Confident that I had packed on a few pounds since Thanksgiving Day, I needed to get back to nature and back to healthy living. I decided to hike on a familiar trail located at Deer Creek Canyon, which is part of the Jefferson County Open Space. What I have always enjoyed about hiking at Deer Creek Canyon are the multitude of trail options from challenging to distance, something for everyone. I would rate the trail that I had chosen on Sunday as a moderate hike, with a few portions that kicked my butt.
I began my trek up the Meadowlark Trail, which I usually choose in an effort to avoid the mountain bikers on the Plymouth Creek Trail. The Meadowlark Trail meanders for about a mile and a half with a series of switchbacks on the eastern side on the mountain. This portion of the trail mainly consists of hard packed clay, sagebrush and an occasional cacti. One notable portion of the trail provides a great view of downtown Denver to the northeast. After plateauing along the trail at about the 1 mile mark, you begin to descend down toward the Plymouth Creek Trailhead.
After crossing the small bridge over the dried out creek, I made the turn onto the the Plymouth Creek Trail and head towards “The Wall”. It is a steep quarter mile stretch of rock strewn hell before it begins to moderate near the Plymouth Mountain Trail. The total distance between the Meadowlark Trailhead and the Plymouth Mountain Trail is about a half mile, and is the toughest part of the hike. At this point you could continue further south to hike the Plymouth Mountain Trail counter clockwise but I prefer to hike the trail clockwise.
Making a left onto the Plymouth Mountain Trail, you somewhat feel a sense of accomplishment that the most difficult portion of the hike is behind you, for a bit anyway. The Plymouth Mountain Trail is a canopy laden of pine for a vast majority of the trek. I began a steady climb before encountering a series of switchbacks after which the trail continues its methodical stretch to the top. There are two intersecting trails along the path, both of which are currently closed. The first you will cross is the Black Bear Trail, and then a bit further ahead a new trail that will connect with Hildebrand Ranch Park to the east. As I neared the top, I would typically climb to the apex of Plymouth Mountain but I developed a blister from a small pebble rubbing on my heal. I stopped to remove the pebble, but the damage had been done. The hike up to the peak is about a half mile and provides great views looking west deeper into the Front Range and another great view of downtown Denver to the northeast.
At this point you can continue on the Plymouth Mountain Trial as it will intersect with the the Plymouth Creek Trail. Or, you can hop onto the Homestead Trail, which I have done, a journey about a mile before the trail which connects to the Plymouth Creek Trail. The Homestead Trail is a lightly traveled trail located in Deer Creek Canyon. I typically will be the only person on the trail, but that day I did have company for a short while as I lumbered along the path. I truly enjoyed this portion of the hike for the solitude, but all to soon I came to the intersection of the Plymouth Creek Trail. There, if you choose, you could hang a left and head up to the Red Mesa Loop, or as in my case, begin to trek back down to the Meadowlark Trailhead. The trail is a bit steep and rocky, and you must pay attention to your footing. Trekking poles in this section would come in handy and for the journey back through “The Wall”.
Back at the Meadowlark Trailhead, I start the journey back to the parking lot. It felt great to get out today and to be back in nature. After hiking for 7.6 miles with an elevation gain of 1876 feet I headed back home where a turkey sandwich with my name on it was waiting for me.