Matthews/Winters Park | Colorado | 12/07/19

Matthews/Winters Park | Jefferson County Open Space

Morrison, CO | 12/07/19 | 7.38 miles | 1,200′ gain

On Saturday, Allie and I went for a hike before I had to pick up my newest foster dog in Denver at 2:30. Now that winter’s set in to the high country, we’re no longer climbing a new 13er every weekend, so we’re working through a list of low elevation hikes to get us through the winter.

Matthews/Winters Park is right at the junction of two major highways, so although it’s been on my list for a while, I’ve avoided it expecting it to be busy, loud, and not really that cool. But Allie and I learned about a trail in Matthews/Winters Park that might just be cooler than I’d expected.

We parked at the Stegosaurus Park-n-Ride and crossed the road to get to the main Matthews/Winters Park Trailhead. From there, we followed the Village Walk and Red Rocks Trails through the western half of the park.

View along the Village Walk Trail

These trails paralleled the base of the foothills, staying mostly flat and easy. The miles flew by as we sped through this section.

The Red Rocks Trail
Looking back towards the trailhead

If you can believe it, we encountered numerous red rock formations along the Red Rocks Trail.

Red rocks along the Red Rocks Trail

The Red Rocks Trail cut east and we crossed and then followed a road for a while. Eventually we crossed again and ended up on the Dakota Ridge Trail. This is the trail we’d been waiting for. The Dakota Ridge Trail follows the ridge known as the Hogback, Dakota Ridge, or Dinosaur Ridge. The ridge is narrow, rocky, undulating, and chock full of fossils.

A look back from the Dakota Ridge Trail, the famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre on the left and Mount Morrison on the right. The Red Rocks Trail worked its way through the red rock formations on the right.

We followed a short section of the Dakota Ridge Trail and popped out on W. Alameda Pkwy. This section of Alameda is closed to cars and is used for bus tours of the Dinosaur Ridge fossil beds. But the area is open for walking so we walked down the road a short ways so Allie could see the fossils. (I’d done a bus tour with my family a few years ago and it is definitely worth the $8 bus trip and tour guide. Each stop has an interpretive sign explaining the type of fossil, but a tour guide can give so much more information!)

Wave ripple fossil bed. These were the most common fossils, we saw them all along the hiking trail too!
Dinosaur footprints. They paint them with charcoal every few weeks so that they’re easier to see.

After visiting the fossil beds, we walked back up the road and continued along the Dakota Ridge Trail. We climbed up one bump just to hike back down and climb up the next one. There were probably 4 or 5 major bumps along the ridge that we had to climb.

Looking back down the Dakota Ridge Trail, you can see the ridge extending far into the distance.
Looking ahead on the Dakota Ridge Trail, you can see the next bump just ahead.

The trail was mostly gradual with just a few short, steep sections. We had to contend with some ice, but never enough to need microspikes. Eventually we summited the last bump and descended to the car. A fun morning on a cool ridge!


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