South Valley Park of Jefferson County, Colorado is a 909 acre county park on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. It’s known for a couple red rock formations that jut out of the high mountain meadows and scrubland of the park. A short drive from downtown Denver, it’s a very convenient loop to take the mud doggo for a hike.
|Trip Length||Day Trip|
|Transport||Within 0.5 hour by Car (from Denver)|
|Conditions||Very Hot, Sunny|
|Gear||Basic Hiking Kit|
I started my tour of Colorado in Denver for a couple nights in an attempt to start acclimating the higher elevation of central Colorado. At around 6000′ above sea level, there is about 20% less oxygen available per lungful of air. It’s not as bad as it sounds – everything feels just fine until I hit an incline on a jog outside of the hotel. I chose the Coyote Song and Grazing Elk Loops (a 5.5 mile route) in the South Valley Park as a warm up to the alpine hiking I was planning on doing later in the week. To start off, let me just say that this is a beautiful park with great trails. Frankly, the Coyote Song Trail is maintained at just a step below paved and in many ways I prefer it – packed fine to very fine crushed stone looks as though it drains well and maintains a fairly firm surface with a little give. The Grazing Elk loop is another loop that touches the Coyote Song loop, although in places it is much narrower and I would recommend wearing pants.
The Mud Doggo and I started the trail alternating between a jog and a brisk walk and things were looking pretty good. The Coyote Song trail was wide and gentle, ducking from time to time into some cover between the picturesque red rocks and stands of trees an tall shrubs from time to time. I arrived in the mid-afternoon after finishing up a remote workday that was two hours ahead of the local time, so things were hot, hot, hot. The first mile I just spent struck by the beauty of the front range and marveling at the natural resources so readily accessible from the Denver metropolitan area. As I started to heat up, however, my heart rate remained elevated and I eventually had to stop jogging – I was in zone 2 cardio just walking around and trying to disperse my body heat.
Crossing the road to join the Grazing Elk loop was interesting – there is a short walk alongside a fairly busy road then up a hillside on a narrow path. The Grazing Elk loop was very much high plains meadow that was completely exposed. We started down the Grazing Elk loop but the moment I could feel the heat from the walking path through my shoes, I knew that it would be too much for the Mud Doggo to take for an extended period of time. Being half Husky, Maggie has tough and thick paw pads suitable for dealing with ice – but keeping her on such a hot surface for an extended period of time would not be good. Especially with so much on our trip itinerary coming up as we toured Colorado. We beat a hasty retreat back to the Coyote Song loop to finish out the rest of the hike.
Once back in the occasional shade and having consumed a tremendous amount of water (between the mud doggo and myself, about 3 liters in about 4 miles), my heart rate came back down enough that I could resume the jog/walk zone 2 routine.
It was so hot that I would have felt better carrying more water and my dog’s booties. Extra water could have been used to cool Maggie’s paws. And a folded mat could have been used for her to stand on while we were taking our rest stops. Very glad that I brought along my wide brimmed hat for some protection from the sun, which is apparently closer to you in Colorado and with much less atmosphere standing in the way. Dogs are supposed to remain on-leash in most places in Colorado, although in practice most people seem to let their dogs roam loose. I kept the mud doggo leashed as much as possible for the benefit of other dog owners that may have reactive dogs. Although I gave this hike a 7/10 rating, this is an excellent day hike and I highly recommend it even if you’re just in Denver for a work trip or something. If you’re just looking for something short, the Coyote Song loop by itself would be really nice for a jog.
Finally, I’m really glad for the regular workouts I’ve been doing for the past three months, including 15 hours on the stair climber. It’s really getting me up those hills and keeping my heart rate from spiking.