Five months after the September 2013 floods damaged Apex Park, the park has reopened about 5.5 miles of trails on the east side of the park.
The trails at Apex Park are being repaired and opened in three phases. The first phase opened March 14. The second phase, on the west side of the park, is scheduled to open in June. The third phase, Enchanted Forest and the main section of Apex Trail is scheduled to open in September. Learn more here.
"The trails in the Phase I area of the Park will be in 'as is' condition," said Tom Hoby, Director of Jeffco Parks & Open Space. "That means our visitors will need to be cautious and observe any construction closures that will occur during this partial opening."
So where can you hike right now and what can you see?
What's open: Argos, Pick-N-Sledge, Bonanza and Grubstake
What's closed: Apex, Enchanted Forest, Sluicebox
Damage overview: Visitors who know the park well will see lots of gullys along the trail where water ran down from the top of the mountain. If you look closely, you may spot places where sections of supersaturated dirt slid a few feet or more, leaving bedrock. Visitors who liked the Argos Trail because it was mainly dirt with few rocks, will notice the trail is now more like your typical, rocky Front Range trail.
So let's go for a hike on the newly reopened trails:
Entrance: Visitors are parking in the northeast corner of the Heritage Square Amusement Park parking lot. The old Apex trailhead is closed for trailhead work that was planned before the flood. Crews are installing flush toilets and other amenities.
Apex Trail: As you walk across the bridge to the Apex entrance trail, you'll see lots of changes. There's lots of material on the creek bank to stabilize what's left. As you turn west on the Apex Trail, you may remember this trail went through shoulder-high brush and shrubs. Not anymore. A lot of the vegetation is gone and the dirt path follows burlap laid down to protect the surrounding area.
After you pass through a fence, you'll notice the trail is one-to-two people wide. The old wide, road-like trail has been washed away below you.
.2 miles from the trailhead, the Apex Trail is blocked off and visitors must turn on the Argos Trail.
Argos Trail: The Argos Trail has little visible damage. While this trail is fairly new and was a treat because it was mainly dirt, it is now much rockier. As you climb, you may notice some gullys created by flowing water, but most of them are small and hard to see, especially for people enjoying the scenery and not looking at their feet and the trail.
Pick-N-Sledge Trail. About 0.9 miles from the trailhead, the Argos Trail ends at the Pick-N-Sledge Trail. As you climb this next section of trail, it gets easier to see the damage. There are more, and deeper, gullys. And if you look closely, you may notice a spot where there's no vegetation on the "upper" side of the trail, this is a place where the vegetation got supersaturated and slid. While it was easy for me to spot, most of my hiking buddys didn't notice it at all. As you hike the Pick-N-Sledge Trail, you may also notice colored flags in the bushes along the trail. Those likely mark where the Pick-N-Sledge Trail will be rerouted. Jefferson County Open Space officials are concerned about erosion on the trail because it was a 15% grade in some areas.
"The realignment will address water management on the trails for years to come and reduce future maintenance and damage from storms," officials said on the Apex website. The realignment will also take part of the trail into an area of pine trees according to one volunteer told me who recently walked the area where the new trail is planned.
Pick-N-Sledge/Grubstake Trial split: 1.65 miles from the trailhead is the trail split for the Pick-N-Sledge and Grubstake Trails. Here's where visitors finally have an option. You can stay on Pick-N-Sledge Trail and hike up and over the mountain or take the Grubstake Trail and loop around the mountain. I suggest taking Grubstake over the mountain and returning on Pick-N-Sledge for a nice 2.1 mile loop.
Grubstake Trail. The first part of Grubstake Trail (where it contours the east side of the mountain) is very similar to Pick-N-Sledge. In some places, you'll see gullys, in some places, you'll see where the ground slid. However, it feels like there is less damage here. Along the Grubstake Trail, you'll pass the steep Bonanza Trail. Taking Bonanza up and over the mountain cuts about 0.45 miles off the 2.1 mile loop at the top.
If you stay on the Grubstake Trail, as you turn west and hike through the trees, there's a lot of ice and snow, so it's hard to tell if there's damage here. Bring traction devices if you hike here in March and April, the ice is going to take awhile to melt out in the shade.
Grubstake is one of my two favorite trails at Apex. Like Enchanted Forest, there are long stretches where the trail is in the forest, making you feel like you're not on the edge of town.
The Grubstake Trail drops down, then switchbacks up to the other end of the Bonanza Trail. Stay on the Grubstake Trail as it winds back to Pick-N-Sledge on the west side.
Pick-N-Sledge Trail, west side. Grubstake and Pick-N-Sledge meet again on the west side of the park. This is close to a neighborhood, so you'll see several homes nearby. You'll also see another trail closure here because Sluicebox is currently closed.
There's a bench at this intersection if you'd like a break, or just start back up Pick-N-Sledge. This section of the trail has some burlap and it looks like the current trail is a bit lower than the burlap area, but trail crews have a good job with repairs here. The trail winds through a few trees to a view of the Front Range, before winding back into one more forest section. When the trees open up again and you get a second view of the Front Range and it's pretty much all down hill from here. Follow Pick-N-Sledge down the mountain, pass the Grubstake turnoff, back to Argos and back to the trailhead.
Learn more about Apex Park. Find more hikes in the area listed below or check out this list of 200+ hikes in Colorado. Don't miss any of my trip reports, sign for an email alert at the top of this page and follow me on Facebook.
Details: The hike up Argos and Pick-N-Sledge, around the mountain on Grubstake and back on Pick-N-Sledge is 5.4 miles with about 1100 feet of elevation gain. Taking the Bonanza cutoff makes the hike about 4.95 miles with about 1,000 feet of elevation gain.
Directions: From 6th/I-70/C470, take I-70 West to exit 259, Morrison. Turn right. Drive about 1 mile to Heritage Square, turn left. Drive into the Heritage Square lot and turn right to find the Apex trailhead. The lower/normal Apex lot is closed. (You can go there and follow the detour signs.)