On the west side of C-470 is a hogback formation thousands drive by every day, but did you know there are dinosaurs tracks up there? The hogback formation is part of Matthews/Winters Park, a Jefferson County Open Space park.
The entrance to the park has a sign 0.1 mile south of I-70 on Highway 93/Colorado Highway 26. But for this hike, it’s better to park across the highway at the Stegosaurus park-n-ride lot on the southeast corner of I-70/Highway 93/Colorado 26. If you end up in the main lot, exit, turn left onto Highway 93/Colorado 26 and take the first right into the Stegosaurus lot. (Park map)
The hike starts at the south end of the parking lot and heads directly up the hogback formation on the Dakota Ridge Trail. The trail starts on an old service road that climbs the hill. After a quarter mile, the “road-like trail” ends and the trail turns right. Follow the trail to the top of the hogback, passing the signs for the shooting range on the other side of the ridge. Stay on the trail as it heads across the hogback ridge.
As you hike the ridge, the trail drops to a saddle and the turnoff for the Zorro Trail about 0.9 miles from the parking lot. This is the start of our loop. You’ll be coming back up the Zorro Trail later. For now, continue across the hogback, climbing the next hill and hiking across the rocky ridge.
As you cross the ridge, when the trees open up, take a moment to enjoy the views. To the east, the views are of Green Mountain and downtown Denver. To the west, hikers will see the foothills and the red rock formations of the Red Rocks Amphitheater. In the summer, enjoy the multitude of different, colorful wildflowers on the ridge. In the winter, expect snow and ice.
The Dakota Ridge Trail runs 2.2 miles from the parking lot, along the ridge line to the old Alameda Parkway. At the road, hikers can (1) backtrack along the ridge line for a hike of 4.4 miles, (2) turn right and take West Alameda Parkway around the hogback and back to their vehicles, (3) turn right and hike the big loop that includes the rest of Matthews/Winters Park or (4) turn left on West Alameda Parkway to see the dinosaur tracks and complete this loop hike. West Alameda Parkway was closed to traffic a few years ago so visitors could enjoy the area known as Dinosaur Ridge.
Dinosaur Ridge was once part of the ancient sea bed. It was home to dinosaurs like the apatosaurus, diplodocus, stegosaurus, and allosaurus. Signs along the road point out ancient waves, the different types of rock and of course, the dinosaur tracks themselves. While the tracks are behind a fence, the tracks are easy to see and photograph. Information panels describe the types of dinosaur tracks and what may have been taking place when the tracks were left.
After enjoying the track site, continue down West Alameda Parkway stopping at the other signs until you reach the road closure barrier. Here, turn left on to Rooney Road. There will be traffic on Rooney Road, so stay off the roadway as much as possible. Follow the road about .66 miles to the Zorro Trail turnoff on the west side of the road, directly across from a parking lot on the east side of the road.
After hiking on the mostly flat road, the Zorro Trail is a big change. It’s a 0.9 mile trail of switchbacks that climbs 400 feet, taking hikers and bikers to the saddle on the hogback. When the trail ends on top at the Dakota Ridge Trail, turn right for the 1 mile hike back the parking lot.
Details: The loop is about 5.3 miles with 1000 feet of elevation gain. Want a shorter hike that still visits the dinosaur tracks? Check out this loop.
Find more hikes in Golden, Jefferson County Open Space hikes and Colorado hiking trails here. Learn more about Matthews/Winters Park. Learn more about the trails at Red Rocks Park. In the area, don’t miss the Trading Post Loop. Don’t miss any of my hiking reports, click on the “subscribe” button at the bottom of this article for an alert each time I publish. And follow me on Facebook.
Directions: From I-70, exit Morrison Road/Highway 93. Turn south and drive less than a tenth of a mile to the park-n-ride lot on your left.