A Snowy Hike to Carpenter Peak

Roxbourgh State Park (Carpenter Peak Trail)
Fees: $7/day $70/Annual Pass
Website: http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/Roxborough
Elevation: 5,937-7,160 feet
Distance: 6.4 miles
Hours: Daylight

So now that summer is on its way, I am getting into the hiking mindset. My girlfriends and I are hoping to hike every Thursday, weather permitting. We have planned to stick with the Front Range during the school year to accommodate some time constraints as well as to avoid the snow as much as possible, but this summer we will be headed to the mountains.

With this plan in mind, we chose to hike Carpenter Peak at Roxborough State Park. The hike to Carpenter Peak, the highest point in the park, is 6.4 miles round-trip. We set out around 8am, carpooling from Tanya’s house at 8:30am . Belinda was kind enough to drive us 20 miles south of Denver as she had a state parks pass which saved us the $7 admission.

By 9:45am, we were following the damp path through the leafless bushes overshadowed by red rock. The exposed sandstone formations are red from the oxidation of iron minerals. As we climbed the lightly graded path that turned from damp to mud to snow, we wondered if it was a mistake to leave our snowshoes behind. So much for the plan of avoiding snow. It hadn’t snowed for four days, and with the warm temperatures, I thought most of the snow would have melted as it had in our yard. Perhaps I should have read the alert on the website!

The higher we climbed, obviously, the more snow we encountered. At the first open ridge, one hiker who was returning to the parking area said no one had broken trail up to Carpenter Peak and he had turned around at Elk Valley. With that news, we continued. I thought to myself, despite the snowy conditions, we will summit the 7,160 foot peak with Diana, the ironwoman, leading. I knew she had all the determination necessary.

As we entered the forest, Diana trounced through the shin deep snow. With each step, she exclaimed how fun this was as she had never hiked in conditions like this. I should have titled this blog “Diana’s Adventure to Carpenter Peak”. I followed, sometimes in her footsteps and sometimes pressing down more snow, as I worried that my tennis partners may never want to join me on a hike again!

A group of twenty year olds were catching up to us, so we stopped to have a snack and enjoy the view in effort to let them break trail for a while. They bounded along, all in their leader’s footsteps, who had a huge stride. We could hardly keep up with their stride, so ended up breaking trail anyway (or should I say Diana did)…not to mention the youngsters took a break, so we passed them by in the untouched snow. So much for that plan…I was 0 for 2!

By now as we passed by a few budding flowers, most of us had soggy feet as melting snow soaked our shoes and socks. Upon reaching the rocky summit, I stripped off my wet shoes and socks to warm my feet in the sun. We enjoyed lunch at the top with a lovely panoramic view…snowcapped mountains to the west and city views to the north and east.

With Army copters overhead, we retraced our steps on our descent, now in even wetter conditions as the sun melted the displaced snow. Anyone who didn’t have a wet foot did now. We started to vote on who would dump the most water out of their shoes at the car, but then we realized that would be Belinda who didn’t even have boots covering her ankles much less tall socks. She was a definite trooper!

I was the only one with hiking poles and two of us had spikes for our shoes. For some reason, we decided not to strap on the spikes which was likely a bad idea. Coming or going, I think three of the five us slipped in the snow or mud. Diana and Tanya had an easier time downhill as they cruised down the trail like mountain goats immune to the slippery conditions. On the other hand, I wiped out. I can’t say there was any grace about it either…just a splat in the mud! Ann and Belinda, who were standing right behind me, were kind enough not to laugh. I guess maybe falling in the mud was better that falling in the small streams of melting snow runoff? Or perhaps I’m just trying to make myself feel better :-).

Regardless of the soggy conditions, we all had fun on this warm, spring day and everyone has already signed up to hike next week. Hopefully our shoes will be dry by then! ETB


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The Rockies: Hiking Carpenter Peak at Roxborough State Park

March 2, 2013

What an absolutely glorious winter day in Colorado. We started the morning with temperatures in the 30’s, but they quickly rose to the 60’s. In the sun, it feels much warmer. We were stripped down to our t-shirts in the first five minutes of the hike while trouncing through snow!


Roxborough State Park is located 25 miles southwest of Denver in Douglas County and is known for its red sandstone formations. The 3,339 acre park was founded in 1975 and provides visitors a variety of trails rated easy to strenuous. The park caters to hikers…no dogs, horses, climbers, or mountain bikers allowed. We chose the Carpenter Peak Trail, 6.2 miles in length and considered strenuous.


The trail began at the visitor’s center around 6,200 feet in elevation and weaved it’s way through a thicket of oak and brush that was leafless for the winter. Each different type of bush was marked by a stake and picture. Soon the trail crossed the open prairie and passed by the sandstone rocks protruding into the blue sky. Most of the path remained exposed to the sun as did my face, which I failed to lather in sunscreen. It now looks like a cooked lobster!


The route slowly ascended upward toward the peak, switching back and forth while gaining 1,000 feet in elevation. The muddy slosh quickly changed to a foot of deep snow beneath the evergreens. Depending on where we were on the trail, we could have gone from no spikes, to spikes, to snow shoes. Spikes were the best option, but despite me getting out my spikes and snowshoes and setting them right by the front door, I forgot them along with the sunscreen! At least I remembered my water, snacks, and first aid kit.


Frankly, it didn’t really matter what I remembered or what I didn’t remember, because it was just so nice outside…I mean really – a Texan in a T-shirt in the snow…it was awesome. Kelley and I had a great time! At times we considered turning around as the snow was so deep, but we plodded onward, in a marching fashion, lifting our feet above the snow and stepping in the tracks in front of us. We decided we would continue on as long as we always had tracks to follow. At one point, there were tracks from only one person. It was kind of cool to be in the Denver Metro Area, full of millions of people, yet look forward, and only see the tracks of one!


After a few hours, we finally summited. We didn’t feel like we were hiking very slowly, but I guess knee deep snow slightly interfered with our progress. The summit provided a panoramic view of the area. To the North we could spot Denver’s skyline and to the West the snow capped Rockies came into view. In addition, the red and yellow sandstone formations really contrasted with the snow covered prairie…a lovely scene!



Our return trip down the mountain was slightly more treacherous as we crunched along the snowy path. The melting ice was slippery and without my spikes, I had a few ” Whoops” moments. It really made me wonder about other trailblazers adorned only in sneakers. At least I had hiking boots and a hiking pole! Overall, another great day in the Rockies…thanks to Kelley for organizing! ETB