It’s time to start exploring the closest wilderness area to the metro area, the Mount Evans Wilderness Area. There are miles and miles of trails around Mount Evans, on both federal and state lands.
The Grass Creek Trail is in the Mount Evans State Wildlife Area and Mount Evans Elk Management Area. The drive here is pleasant. First you drive through Evergreen, then along Upper Creek Creek Road, past many impressive homes, on dirt roads that few visitors ever see. (directions below) The Mount Evans State Wildlife Area is a popular place for hunters in the fall and it’s closed from Jan. 1 to June 15. That means hikers are only allowed from June 16 to Labor Day weekend.
The hike starts at a gate. Take a few steps past the gate and a sign says Grass Creek Trailhead to the Lost Creek Trail and Indian Creek Trail. This is where the hike starts, and it starts with an uphill climb. Get use to it, this hike is a roller coaster of sorts with lots of short ups and downs.
This hike also has lots of signs. Just five minutes into the hike is the first sign. It explains the Elk Management Area’s goal was to improve the habitat for the area’s wildlife. “Timber sales, tree plantings, prescribed burns and other activities have been used to accomplish this goal,” the sign explains. The sign also explains that a severe insect epidemic destroyed the area’s douglas-fir stands and that changed the plan. Now the forest is being managed on a smaller scale.
The trail here is a road. Along the hike, you’ll see lots of unsigned trails branching off, you’ll want to stay on the main road for this hike. However, there is one exception. At this first sign, there is a trail to the right and the road to the left. You can take the trail and cut off a short distance or stay on the road. We decided to stay on the road and take the small trail on the way back.
As you hike this trail, signs appear every 5 to 15 minutes. They explain prescribed burns, parasitic mistletoe, forest thinning, the advantages of Aspen trees and creating habitat for Albert squirrels.
The road/trail winds through a beautiful forest. While the trail is called Crass Creek, we only saw the creek once along the way. About 2 miles from the trailhead, the trail suddenly splits at a large, wide-open meadow. Look to your right, in the northwestern corner of this meadow for a chimney. The chimney and part of the foundation is all that remains of an old homestead. This is a nice spot for lunch or a snack.
As you sit here, imagine the view the owners had. It was probably a good spot to live with a creek so close by (in the meadow). But it was probably also a rough life in the winter.
If you want to explore further, take one of the trails leading away from the meadow, or return the way you came.
Details: The hike to the homestead and back is about 3.8 miles roundtrip with about 650 feet of elevation gain with all the ups and downs.
Directions: From I-70, exit Evergreen Parkway. About 7.3 from the highway, you should see a sign for Dedisse Park on your right. Just a tenth of a mile past the sign, the highway curves left, but take the spur to the right to Upper Bear Creek Road and turn right. From here it’s about 6 miles to a fork in the road and Upper Bear Creek Road goes right. Less than a half mile away, the road forks right again (it’s a private ranch to the left). At the next fork, turn left at the sign pointing to the State Wildlife Area. Then it’s 1.7 miles to the parking lot. The trailhead is about 17 miles from I-70.
For more great hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park and throughout the west, click here. (And look below this article for more great hike ideas in the Mount Evans and Evergreen area.)
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