“A rolling trail with lots of shade, following a creek with frequent crossings.”
— Dylan Pradas
Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
The winter parking lot is another 0.8 miles up the road from the main parking area and Chief Hosa campground. If you made your way to the trailhead using something other than the road, it is important to know that the road back has an S curve before the winter parking lot. Many a visitor has become confused by the S curve and the location of the winter lot.
The low usage and proximity to the Denver metro area make this route a hidden gem. The trail is mostly shaded but still requires at least 1.5 liters of water because of a variety of trail conditions along the way. Also, the trail features several stream crossings, which offers a bit of adventure - getting across with dry feet could be tricky depending on stream flow conditions.
The trail offers great vistas from the northern end of the loop,
Note: the trail's difficulty has been rated as a single black diamond. This rating does not stem from significant elevation gains. Visitors in moderately in good shape will not struggle with the uphill portions of the trail; however, as noted above, the trail offers some obstacles that must be overcome. This includes uncertain footing, frequent stream crossings, exposed rock faces, and narrow trail conditions, many of which are compounded by poor trail signage. While most of the trail is benign, trail users should be aware the trail has several obstacles that must be overcome. Visitors will be scuttling over large rocks on the trail, wet rocks at stream crossings, fallen trees, and hillsides with rocky footing. Trekking poles are a big help when addressing these obstacles, as are shoes with soles offering good grip of the ground surface.
The trail also has several locations where precipitous drops are directly adjacent to the path, which leave visitors feeling a bit exposed. Further, in several places, the trail has eroded along these drops and footing can be a bit tricky. Visitors who have problems with heights should keep these conditions in mind before choosing this trail.
Despite the above obstacles, this trail offers great beauty, including striking vistas, exposed geology, interaction between stream and trail flora, numerous birds, occasional deer, and a sense of being away from it all. Trail use is light, so be prepared - you could very well be on your own out there!
Need to Know
Trekking poles are a great help on this trail.
Good shoes with "sticky" soles are a must for this trail. Also, waterproof boots are a good idea.
An extra pair of socks could come in handy.
While the trails is largely shaded, the exercise associated with overcoming the trail obstacles means you'll need lots of water - 1.5 liters at a minimum.
In the winter, visitors should remember how to get back to the winter parking lot. This lot is past the S-curve on the main road, may seem straight forward, but many become confused, especially if they followed the new trail just installed, which does not follow the road, making many unaware of the S-curve.
Be ready for some creek crossings. You may need to stop and strategize for a dry crossing of Beaver Brook dry, or just expect wet feet.
This description is for the clockwise direction. Most of the trail's signage is posted for visitors traveling in this direction, making it hard to lose the trail. However, the loop can be done in either direction, keeping in mind to pay extra careful attention to the signage.
From the trailhead, proceed down the gated-off dirt road to the left. You'll see signs for Chavez Trail
. You'll cross through the Chief Hosa campground, which is also the summer parking area. Follow the road and signs 0.25 miles to Chavez Trail
, which will be singletrack from this point on. Once on the part of the trail, the way is mostly downhill. This part of the trail is on the north side of a mountain, which, in the winter, can have packed snow and ice due to the natural process of snow melt and foot traffic on the trail. Stream crossings begin near the bottom of the trail at the far end of the trail loop. At first, the crossings are very easy, merely a hop over a brook. Visitors should have no problems with these crossings given normal flow conditions.
As the trail begins to turn to the right (NE), trail users are greeted with views of Beaver Brook Canyon. Beaver Brook runs along the trail. At several locations, the trail crosses the brook, which may be several feet across and 2 to 4 feet deep. (The width and depth of the stream will fluctuate during the spring thaw, so be aware.) visitors will need to use rocks and fallen trees for crossing the brook. Here, trekking polls are a big help, keeping you stable while hopping from wet rock to wet rock or making your way across slick wood.
In this stretch, runners would be wise to pay close attention to the trail's direction. Several of the brook crossings do not have signage showing the trail's path. It is easy to mistakenly take one of the many well-worn game trails that parallel the stream and find yourself in the midst of difficult terrain and, potentially, much backtracking.
Along this part of the trail, you'll encounter large granite boulders, many of which are quite slick due to pooling water/ice/polishing by stream water during high flow periods. Based on skill level, visitors should take their time on these obstacles or be prepared for some bumps and bruises.
About 2 miles into the trail, visitors will hit a T-intersection with Beaver Brook Trail
. This trail breaks to left; stick to the right, toward a rocky incline. Don't be confused: the trail to the right of the T-intersection is also called Beaver Brook Trail
From the intersection, trail users will need to make their way across several exposed trail sections as well as negotiate tree roots where the trail is especially steep. Further, stone steps have been constructed on several of the trail's steeper sections. Climbing these steps can be a significant effort for those who are not in good shape. Also, if the trail is icy, the steps can be treacherous. Again, trekking poles are a great help in this section of the trail.
This is the first section of the trail with a significant slope up. Make sure to rest when you need, as tired adventurers are more likely to fall victim to the trail's hazards. For all the hazards, however, the sound of the brook, the singing of the birds, and the pine forest makes this part of the trek worthwhile.
Near the end of the trail, there is 3-tined fork where the Braille Nature Trail forms a loop back to the parking area and a road bisects the Braille Trail
. Visitors can take either leg of the Braille Trail
or take the roadway between the trail's two legs. The Braille Trail
has a cable along the trail for the sight-impaired to follow. On the right (east) leg, the trail has several signs in braille and text explaining features along the trail. To the left, the Braille Trail
is steep, with fallen trees crossing the trail. This stretch of the trail is probably not used by the blind!
No matter which leg of the trail or the road taken, visitors arrive back in the summer parking lot.
Flora & Fauna
A variety of coniferous trees are present. In the late spring, wildflowers should be plentiful. Also, because much of the trail has natural water available (do not drink it without treating it first), keep an eye out for wild berries. Of course, wild berries can also mean bears. Just keep that in mind should you find yourself harvesting a basket full of raspberries in August.