Matthews / Winters Park

Location: Jefferson County Open Space
Nearest town: Golden
Distance from Denver: 12 mi / 0:15
Trail distance: 6.1 mi loop + 2.1 mi of additional hiking trails
Elevation: ~6,200 ft at main parking area
Directions: From I-70, exit on Hwy 93 and go south just 0.1 mi to turn right into the park entrance. For this hike I parked in the Stegosaurus Lot on the eastern side of Hwy 93.
Dates hiked: June 2009, November 2012, January 2013
Additional resources:
Jefferson County Open Space
Trail and Park Reviews 

Trail notes and photos:
Waking up with a craving for rocks, I decided to explore a bit of the Dakota Hogback, the narrow ridge of tilted, uplifted rock layers which runs along most of the Front Range. I decided on a 6.1 mi loop along the Dakota Ridge Trail, then across the valley and back north along the Red Rocks Trail. To add a little more mileage and elevation gain and loss, divert onto the Morrison Slide Trail, which re-joins the Red Rocks Trail after 1.2 mi.

Rocks along Dakota Ridge Trail - Matthews / Winters Park

Rocks along Dakota Ridge Trail

It was a sunny 50 degree January day and my dog friend, Truly, was happy to join me (dogs must be on leash).

Dakota Ridge Trail - Matthews / Winters Park

Truly, checking out the view below

For this loop I parked at the Stegosaurus Lot on the eastern side of Hwy 93.

Stegosaurus Parking Lot - Jefferson County

Stegosaurus Parking Lot, easily accessible from I-70

Just up the hill behind the lot is the road which starts off the Dakota Ridge Trail. The road climbs quickly to the top of ridge where soon the wire fences and “Danger: Shooting Range” signs disappear and the highway noise lessens. The rocky and sparsely forested trail rolls along the top of the ridge, with sections of trail which are so rocky that I wonder how the mountain bikers can make it through (I saw a few walking). This trail is much quieter than the trails on the western side of the park, but you will share it with bikers.

The trail alternates sides of the ridge, with views to the east of C-470, the western edge of William F. Hayden Park, the plains, and the suburbs.

Looking east from Dakota Ridge Trail - Matthews / Winters Park

Looking east to C-470 and the western edge of William F. Hayden Park

To the west are views of Hwy 93, Red Rocks Amphitheater and the foothills to the west.

Looking west from Dakota Ridge Trail - Matthews / Winters Park

Looking west to the red rocks of Red Rocks Trail

To the south is a very cool view looking down the Hogback.

Looking south from Dakota Ridge Trail - Matthews / Winters Park

Looking south on the Hogback

This park is very accessible to Denver with great natural features, but is not a source of solitude or wilderness.

Halfway along the Dakota Ridge Trail is an option to take the Zorro Trail 0.9 mi down to Rooney Rd and a parking area. Continuing forward on the Hogback, the trail continues along the ridge before dipping down and crossing Rooney Rd. There is a port-a-potty and then a series of educational signs along the road, including a view of dinosaur tracks.

Road crossing and educational signs along Rooney Rd - Dakota Ridge Trail

Road crossing and educational signs along Rooney Rd

To the left is a sign marking the continuation of the Dakota Ridge Trail, which climbs up from the road and then down the other side of the ridge to cross Hwy 93 and enter Red Rocks Amphitheater.

Red Rocks Trail crossing Hwy 93

Crossing at Hwy 93 to Red Rocks Amphitheatre entrance; trail continues on the right just past the first vehicle

Walk along the Red Rocks entrance road a few hundred yards to a trail on the right, which isn’t signed but is the Red Rocks Trail. Shortly, it crosses another Red Rocks entrance road at a small parking area. From there, it climbs past red sandstone rocks to the north of the amphitheater.

Red sandstone rocks along the Red Rocks Trail - Matthews / Winters Park

Red sandstone rocks along the Red Rocks Trail

Be sure to turn around to see the ridge you just hiked.

Views east of Dakota Ridge from Red Rocks Trail - Matthews / Winters Park

Views east of Dakota Ridge from Red Rocks Trail

Past the red rocks is the option to divert onto the Morrison Slide Trail. I continued on the Red Rocks Trail, which is fairly level as it winds along the open foothills 2.2 mi to the main parking area.

Red Rocks Trail - Matthews / Winters Park

Red Rocks Trail winding back to Matthews-Winters parking area

This last 2.2 miles is not my favorite part of this park’s trail system, and tends to be the busiest section with hikers, runners, dogs and bikers. However, in the spring and early summer the wildflowers can be spectacular.

Coppermallow - Sphaeralcea coccinea at Matthews / Winters Park

Coppermallow – Sphaeralcea coccinea

Crested Prickly Poppy - Argemone polyanthemos at Matthews / Winters Park

Crested Prickly Poppy – Argemone polyanthemos

Orange Paintbrush - Castilleja integra at Matthews / Winters Park

Orange Paintbrush – Castilleja integra

Wiry Milkvetch - Astragalus flexuosus at Matthews / Winters Park

Wiry Milkvetch – Astragalus flexuosus

One-sided Penstemon - Penstemon unilateralis at Matthews / Winters Park

One-sided Penstemon – Penstemon unilateralis

Western Spiderwort - Tradescantia occidentalis at Matthews / Winters Park

Western Spiderwort – Tradescantia occidentalis

Next visit I’m going to park at the small parking area along the Red Rocks road to do about a 3.0 mi Morrison Slide and Red Rocks loop, or do the Dakota Ridge Trail out and back or via the Zorro Trail, including the dinosaur tracks along Rooney Rd.

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2 responses to “Matthews / Winters Park

  1. Superb site you have here but I was curious about if you knew of any community forums that cover the same topics talked about in this article?
    I’d really love to be a part of community where I can get suggestions from other knowledgeable individuals that share
    the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let
    me know. Thanks a lot!

    • I haven’t explored the hiking forums. Some sites I’ve come across in trail searches seem to have a community of people who comment on routes and trail conditions, so you could watch for those. Good luck!

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