#60HikesDenverChallenge – Chautauqua Park, Royal Arch

(For 2017, I have a goal of getting through all 60 trails in the book “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Denver”  You’ll see these posts all year-long. You can find a lot of info on each of the trails in the book, but I’ll highlight some things each time in addition to including my experience and opinion on the trail. The number below is associated with how they are labeled in the book if you have it.)

Trail #6 – Chautauqua Park – Royal Arch, Boulder
Completed: 4/12/17 | Mode: Hiking
Location: Chautauqua Park, Boulder
Distance: 3.5 miles
Difficulty: Hard, steep climb
Surface: Hard packed dirt with a few bigger rocks in parts
Exposure: Lots of shade!
Facilities: Water, restrooms, and information at the Ranger Station

My Experience:
Back in April, I headed out the door to Boulder to get in a birthday hike. Afterward, my Mom met me for dinner in Boulder and it was a great 30th birthday! As I find some free time, I’m going to keep posting about my 60 Hikes Challenge and the ones I have gotten done during the last few months.

The beginning of the hike, looking out at the Flatirons.

Found at the base of the Flatirons, Chautauqua is a well-used park. People come here to hike, climb, and to simply hang out. There’s also a dining hall, theater, and more trails just behind the Flatirons. I went hiking in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week and it was still crowded. Although, once I was past the beginning trails that go up to the Flatirons, the crowds thinned out and I was left to the Royal Arch trail mostly by myself.

This is hike is not easy by any means. You climb the whole time to the arch, increasing in steepness during the last half mile as the trail turns into stairs. Just as you think you’ve made it to the top, you realize you need to hike down a little and then back up, again, to the arch. For me, that day, my quads were taking a beating and cramped up on me after the first summit. As you round on the last switchback, the arch comes into view and all of a sudden it’s looming over you. Hike right through the arch and see a beautiful view of Boulder and surrounding areas.

Pros:
-Restrooms
-Ranger station with maps, information, and gifts
-Lots of shade!

Cons:
-The biggest con is the crowds. This is a very overused park and needs a lot of attention!

Tips:
-If visiting on the weekend, there is now a free shuttle service from New Vista High School to help alleviate the parking issues.
-When you reach the first summit before the arch, climb the rocks there for a faraway view of Royal Arch.
-Please, please, please practice the Leave No Trace Principles and STAY ON THE TRAIL! I can’t believe how many people I saw hiking off to the side on a DRY day, next to a very wide trail. #InDisbelief

Overall:
I really wish this park wasn’t abused as much as it is. It’s a beautiful place in the heart of Boulder, but because of its location, so many people flock to the trails for a dose of nature. Many of those don’t respect the “rules” of the outdoors and it is getting pretty frustrating. While I was there, I watched two people walking off the side of a trail that was literally wide enough for TWO cars! No joke.

I hike here a lot to get to the climbing areas of the Flatirons, but for just for hiking alone, I tend to avoid this area like the plague. If you’re visiting from out of town, and don’t mind the crowds, it is definitely worth the trip.  Or you can climb a Flatirons while you’re there! Hire a guide: GoldenMountainGuides.com (#shamelessplug #sorrynotsorry)


Check out the book for yourself!

#60HikesDenverChallenge – Green Mountain and Hayden Trail Loop

(For 2017, I have a goal of getting through all 60 trails in the book “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Denver”  You’ll see these posts all year-long. You can find a lot of info on each of the trails in the book, but I’ll highlight some things each time in addition to including my experience and opinion on the trail. The number below is associated with how they are labeled in the book if you have it.)

Trail #22 – Green Mountain and Hayden Trail Loop
Completed: 4/3/17 | Mode: Running!
Location: Alameda and Union, Lakewood
Distance: 3.3 miles
Difficulty: Hard, steep climb
Surface: Hard packed dirt with a few bigger rocks in parts
Exposure: No Shade
Facilities: Port-o-potty at Alameda Trailhead, no water

View into Golden!

My Experience:
I have run on Green Mountain more times than I can count. This is the place where I had my first trail run experience many, many years ago and a place I still love to this day. This is also the place that I just about lost it when I saw some people cutting the trail. Green Mountain does get used regularly and it hurts me to see the signs of overuse or people disrespecting the “rules” of nature. In fact, I just drove by the last week and the signs  were marked RED indicating “OVERLY MUDDY CONDITIONS, use not recommended,” and yet the parking lot was still packed. Come to find later in the week, when the trails were finally dry, there was bike tire ruts baked into the trail – NOT FUN for the ankles!

I look grumpy…but I was just squinting.

Anyway, I’ve run all over this mountain, just about every trail that there is. There are all types of trails here: long easy runs, steep hill climbs, a mixture, etc. Plus, it’s close to where I work and live (I coach track right across the street), making it super convenient to get a trail run in without traveling far. About a week before I completed the exact trail from the book, I inadvertently did the trail in reverse as I just ran around aimlessly. I went back to repeat the trail from the book, just because.

