We started out with plans for our long training hike this week with two goals in mind. Complete another Jefferson County Open Space Park and hike in a location which would have less snow than our local foothill parks. So, with only three Jeffco Open Space parks left before we can claim to hiked them all, and an low elevation of 5,532′ – Hildebrand fit the bill. This park is located at the foot of the Lyons, Dakota and Niobrara hogback rock formations. In 1866, Frank and Elizabeth Hildebrand homesteaded the property and raised grain crops, vegetables and cattle. In its time, it was one of the more successful ranches in the area.
The parking lot is located along Deer Creek Canyon Road and has some neat old ranching structures nearby. One of the most interesting “green” aspects is the use of brick pavers for the entire parking lot and sidewalks. Below the pavers is a layer of pea gravel. This allows rain and snow to percolate through the spaces around the bricks and back into the soil. I am sure this added quite a bit to the development of the park, but was a pretty impressive and environmentally sound effort at restoring groundwater to this ecosystem.
The hike begins with a crossing of Deer Creek and begins a steady grade up through the old hay meadows on “Two Brand Trail.” I found it interesting how the old ranchers cut in their irrigation ditches as they tried to make the most out of irrigating their meadows. I bet it was often quite the battle given Colorado’s semi-arid climate.
The trail hugs the base of the hogback and is a single track. There were some parts of the trail that offered some interesting views of the northern Douglas County foothills. However, I found it difficult to overlook the HUGE power lines which bisected the park. This photo was taken from the trail’s high point, looking east toward the Cherry Creek area.
Sandy on the trail. There were some ancient and quite interesting rocks along the trail. I was paying special attention to them to see if I could find some fossils imbedded in them. The hogback is famous for its fossils, in fact just a few miles away there is a really neat dinosaur museum. The park is currently under development and I’d call it a work in progress. it is bordered by a residential neighborhood, and has huge unsightly power lines cutting through it. So, on a beauty factor I would rate it as a 5 on a scale of 10, but nevertheless it was our trail for the day. The loop takes you to the base of the rocky hogback south and then east toward Chatfield State Park. Then, it cuts right through a residential community. So, the poles went back on the backpacks and we hiked amid barking dogs and traffic. After about 15-20 minutes of urban hiking the trail took us back into open space and chirping prairie dog colonies.
The trail loop was a total of 5.1 miles of fairly level hiking (only 362′ altitude gain) but the hiking was a bit difficult due to the snow and icy trail conditions. Thank God for hiking boots, because without them we both would have twisted our ankles at least a dozen times each. It was like hiking through miles of lumpy mashed potatoes. On a positive note, the trail provided an opportunity to test run our solar charger while our hiking app was draining our Galaxy S4’s battery. It actually really did well, keeping the battery charged to 88% during the entire trek. Without the solar charger, it would have been in the 60% range.