Roadtrip to Larkspur: Hiking in Spruce Mountain Open Space

Trail(s): Spruce Mountain Trail to the Upper Loop
Location: Spruce Mountain Open Space
Fees: Free
Website: Douglas County Open Space
Distance: 5.5 miles

Yesterday we tried going to the mountains during ski traffic while I only had a 1/4 tank of gas.  This required a reverse course of action, and we ended up watching The Last Jedi which ironically a major theme in the movie was about low fuel!  Anyway, we salvaged the day, and I salvaged my weekend hike by heading a different direction, south to the Town of Larkspur.

I didn’t know much about Larkspur except a few passing mentions on the news.  I didn’t even know where it was relative to Denver.  I have to say, the town was smaller than I expected.  The main road passed through the center of town which I might have missed had there not been a slow speed limit and a blinking stop sign.  The street was lined with local businesses and government buildings including a vet, a pizzeria, a bar, a mexican food restaurant, a town hall, and a fire station.  After a few blocks, I was back in the wilderness just a few miles from Spruce Mountain Open Space.  Operated by Douglas County, Spruce Mountain is a large mesa and home to 8.5 miles of trails.

The Spruce Mountain Trail begins in the meadow before turning to the left where it leads hikers up about a mile of switchbacks through a forest of Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir before reaching the summit.  Hikers may follow a 2.3 mile trail that loops around the mountain’s large, flat top loaded with rocky lookouts for views in every direction.

There is a service road connection to the upper loop that offers a few more miles of trails and a different way back to the trailhead for a longer and different hike.  I stuck with 5.5 mile lollipop loop also known as Mountain Top Loop by the posted signs.  The trailhead map as well as the one on the website doesn’t reference this loop in totality (just separate trails), so it’s a little confusing unless time is taken to add up the mileage of each section to figure out which loop to follow as there are several possibilities of loop hikes available.

The 5.5 mile loop includes hiking from the trailhead to the upper loop (also not terribly accurate on the map showing only 1.6 miles associated with the name not 2.3) and back down the same way.  Had I understood the combined map/sign posts better, I might have gone for a longer trek, but the temperature felt a lot colder than I expected.  Perhaps the snowpacked trail is what made the air feel brisk, but it hardly felt like the forecast 55 degrees, and with only three layers with me, I didn’t want to risk being outside near sundown as the mercury plummets.  After one visit, however, it is easy to understand the lay of the land.

This hike would be spectacular for sunset shots as the Greenland Overlook is only about 1.6 miles from the trailhead on Spruce Mountain Road which would likely provide enough time for hikers to get back to their cars with perhaps a little help from a headlamp.  There is another lookout that is even better at Windy Point, but this would definitely require hiking in the dark.  Had I had another jacket, I may have stayed to watch the sky turn pink, but I finished up the hike just thirty minutes too early and was feeling a bit chilled.

This trail was pretty popular for an afternoon hike, and I enjoyed the lookout with a handful of other hikers, some of whom were definitely hiking up for sunset views as I was returning to the car.  This park is worth a visit.  Maybe I’ll repeat this in the summer when the wildflowers are out.  ETB

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