Bear Creek Lake Park is well known among bikers and boaters, but it also has a lot of nice trails for hikers. The Lakewood city park features 15 miles of trails along streams, around the lake and even to the top of a peak, Mount Carbon.
The park is off C-470 and Morrison Road. At the entrance, pay the admission fee ($5 per car in 2011), ask for a trail map and follow the signs to the Skunk Hollow picnic area (directions below). This is a nice large parking area for hikers to start their trek.
From the Skunk Hollow picnic area, cross the road, and head for the trees across the street. Near the yellow pedestrian crossing sign, drop down into the trees on a dirt path. This is the Owl Trail. It is a tree covered path that follows Bear Creek. Hikers quickly come to a trail split, bikers and equestrians turn left, hikers go straight ahead. When you see a bridge over the creek, remember this spot, you’ll be back.
The Owl Trail ends at the park’s Fitness Trail. The Fitness Trail features several stops with different fitness challenges. Give them a try as you continue walking east. At the end of the fitness area, keep going east and climb a hill. Here you’ll get your first loop at Mount Carbon in the distance. It’s not a high peak, but it is a nice landmark to head for.
From here, this trail winds over to another picnic area and parking lot for Bear Creek Reservoir. At the parking lot, hikers have to do a little detective work. Walk south around the parking lot until you find the trail for Mount Carbon. Hike south, then east, along the reservoir to the trail to the peak. From the bottom to the summit is about 200 feet of elevation gain. Take your time and enjoy the views of Bear Creek Reservoir. When you need a break, count the boats, count the fisherman or just look off at the foothills in the distance.
At the top of Mount Carbon, hikers will find a surprise. There are picnic tables, bathrooms, water and a golf course! This is Homestead Golf Course. It’s next to Fox Hollow Golf Course. Take a break, look at the views and then decide how much more hiking you want to do.
Continue on the Mount Carbon Loop around the Mount Carbon Dam, north around the reservoir, and back to Skunk Hollow picnic area for a 7.15 mile loop. Or backtrack down Mount Carbon to the Fisherman’s Trail that goes around the reservoir below the dam. The Fisherman’s Trail loops hikers around the north side of the reservoir and back to the Mount Carbon Trail on the north side of the creek. This makes for a shorter, faster loop than going all the way around the dam.
Important note: while a trail map is extremely helpful for finding your way, the trails are not marked well in some areas and you may just find yourself hiking east on your way out and west on your way back. The park is worth it. The trails in the trees next to Bear Creek Lake are very pleasant and the views from Mount Carbon are scenic. Have fun exploring!
Details: From Skunk Hollow on the Owl Trail, to the Mount Carbon Summit, around the dam and back is about 7 miles with 500 feet of elevation gain. You can create a shorter loop by taking the Fisherman’s Trail along the dam.
Directions: From C-470, exit Morrison Road and turn east. Less than half a mile from the highway, you’ll see the entrance to Bear Creek Lake Park on the southside of the road.
Admission: There is an admission fee of $5 per car, $4 for seniors. You can avoid this fee by parking outside the park and walking in. However, park officials stress that the park’s only income come from user fees. Learn more about the park.
To find more hikes in Colorado and through the west, check out my extensive list of great hiking ideas.
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