A relatively small (11 miles total track) Jefferson County Open Space Park with significant elevation gain, fairly tight switchbacks,
Depending on when you ride, you might see: elk, mule deer, white tail deer, raccoon, skunk, black bear, turkeys, weasel, milk snake, garter snake, rattlesnake, golden eagle, a number of small lizards, and people and dogs, too. Rarely an equestrian thinks this is a good trail to "ride", so they bring their horses up it. IMHO, this is a BAD trail for horses.
You will also see : raspberries, thimbleberries, oregon grape, choke cherries, and rose hips. There is also a spring on Enchanted Forest, but I won't guarantee that the water is potable, although I drink it every time I go by. And rinse off my head.
Trail DescriptionExclusively singletrack.
Some places have fairly significant exposure; if you fall off the trail, you will tumble downhill a good 15'-20'+.
Getting ThereI-70 west to the Morrison exit. Go north about 1.5 miles to the Heritage Square center on your left (west). Park in either lower or upper lot on the north side. The trail picks up immediately at a small TH on the north side of both lots. See Chimney Gulch for TH directions to start at Chimney Gulch TH.
To combine trails:
I recommend starting here (Apex TH), riding north down the concrete path downhill all the way to the Chimney Gulch TH. At one point, you will have to cross Hwy 93/6 to get back to the west side for the Chimney TH. This can be accomplished at the stoplight at 19th & 93/6, or through a tunnel underneath 93/6 directly opposite of the TH.
When to BikeDuring a dry or a warm year, this trail can be ridden year round. During heavy snow winters, the trails can become snowpacked/icy, and studded snow tires are required. Summer mid-day temps can be brutal, exceeding 110 degrees F on the south exposed slopes. There are a lot of "evening warriors" who hit the trail after work during the work week, so evening traffic picks up significantly after 4:30p.m. until around 7:30p.m. Mornings are usually very empty. Weekend traffic can be heavy as well, especially mid-morning to mid-afternoon. A few groups do early morning (re:5:30-7:00a.m.) downhill shuttle runs from the top of the trail, although this has come under recent scrutiny by the JCOS Rangers, who will ticket for "out of control" riding.
Recommendations & DescriptionsApex Trail Trail head at lower Heritage Square Parking lot 2.8 mi +1795' / -452' Exposed, steep trail at times, with views of Denver & Golden.
Pick N Sledge Trail junction w/ Apex Trail 1.6 mi +878'/-202' Pleasant trail that crosses ridgeline.
Grubstake Loop Trail junction w/ Pick N Sledge 1.6 mi +643 /-453' Trail with numerous switchbacks and scenic views.
Sluicebox Trail junction w/ Apex Trail 0.7 mi +397' / -91' Exposed, steep trail with numerous switchbacks.
Bonanza Trail junction w/ Grubstake Loop 0.3 mi +220' / -53' Exposed, shortcut between west and east part of Grubstake Loop.
Enchanted Forest West trail junction w/ Apex Trail 1.3 mi +237'/-647' Densely wooded, crosses creek and has an average grade of 8%. There is a nice spring about 1/2 way down Enchanted that is a refreshing break to rinse the sweat off your head. Slightly rerouted to accommodate new reroute Apex.
Argos East trail junction with lower Apex Trail and west at Pick N Sledge. Exposed, steep trail with numberous switchbacks. One way mountain biking on odd-numbered days. A nice alternative to descend/ascend avoiding the crowds on Apex proper.
Hardscrabble Trail junction w/Apex and Sluicebox. Fast rolling, non-technical.
I recommend up Apex to the top, down Enchanted, down to Hardscrabble, uphill to Grubstake, take Grubstake to the 3-way intersection with Pick N Sledge, head west back uphill to Sluicebox again, this time take Bonanza south back to Pick 'N Sledge, back downhill to the bottom/TH. This will allow you to ride every bit of singletrack in the park, totaling just over 11 miles and a little over 2000' of gain. You can also do a few more alternatives to make sure you ride every bit of trail, but a few spots will be repetitive. Still good biking, though. This only works on non-restricted (even numbered) days.
For restricted days (odd numbered), I prefer up Apex to Hardscrabble and either a) up Apex to the top and back down Apex (Enchanted is not as much fun to ride up), then up Hardscrabble to Grubstake, down and around to Pick n Sledge, then down that to Apex, back out, or b) up Hardscrabble and follow the route immediately above.
EDIT 3.15.10 Changes have taken place at Apex. Please review the new policy and park map which has DIRECTIONAL trails on ODD days (1,3,5...27,29,31). Please be aware this will be enforced by JCOS rangers. The good news is that the new trails are done. They are now adding "rock gardens" (pinch flat areas) to lower Apex between Argos and Pick N Sledge to slow down users.
New Park Policy, Map:
JCOS Apex page:
Apex Trail map