Trail of the week: Oak Creek Mountain Park
OAK CREEK — I will admit, I expected Oak Creek Mountain Park to be a little less maintained.
I was pleasantly surprised to see a large map and a donation meter at the trailhead, as well as shiny trail markers. Adding to my delight, was a table with Honey Stinger waffles, gels and bars, accompanied by a sign that said “Happy Labor Day! Please take some.” You’ve got to love small towns.
There will eventually be more signage on the upper trails, as well as a parking area. Right now, the trailhead is off of Twenty Mile Road just past the train tracks in Oak Creek. On the left is a dirt road that turns uphill. The trailhead is a few car lengths up the road, marked by a sign-in box and map on the fence.
I walked past the table at the trailhead, opting to grab a bar after my hike. I did grab a trail map, though, from the stack on the table.
The next few weeks will be prime hiking time with the leaves already hinting at autumn. Oak Creek Mountain Park seems to be a little bit ahead of the rest of Routt County. Trees are already shedding leaves that speckle the trails. With most leaves still holding on, there’s shade on much of the mountain. A few openings on the front face offer views of Oak Creek.
The town bought the land last year from Russ Garrity, who created the trails and opened them to public use. The park has 4.5 miles of trails over 165 acres.
I walked up past the pond, crossed a private driveway and used Short Cut to get to the Elk Run Trail. I was brought farther up the hill as I worked my way around the north side of the park. Elk Run brought me to Valley View, where I took a right.
The farther up the mountain you get, the less official trail markers there are. Perhaps I was seeing things incorrectly, but trail signs don’t have the same names as the trails on the map. There are only so many trails, though, so it’s easy to keep track of where you’re at.
I used Face Shot to cut across the width of the trail system, which flew by. I definitely did not underestimate the distance. Next thing I knew, I was heading down Mine Shaft, a trail that gently falls through a small valley of browning fiddleheads. A grove of aspens will soon turn golden.
I stayed right at each intersection when descending, trying to use the shortest route. There are a few private trails branching off, but those are clearly marked.
Even with the trail name confusion, it’s easy to find your way around Oak Creek Mountain Park. All the trails form overlapping loops. If you head downhill, you will get back to the parking lot. If you enjoy the area, consider donating to the Trail Maintenance Endowment Fund through the bright orange meter at the trailhead or online at yvcf.org/trails.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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