Upstream, to the Mountains
The Bear Creek Trail
Lair O' the Bear Open Space Park

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

Although a trip to go hiking in the mountains may seem daunting to some families and individuals, it may be more attainable than you think.  As you follow the Bear Creek upstream it will take you past the town of Morrison near Red Rocks on its way up to Evergreen.  It flows through the popular Lair O’ the Bear Open Space Park, about four or five miles outside the town of Morrison.  This month, our journey starts here.  This beautiful space in Jefferson County is roughly a 30-40 minute drive from the Cherry Creek North area.  If you’re looking to get out of your normal daily routine and try something new, Lair O’ the Bear Open Space Park is the ideal spot for you.

The park has ample parking spots and even roadside parking along Morrison Road to accommodate more visitors during busy days at the park.  Both hikers and mountain bikers do use this trail, so remember to always be courteous to other trail users.  In my experience, all bikers were exceptionally cautious, slowing down in populated areas and letting hikers know when they were coming.  You can choose routes both next to the creek or a little farther away depending on your preference.  If you have a chance to get your feet wet, feel free to explore the water and you might be surprised as to what you find in there.  See a short video below explaining the differences in types of critters you can find in different waters.

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As you continue upstream the trail meanders around a few bends and even takes you past Dunafon Castle, nestled between the berm of Morrison Road and the Bear Creek.  This is a residential property often rented out for charity events and weddings, and it’s a popular photo spot for hiking groups and families along the trail.  The trail continues upstream and dodges in and out of shady and sunny areas (depending on what time of day you are there).  There is an array of plant and animal life in the area.  In fact, I caught a glimpse of a well-disguised garter snake in the tall grasses as he watched the hikers pass by.  If you’re interested in seeing more plant life, a very diverse population of plants and organisms exist right along the path and makes for some great ways to test your identification skills.  See a short video below of a unique but very abundant type of organism.

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As you approach the entrance for Corwina Park, which is indicated by a small bridge leaving the trail and crossing the creek, you’ll notice the trail does not end there.  Depending on what type of adventure you are looking for, you may choose to continue around the corner and up the hill. This switchback is also accompanied by an increase in elevation gain.  If you do continue up the hill, you open yourself up to some amazing views and a less populated trail. Although the mountain bikers may be going a bit faster along this stretch, the workout and views that you’ll get from continuing your hike will be well worth it.  See a short video below for some of the views you may find along this part of the trail.

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Lair O’ the Bear Open Space Park is a great place for any type of hike you have in mind.  Make sure to come back as often as possible and enjoy every season!  Hopefully you will be able to enjoy this hike however you see fit for this month's journey upstream, to the mountains.

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.