Hike the South Loop at Elk Meadow Park
Colorado › Elk Meadow Park
Added by Johnathan Valdez
A loop hike that will take you from wide open meadows, to lodgepole pine stands, and great overviews of the valley below. Keep an eye out for elk herds that can often be found grazing in the meadow below the forest.
Elk Meadow Park near Evergreen, CO spans 1,140 acres of open meadow and pine forests and has over 16 miles of managed trails by Jeffco Open Space. This park will give the visitor a diverse taste of ecosystems and terrain and is perfect for trail runners, families, or those seeking a quick excursion outside. One of the best ways to experience the park is to hike the main loop that traverses almost the entire park.
From the trail head on Lewis Ridge Road, head to the right to start on the Sleepy S Trail. Almost immediately you will bear to the left to take the Painters Pause Trail, a fairly flat and meandering trail that will lead you through the meadow at the east end of the park. From here you can admire great views of the foothills ahead as well as Bergen Peak to the west. About a quarter of a mile from the trailhead you will hike past a historical structure, pause here to explore and read up a little more about the park’s history.
At 0.4 miles, bear to the left to pick up the Founders Trail. From here, the trail starts a mild uphill incline as it heads west towards the mountains, however you will still be hiking on a wide and well maintained path. Hike an additional 0.6 miles to reach an intersection with the Meadow View Trail, take the trail to the left. Not far from here you will reach a rest shelter that has a great view of the meadow you just hiked through as well as the foothills to the south and east near Evergreen.
From the rest shelter Meadow View Trail will start a short and slightly steeper ascent to reach the ridgeline you will be hiking most of the way. Once you gain the ridge, the trail will continue for just over a mile as you begin to hike in an out of the pine forest at the edge of the foothills. The trail will undulate more here than at the beginning of the hike, but the terrain is easily passable and the trail is still well defined.
Eventually you will come to an intersection with the Elk Ridge Trail. From here you can either head back to the parking lot by taking the Elk Ridge Trail to the right, or you can extend your hike an additional 1.5 miles by continuing on Meadow View Trail. Both are great options, but I almost always decide to extend my hike by passing the intersection and continuing on Meadow View.
Leaving intersection with Elk Ridge, Meadow View continues on a pleasant grade and will wind through the ponderosa forest. There are a couple switchbacks towards the end of Meadow View that will drop you back down to the meadow, but generally speaking, the hiking is pretty easy. Eventually you will reach a junction with the Sleepy “S” Trail, take a left to start your trek back to the parking lot. Just over a mile of hiking remains, but once again you will have a beautiful view of the meadow you just traversed.
This hike can be completed any time of year, but I think the best times are in the Spring and Fall. There are loads of wildflowers in the park to admire in the springtime and the colors of the trees really pop during autumn. This loop is also a great wintertime adventure because the gentle slops make the area easier to explore compared to other places. If you do venture out here during winter, traction devices can be helpful, but aren’t required, especially if the snow is fresh or packed down. In the late winter ice can make things a little trickier, however, so depending on your experience you may want some microspikes. If you’re unsure, be sure to check out the Jefferson County Open Space Twitter feed (@JeffcoOpenSpace) for updates on trail conditions.
- Hiking shoes
- Sun protection
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Views and wind
Great views on this trail and occasionally a herd of elk. There's not much shelter in the winter from the cold winds coming down from Squaw Pass but it's a great place to run to escape the summertime heat in Denver.
Added by Johnathan Valdez
I'm a Colorado native that's passionate about photography, exploring nature, live music, and craft beer. On my free days you'll most likely find me on the trail and behind my camera. Life is short, get out there and explore! Follow my adventures here on The Outbound and on Instagram @capulinflicker.Follow
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