Golden Area Trail Network Grows

South Table Mountain Park Trails. Images courtesy of Jefferson County.

This summer, two major trail building projects progressed on public lands in the Golden area. The first project is a buildout of trails on the western half of South Table Mountain Park. The second project is an extension of the Clear Creek Trail father into the Clear Creek Canyon. These projects, when completed, will complement Golden’s existing trail infrastructure by creating more opportunities for recreation in our natural areas.

In 1977, at the request of local residents and leaders, Jefferson County began buying up and seeking conservation easements on the land that makes up South Table Mountain for the purpose of preserving open space and creating a park. By 2019, most of the land on the mesa had been secured (with a few notable exceptions including the famous castle rock, but more on that in the next issue). The eastern half of the park was acquired earlier than the western half and as of 2019 had an established trail network before this summer. The more recently acquired western half however had mostly unofficial trails. These trails tend to be narrow and unmarked. Many are unsafe due to steepness and many were redundant. These sorts of trails can confuse or hurt hikers and are inaccessible to bikes. In addition, the high trail density and the possibility of confused hikers winding up off trail threatens the natural features of the mesa including raptor nests and delicate lichens.

Knowing this, in 2019 Jefferson County Open Space developed a plan to create a more proper trail network on western South Table. This plan included the closing and remediation of unplanned trails, new signage throughout the park, and the construction of several new official trails. One of these was the Olivine trail. Accessible from 19th Street and Belvedere Drive in Golden, this trail winds gently up the Golden side of South Table. It travels below and then the large G and then swings around to connect Golden to the rest of the trails in South Table Mountain Park. Unlike an old unofficial trail that it replaces, the grade of this trail is accessible by mountain bikers and it is stable and safe. The full plan will not be realized until 2021 but volunteers have completed the Olivine trail.

The other big trail project in Golden that progressed this summer was work on extending the trail along Clear Creek by 1.75 miles. This project is a small component of the Peaks to Plains Initiative, which aims to build a continuous 65 mile long paved trail from the Continental Divide to Denver, in part through Clear Creek Canyon. This part of the project, built through the narrow canyon, is significantly more complex than the work conducted on South Table. To build this trail, rock had to be cleared and a bridge across the creek constructed. In addition to the peaks to plains trail segment, a parallel trail higher up on the hillside in the canyon, called the Welch Ditch trail, will be extended as part of the project. The two trails have an existing connection and another connection will be created farther into the canyon which will serve to create a loop. New parking lots and restrooms along Clear Creek Canyon Road are also being constructed.

To learn more about the projects visit jeff •


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