The day was dangerously beautiful. Big and fluffy clouds came and went shading a fierce lion of a sun while cattail marshes, willows, trees and bushes sheltering deer, flocks of geese, pelicans, and great blue herons defined the remote Barr Lake region. And the morning I hiked around the lake a woman behind me shrieked: A snake slithered across the trail in front of her. I would have shrieked, too, by the way.
In the 2,715-acre park, visitors can opt to boat, fish, hike, Nordic ski, bicycle, horseback ride, bird watch or participate in a number of educational classes offered at the park’s nature center.
For whatever reason you decide to make a trip to the area, Barr Lake State Park offers much.
If you choose to hike, begin at the nature center near the parking lot, crossing over the Denver-Hudson Canal on the wood bridge, joining the Niedrach Nature Trail to your left. Expect a number of charming boardwalks along the trail shadowed by large cottonwood trees. Because the area, with its 1,900-acre prairie reservoir, is a designated wildlife refuge, be sure to stay on a dedicated footpath.
Following the trail, you’ll eventually come upon the Gazebo Boardwalk that extends about a quarter-mile over the water. You can turn around here to head back to the nature center, completing a 2.6-mile or so loop, or continue west and north, circling around south back to the parking area, extending your hike to nearly nine miles.
The scorching summer day I hiked at Barr Lake State Park the sun was climbing high in the sky, inviting me to bask and savor the experience. But I thought: Oh, if only I could cool down. There stood the lake, shimmering blue and untouchable. No swimming is allowed in the water. Bring along plenty of drinking water if you choose the longer hike and wear sunscreen. Or hike the 8.8-mile loop this time of year — Sept., Oct. or November.
There’s a bald eagle nest in the distance out over the water that can be viewed using a telescope located at the Gazebo Boardwalk, although most people remember to carry binoculars when visiting Barr Lake State Park.
If you are an American bald eagle fan, by joining the Bald Eagle Watch, you may participate in studies of the bird, record nesting habits, and more. The program is sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory and Barr Lake State Park. Call (303) 637-9220 for more information.
More hikes can be found in my book, “Best Boulder Region Hiking Trails” (Big Earth Publishing, $19.95). Consider subscribing to this page for weekly hiking suggestions (see tab, above). Contact me at [email protected]
To the trailhead: Access I-76 east to Bromley Lane in Brighton. Follow Bromley Lane east to Picadilly, heading south, passing pastures of cows and sheep, to the entrance of Barr Lake State Park on your right.
Distance: The entire parameter of the lake is an 8.8-mile loop; you could opt to go just 2.6-miles to the Gazebo Boardwalk and back.
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous if you do the entire loop on foot
Elevation gain: Negligible
Horses: Yes, but restricted to certain areas
Fee: $70 per day or $70/annual pass
Information: Barr Lake State Park is open daily from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. (303) 659-6005.