Elk Meadow in Evergreen, Colorado, features a trail system that takes visitors through grassy foothills and old-growth forests. The trails are connected and allow hikers to form loops of varying lengths. The trails range from easy to moderate and are good for hikers at any skill level. The pathways are mostly flat and wide. Expect to encounter mountain bikers during the warmer months.
I relied on my own GPS map ↗ on my smartphone to track my progress on the trail. Many people don’t know this, but you don’t need an internet connection to ping GPS. It even works while your phone is in airplane mode. This GPS map showed me exactly where I was on the trail at all times. Feel free to copy this map or download the location data points and import them into your preferred GPS app. These step-by-step instructions will show you how to do that.
As you know, tech can malfunction, break, or run out of power. It’s prudent to take a contour map and a declination-adjustable compass on your backpacking trips as well. This is the map and compass I use. The declination is 9°30 east for this area. You can also download/print your own map ↗.
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To avoid crowds, I decided to do the Grand (5.2-mile) Loop at dawn on a Sunday morning. I only encountered two mountain bikers and two other hikers.
I did the Grand Loop counter-clockwise. It’s the purple one on my map linked above. I parked in the Elk Meadow Trailhead lot, not the Stagecoach Trailhead. Although, the Stagecoach Trailhead would work for this loop as well.
If you want to do the loop the way I did, you take the Painter’s Pause Trail north. Then you turn left and take the Meadow View Trail west. Turn left again and take the Sleepy S Trail back east to the parking lot.
This area is absolutely gorgeous. The hiking is very easy and it’s nearly impossible to get lost. When in doubt, just walk back toward the road and follow it back to the parking lots. There are lots of side trails that lead to summits and overlooks.
If I had friends and family visiting who wanted to get out and do a day-hike, this is where I would take them. It’s easy hiking with great payoffs. You get to see both grassy open spaces and evergreen mountain meadows. It’s like a two-hour tour of Colorado that’s only 30 minutes outside of downtown Denver. You could knock this loop out early, have brunch in nearby Golden, and then be back downtown by noon.
There’s a larger loop you can make that incorporates a couple of summits. I think I’ll call that the High Loop, but it’ll be a very different experience than this loop. So I’ll make that a separate post.