Quite the challenge, going the direction the book recommends takes you up, UP and UP for a whole mile without relenting. Not going to like, it was pretty tough. I ran most of it with a little bit of walking, took in the views at the top and ran the downhill (my favorite part) back to my car.

Awesome views of Denver!

Pros:
-All types of running can be found
-Good views in the distance
-Plenty of miles of trails! The full loop is over 6 miles, but can add trails in between.
-Wildflowers for a brief season in the spring

Cons:
-Not particularly beautiful on the trails
-Some parts have really loose, smaller sized rocks, making footing super tricky
-Crowded
-Overused
-TONS of bikers!
-There can be rattlesnakes

Access Road Trail on top

Overall:
While I do really love running here and I do so multiple times a week,  I wouldn’t recommend it for out-of-towners. The trails and park itself aren’t that spectacular to look at. There are some great views of Denver and the nearby foothills, but the whole mountain is brown/yellow in color most of the year.  If you’re looking for a great trail system to get some miles on without going too far out of the city, this is the right place!

Sometimes it’s green…


Join me in my #60HikesDenverChallenge:

Stay on the freaking trail!……please.

I just about lost it the other day, guys. Just about flipped my lid, gone ballistic, hit the ceiling. Lost it.

There I was, deep in the throws of a runner’s high, jogging along, minding my own business. As I stepped to the side to let a biker pass, I looked up ahead. In the distance, I saw a handful of people off the trail, down the side of a steep, grassy hill. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I thought, “Maybe someone slipped and the others were helping them out.”

I kept on running and they got back on the trail. I was getting closer and closer to this group of people and as I rounded the last turned toward the parking lot, I look to my right and find them off the trail again.  They were cutting that last little bit of trail back to their car.

Seriously!?

First of all, they literally only cut off less than a tenth of a mile. Second, THERE’S A FENCE! A WOODEN FENCE purposely put up so that people WOULDN’T cut the trail right there. Both ends of their “I don’t give a fuck”  trail, their shortcut,  is fenced off. AND, their car was at the other end of the parking lot, where the REAL trail spits you out.

I rarely have outbursts but aloud said, “Stay on the trail, people. If we keep doing stuff like that we’ll not have nice things anymore.”

The just looked at me and kept on walking through the tall grass. I wanted to say so much more, but unfortunately, I don’t think it would have made a difference and I probably wouldn’t have done it appropriately. I can’t even express how much this bothers me.

Seriously, if people keep doing this, over and over, we wouldn’t have any trails or beautiful grass fields to hike and run through. It would be all one giant dirt hill and that wouldn’t be any fun. It would be boring and ugly, not to mention all the plants and animals that would be lost. This particular trail is Green Mountain in Lakewood. It is a great place to train on while being really close to work. It’s across the street from where I coach track. Talk about convenient. But just because it’s near the city, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be treated just like all the rest of the trails.

“Stay on trail.” There are signs, they are clearly visible, and there are FREAKING FENCES!

Staying on the trails isn’t just a silly “rule.” On a well-used trail like this one, it’s the only thing from keeping the whole thing from eroding out. Don’t even get me started on social trails or walking parallel to a trail when it’s muddy. (Singletracks becoming double, and getting wider and wider every year.)

This is an example of erosion at Green Mountain after people walk to the side during the mud. Before you know it, the grass in between will get worn out and it’s not twice as wide. Then the process repeats.

Walk through the mud people. Better yet, if it’s really, REALLY muddy, just stay away!

And I totally understand that some cultures just don’t have the same values for nature and our planet as others, but then again why are you even out on the trails in the first place!? Language is not a barrier when THERE’S A FREAKIN’ FENCE!

I don’t know why this makes me so mad. Maybe it’s because I can see the signs of overuse, not picking up trash, and trail cutting in the areas nearby to where I live. They have even closed down a popular Evergreen park because people wouldn’t pick up their dogs’ poop. (Oh, I could go on for hours on poop bags. You KNOW you are not going to pick it up on the way back; don’t leave it there. At that rate, just let your dog poop out in the open. That’s better for the environment than a plastic bag!)

This is not from the trail I was on. Maybe it needs to be, because clearly a fence is not enough.

With more and more people moving to Colorado and visiting every year, it’s important to educate people. Just saying “don’t do this, don’t do that” isn’t enough anymore. Deep in my heart, I’d like to think people want to do the right thing but don’t because they can’t see the effects of their actions, or out-right don’t know, they don’t follow the “rules.”

Hmm… maybe I should have stayed on the conservation biology track. Or maybe I can help out on my own through my blog, social media, and word of mouth.

Excuse me, I’ve got some brainstorming, planning, and work to do.

#SorryfortheRant

#LeaveNoTrace

Sign at a different park.