Distance: 5.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,330 feet
Time: Running~ 40-70 minutes, Hiking~ 90-180 minutes, Meandering~ should not take longer then 3.5 hours
The Draw: Deer Creek Canyon Park is very close to Denver and has 12.8 miles of trail. There is good forest cover providing shade on hot summer days. In the spring, streams and waterfalls run right next to the trails providing a nice soundtrack. Be warned, in the winter with snowfall followed by a melt/freeze cycle, sections of this route turn into a bobsled track and traction is recommended. This is one of my favorite local parks. Expect wildlife, lots of greenery, and great views. There are also really nice picnic spots along with flush toilets at the trailhead.
What You Need: When I run this route I do not carry anything. If I add more miles I carry a handheld water bottle. At most you will need a small pack with water, a snack, and a light rain coat. Have a good trail shoe and something to take photos with.
Trail Head: From C-470 take the Kipling exit. Turn west on W. Ute Avenue, then west on Deer Creek Canyon Road. Turn left on Grizzly Drive and then right into Deer Creek Canyon Park. There are signs that direct off the Kipling exit and plenty of parking at the trailhead (which is paved). (39.54374N 105.15170W) This park is open to hikers, bikers, and dogs, although there are marked hiker only trails. Observe all signs and clean up after yourself and your dog.
There are many routes to explore in Deer Creek Canyon, the route I will be describing leads to the summit of Plymouth Mountain and is the most direct. There are two options from the trailhead: Meadowlark trail or Plymouth Creek trail. Meadowlark is a half mile longer, hiker only, and gives nice westerly views, while Plymouth Creek trail lives up to its name and winds up the mountainside next to, you guessed, Plymouth Creek. I suggest trying both, simultaneously. Go up one and down the other…..and you thought I was kidding. Either way they eventually conjoin and turn into Plymouth Mountain loop.
There is a rather large waterfall right off of Plymouth Creek trail but shrubbery ruins a killer photo op. I have a saw in my trunk.
After Meadowlark and Plymouth Creek become one a set of stairs appears and the trail aggressively climbs for a bit, embrace it.
Plymouth Mountain trail is a gorgeous 2.2 mile loop that circumnavigates Plymouth Mountain but we are on a direct mission to get to the summit so pass by a turn off on the left about 1.5 miles from the trailhead. There will be another major junction at 1.9 miles (39.52935N 105.16058W), stay left and continue up Plymouth Mountain trail. The trail that goes right will lead to the 2.5 mile Red Mesa loop (also highly recommended if mileage is your thing).
As the trail winds up Plymouth Mountain things gets really beautiful.
It’s about right now an apocalyptic storm rolls in. At 2.4 miles from the trailhead there will be signs for a “scenic view” on the left. Take this 0.4 mile trail to the end and enjoy views of more shrubs, just kidding, east towards Denver and north towards Boulder look nice. The actual summit of Plymouth Mountain is on the left hand side along the way at (39.52969N 105.15693W) and requires some semi-skillful moves to attain.
Return to the trailhead the same way you came, or finish the entire loop, or go explore Red Mesa loop. Life is full of choices.
“Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures” ~Lewis Carroll