Upstream, to the Plains
The Season is a Changin'
The Cherry Creek Trail from Monaco to Yale

By: Dustin Waite
Outreach and Youth Employment Coordinator
Other Upstream Articles in left column

As the weather begins to cool and the sunscreen slowly gets replaced by jackets and hats, we are reminded that snow will soon be in the forecast.  Although Colorado is notoriously known for moving right from the summer heat into the winter chill, every so often we get a few days or weeks to enjoy the colors of fall as the Aspens and Cottonwoods begin to change.  Though most people may think a weekend getaway into the mountains is needed to see any color change, there are plenty of amazing colors to see right here in the city along any one of the urban trails.  This month’s hike is one of those areas and takes us into the plains of the Cherry Creek.  Although my videos may not show much of the colors, my photos capture some great areas of color change, although admittedly not as breathtaking as someone may find deep in a mountain valley, but nonetheless beautiful in their own right.

We start on the trail near Monaco Parkway and Cook Park.  This park also has its own little creek that flows into the Cherry Creek and has a great tree line for exploring the water and getting some shade.  As you move upstream along the Cherry Creek you pass by a pedestrian entrance for the Cook Park Recreation Center.  Here there is extra parking and indoor facilities.   As you continue along the water, you see many soil outcroppings on the other side of the creek that have been exposed from years of flowing water on the banks.  These outcrops are awesome places to explore to find different types of plants, rocks and pebbles, and really see what transformation a waterway can have on its surrounding landmasses.  See below a video of one of these outcrops.

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As you continue upstream you pass underneath Quebec Street and soon approach a trail sign marking the extent of the City and County of Denver.  Along this stretch I will admit I felt a little exposed as there wasn’t much tree cover over the trail itself, but that shouldn’t stop you from stepping off the trail onto some side paths to get some better views of the water.  Although trampling down new social trails isn’t great for certain urban environments, I don’t want to discourage your feelings to explore your city.  Always use your best judgment and care for the surrounding wild and plant life when doing so.  However, even though the trees were not as abundant, I was able to find one of my favorite natural prairie grasses.  See the video below of Little Bluestem.

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As you approach Iliff Avenue, the trail swings up along roadside to switch over to the north side of the water.  This stretch provided me with some of the best colors of the whole hike and the tree cover on both sides felt very cozy.  Before crossing back over the creek at Yale, you can sneak off the trail to the Wabash Trailhead parking lot (built recently in the last few months) for a nice spot to end this month’s hike upstream, to the plains.

Dustin2small.gif The Upstream, to the Mountains series was written by Dustin Waite. It is a collection of hikes along the South Platte River that tie into the history, geology, and ecology of the area. There are links to the full articles on the left hand column.