles. At the junction with West Deer Creek Canyon Road, turn left and follow this road for 0.6 miles. Turn right at the Jefferson County Open Space sign to reach the large, paved trailhead parking lot.

Terri Cook
Terri Cook
Terri Cook is an award-winning freelance writer based in Boulder. More of her work can be found at down2earthscience.com.