Scenic loop offers stunning views near Denver

Red Rocks Amphitheatre is seen along the Morrison Slide trail in Matthews/Winters Park. Photo Credit: Seth Boster, The Gazette

Approaching Morrison from Interstate 70, one can pull off the head-aching thoroughfare and quickly find themselves in a land of beauty and curiosity.

Take, for example, Dinosaur Ridge, the site of fossilized remains. That tour on pavement won’t suit all. Singletrack-seeking mountain bikers can hop on the Dakota Ridge Trail, with a steep, nearly mile-long portion designated for downhill wheels only. That trail is one delight of Matthews/Winters Park, a 2,461-acre paradise saved from urban sprawl.

From the main parking lot, we started on the Village Walk, named for the area’s old settlement. Across the creek bridge, the bugs and birds vie over the highway sound in a wavy meadow between rolling hills. It’s a subtle uphill to a more wild expanse.

A hiker overlooks the red rocks along the Morrison Slide trail in Matthews/Winters Park. Photo Credit: Seth Boster, The Gazette

We turned right on the Red Rocks Trail and stayed straight on the Cherry Gulch Trail. The openness becomes shaded woodland. The path includes some punchy descents, and rocks take over for brief sections. We went right, uphill, for the Morrison Slide Trail.

With every switchback, the views open to show the landscape from which you came. To the east, the Denver skyline is small, and on this day, the hogbacks and plains were hazy and blue like the sea. Through a rock garden, the trail stretches a plateau and follows a ridge overlooking the angling monoliths of Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

The trail swoops down between more red outcrops and up to a three-way junction. We went left, going back the way we came.

Trip log: 4.47 miles (“lollipop” loop), 772 feet elevation gain, 6,789 feet max elevation

Difficulty: Easy

Getting there: Trailhead at 1103 Jefferson County 93, Golden. Off Interstate 25, exit U.S. 6 west and follow to Interstate 70 west. After about 2 miles on 70, take exit 259 for Jefferson County 93 and stay left for county road. See Matthews/Winters Park signs to your right.

FYI: Park opens one hour before sunrise, closes one hour before sunset. Multiuse trails. Dogs on leash. Lock car and don’t leave valuables.

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