Jefferson County’s Bear Creek Trail is a hike with two distinct sections. The first part is flat, easy and a perfect trek for families and visitors. The second part of the hike is a hill climb that’ll get your heart pumping.
The hike starts at Lair ‘o the Bear Park between Morrison and Evergreen (directions below). In the parking lot is a sign board. Grab a map and walk through the parking lot to the west end and the Bear Creek Trail.
The first 1.25 miles of the Beer Creek Trail is flat and easy. At times, hikers will hear a babbling brook, that’s Bear Creek next to the trail. Bypass the first bridge, it leads to other trails. But when you see the signs for the Creekside Loop, consider this side trip. The Creekside Loop is a short trail that just takes hikers closer to the creek, it rejoins the main trail 0.2 miles away.
About three-quarters of a mile from the parking lot is a second bridge, this is part of the Bear Creek Trail. As you hike, if you hear traffic, that’s because you’re just below Highway 74. Despite the roads proximity to the hiking trail, it is not that noticible.
After one mile, watch for a surprise on the right side of the trail. Yes, that’s a castle on the other side of the creek. Dunafon Castle was completed in 1941. It has 14 rooms, 4 baths and 7 closets. Learn more about the castle and its history here. If you see a crowd outside, it’s likely one of the many weddings held at the castle each year.
About a quarter mile past the castle, the Bear Creek Trail takes 180 degree turn. This is where the trail changes character drastically. Instead of a flat, easy trail; get ready to climb. This part of the trail has a steady elevation gain as it winds through the forest. Expect 450 feet of elevation gain in the next mile.
As you hike through the thick forest, listen for birds and for fast-approaching bicycle riders. This trail is very popular with riders and some of them move very fast. Small signs point out the distance since the big climb began. The signs will say BCT 0.5 mile, BCT 1 mile.
At the top of the hill, about 2.5 miles from the trailhead, is a small meadow. This is a good turn-around spot. At about 2.75 miles, the trail takes a big left turn at a rock outcropping and starts a more serious drop. This is a good spot to enjoy lunch or a snack before turning around. Or continue on as far as you want to go. The trail passes Corwina Pass, O’Fallon Park and ends 6.5 miles away from the start at Pence Park.
Details: From Lair ‘o the Bear to the castle and back is 2 miles roundtrip with about 75 feet of elevation gain. Lair ‘o the Bear to the rocky outcropping before the big drop is about 5.5 miles RT with 850 feet of elevation gain.
Directions: From C-470, exit Morrison Road and turn west. Follow Highway Morrison Road/74 through the small town of Morrison (watch your speed), through the canyon, past Idledale, to the park’s entrance 5.2 miles from C-470.
Read more and see maps of Lair ‘o the Bear park. Want more hikes? Check out this list of great places to hike in Colorado and throughout the west.
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