Friday, July 17, 2015

Lincoln Mountain Open Space Trail

Lincoln Mountain Open Space Trailhead Parking
Lincoln Mountain Open Space Trail sits about 18 miles south of Franktown just west of CO 83. From the parking area, the Lincoln Mountain Trail loop climbs almost 400 feet up the mesa with views in all directions, and runs 4.2 miles.  The Palmer Divide Ranch Trail runs 4.5 miles through lower elevations and loops along west Cherry Creek through meadows.  The trail is multi-use so expect hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders along the way.  A map is available HERE.

Trail Junction
Easy climb through a flowered meadow
The climb gets steeper once you get in the scrub oak
Flowers are all along the trail
The trail continues to the left of the first junction and crosses a runoff ditch that feeds a pond, then moves into scrub before climbing steeply up in switchbacks across a drainage.  There are 3-4 places where the area had been very muddy when horses last came through, and dug some holes in the trail. Please allow the trail to dry a little or you will get bogged down after a heavy rain.  You will zig here and zag there as you climb, a walking stick is helpful.  You will know the steepest part is over when you pass a bench on your right with lots of views.

Drainage wall at pond
Beware when the trail is wet and muddy
Trail climbs to the top
View below
Trailhead view from near the top
Loop sign on Lincoln Mountain top
The trail then climbs to the loop portion along the side of Lincoln Mountain for about one half a mile. Once I reached the loop at the mesa top, I was greeted with the elevation of 7,394 ft etched into the sign (West Cherry Creek where you cross over on the bridge at the entrance is at 7000 feet elevation). I turned right for a counter-clockwise circumference of the mesa meadow top.

And the views were awesome in all directions. Eastward, you could see hill tops almost to Elizabeth. Looking North you could follow the mountains along the front range until they disappeared.  West you could see the mesas between Lincoln Mountain and the Front Range.  And to the South you could see from Pikes Peak to the Black Forest. Ranches and homes looked like tiny toys in the fields below.  An experimental airplane motored above, a white triangle against the rich blue sky.  A hawk flew from the ground to circle above me.  A moth kept following me, lighting on my hiking pole repeatedly as I walked.  It was very nice and was almost silent.



The trail along the mountain top was littered with small rocks.  I noticed small white quartz stones all along the trail, even when going down through the meadow.  The field atop the mesa was awash in blooms with almost every flower present blooming.  Orange Indian Paintbrush, white Yucca, yellow cactus, reds, purples, whites and yellows of every imaginable shade.  A botanist's dream.

Back of the top of mountain trail sign
Crossing through the old fence
Hiking down the mountain
I circled Lincoln Mesa and turned back downhill, passing through the old fence posts.  Once at the bottom, I turned to the Palmer Divide Ranch Trail, but gave up when I noticed the time.  I'll hike this trail soon.

Bench at Dewey's Hill on the Palmer Divide Ranch Trail Loop
To get there, follow CO 83 south 18 miles from Franktown.  Turn right on Jones Road, County Road 80, follow the gravel road to cross West Cherry Creek and take the second right into the parking lot. The approach trail runs .2 miles to where it splits for Lincoln Mountain and Palmer Divide Ranch loops.  Bring your drinking water, wear sunscreen and insect repellent.

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