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Mount Carbon Loop, Bear Creek Lake Park in Lakewood
Distance: 6.75 miles round-trip
Cost: $10 park entrance fee
If you break down this hike—which encircles the entire park and takes you to the area’s highest point—into four distinct parts, the first and third are the real highlights. Walking counterclockwise from the Whitetail picnic area (you can join the trail from at least four other parking areas if this one’s full), you’ll spend about a mile walking along a forested path next to a creek. When you reach a road, curve left to follow the trail. Soon, the slog begins: a long stretch of shadeless, roadside, sandy trail. When you reach Bear Creek Reservoir, you’ll want to run for the rocky beach to cool your toes in the water. Enjoy the break, because it’s about to really get strenuous: A series of switchbacks lead to the crest of Mt. Carbon, which affords a stunning look over the reservoir and its mountain backdrop. From there, you’ll amble downhill on well-kempt singletrack. For the final section, you’ll be roadside again, climbing your second and final hill up and around the dam. This ascent is longer but not as high as the summit of Mt. Carbon. As you work your way back down into the main part of the park, you’ll rejoin the forested path and, shortly thereafter, your car.
Who Will Love This Trail: Lake aficionados; photographers who want mountain and city views
Shortcut: Want to cut out the climb up Mt. Carbon? Take Fisherman’s Trail, a flatter, 1.5-mile stretch that starts soon after you reach the water (signs are easy to follow) and reconnects with the Mount Carbon Loop on the northwest edge of Bear Creek Reservoir.