Alderfer / Three Sisters Park – Western TH

Location: Jefferson County Open Space
Nearest town: Evergreen
Distance from Denver: 30 mi / 0:40
Trail distance: 4.2 mi loop, with a total of 13.9 mi of trails available in the park
Elevation: ~7,200 ft
Direction notes: From Hwy 74 (Evergreen Pkwy) at Evergreen, go south on Hwy 73, then go west on Buffalo Park Rd past the high school, about 1.5 mi past the easter TH to park at the western TH.
Dogs: On leash
Trailhead: Toilets, signage with map, park brochures with maps
Date hiked: 6/2/2013
Additional resource:
Jefferson County Open Space

Trail notes and photos:
Today I revisited Alderfer / Three Sisters to check out the western side of the park. I hiked an easy 4.2 mi loop: Bluebird Meadow – Mountain Muhly loop CCW – Bearberry (east) – Sisters (south) – Ponderosa (west) – Silver Fox – Meadow Trail. Being a sunny, warm spring Sunday, both parking areas were overflowing so I knew I would encounter lots of hikers and mountain bikers along the way. Surprisingly the first half of my hike was pretty quiet, passing just a handful of other people, with traffic increasing on the second half of my hike.

From the TH, the trail starts off in a lovely meadow with a good sized rock outcropping which a number of kids and adults climbed or used as a spot to relax and enjoy the day. The meadow is moist enough to support the many Rocky Mountain Iris I saw blooming in the meadow, and to cause JeffCo to develop the slightly raised trail through this short section.

Alderfer / Three Sisters Park - Jefferson County Open Space

Rocky Mountain Iris along the Bluebird Meadow Trail

Just past the rock outcropping and onto the Mountain Muhly trail, the path becomes wide and road-like as it passes thru pine forest with the occasional aspens, and on this day, plenty of wildflowers to keep me watching the forest floor.

Alderfer / Three Sisters Park - Jefferson County Open Space

Views south from Mountain Muhly trail

The Mountain Muhly trail gently descends for a while, then past the Coneflower Tr split, climbs briefly to where you can get a somewhat bigger view south. It wraps around the loop, remaining very road-like, until suddenly it becomes more of a trail, which I enjoyed much more.

Alderfer / Three Sisters Park - Jefferson County Open Space

Mountain Muhly Trail changes to single-track

On the eastern side of the loop the trail passes right by what looked like a house and barn, an old outhouse and outdoor grill. The trail turns past the barn.

Alderfer / Three Sisters Park - Jefferson County Open Space

Old homestead along Mountain Muhly Trail

The Coneflower Tr looked like a pleasant cut-off to the loop, but I did enjoy the upper part of the Mountain Muhly Tr. A figure 8 could allow a hike which hits this cut-off and the rest of the loop. Just before the Coneflower Tr, the trail opens up to be road-like again and passes thru more open meadows and aspens.

Alderfer / Three Sisters Park - Jefferson County Open Space

Horses along the again road-like Mountain Muhly Trail

The trail then climbs a bit to reach the Bearberry Tr junction, where again there are a number of old buildings (I assume these are all from the homesteaders referred to in the park brochure, available at the TH). I opted to head east on the Bearberry Tr to briefly connect to the Sisters Tr, which I’ve done in previous hikes.

Alderfer / Three Sisters Park - Jefferson County Open Space

Along the Bearberry Trail

I headed south on the Sisters Tr to head back toward the western TH. Once I reached the Ponderosa Tr (heading west) and Silver Fox Tr, I had views of snow-capped mountains in the distance and a wide open view across a large meadow. I found this to be the best view of the whole hike, available just 0.3-0.4 mi from the TH traveling in the other direction.

Alderfer / Three Sisters Park - Jefferson County Open Space

Slight mountain views from the Silver Fox Trail

I also was able to see the Three Sisters rock outcroppings which I found harder to discern from the Three Sisters Tr, which is right among the Sisters. From here it was a quick jaunt back to the TH, passing again thru the original meadow where again I saw a number of Rocky Mountain Irises. I recommend a short diversion (0.6 mi total) from the Sisters/Ponderosa junction to head east on the Ponderosa Tr and hike up to the Brother’s Lookout (see previous post for a photo).

Alderfer / Three Sisters Park - Jefferson County Open Space

The Three Sisters, from the Silver Fox Trail

This is a great park with many trail options. A little later in the season I plan to do the ~5.6 mi loop to reach the summit of Evergreen Mtn at 8,536 ft, but wanted to stay low enough to be sure of seeing wildflowers along the way.

Alderfer / Three Sisters Park - Jefferson County Open Space

Pacific Anemone along Mountain Muhly Trail

I noted the following wildflower species today, plus a few others I’m still trying to identify:

Prairie Bluebells
Pacific Anemone
Purple Asters
Two-Lobe Larkspur
Snowball Saxifrage
Rocky Mountain Iris
Rocky Mountain Cinquefoil
Whiskbroom Parsley
Western Wallflower
Yellow Pea
Purple Penstemon
Mouse-ear Chickweed
Louisiana Bladderpod
Golden Smoke


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