Matthews Winter Park. Photo: Lisa Mitchel

With late sunsets, May, June, and July are good months for an after-work hike. My first of the year was Matthews/Winters Park just off I-70.

Matthews/Winters Park is a Jefferson County Open Space park. The park brochure says the area was developed in the 1800s by a lay preacher and land developer from Ohio. He put his town at the mouth of Mt. Vernon Canyon. By 1860, the Town of Mount Vernon had 44 registered voters. As you hike along the Village Walk Trail, look for two fenced off areas marking the cemetery for the Town of Mount Vernon.

The parking lot is easy to find. From I-70 at the Morrison/Highway 93 exit (exit 259) turn south. Just about .2 of a mile from the highway you’ll see the sign for Matthews/Winters Park on the west side of the road. Turn here for the parking lot. The parking lot is a good size. If it’s full, you can typically wait just a few minutes for a hiker or biker to leave and take their spot.

Just down the path, you’ll find bathrooms, signs and trail brochures. Cross the stream to start the Village Walk Trail. It’s a short trail that takes you to the Red Rocks Trail. Hike about 1.1 miles to the split with the Morrison Slide Trail.

Red Rocks view at Matthews Winters Park. Photo: Lisa Mitchel

I suggest taking the Morrison Slide Trail first, then looping back on the Red Rocks Trail. The Morrison Slide Trail is higher and more difficult. Get that out of the way and enjoy taking the more flat Red Rocks Trail back. The Morrison Trail is steep, it climbs about 584 feet. The trail is single track and has several switchbacks. When you take a break to catch your breath, look toward downtown Denver. While you may not see it, you will see Dakota Ridge and beyond that, Green Mountain. Also look around for deer. We found a group of deer about 100 feet below the trail at one point.

When the Morrison Slide Trail starts dropping, the view gets even better. Chunks of Red Rock dot the landscape, thus giving this area its name. You hike down some switchbacks along the rocks to the trail split with the Red Rocks Trail. If it’s early enough, go south. Since we were running out of daylight, we turned north to finish the loop.

After a quick climb, the trail leveled out and was pretty easy most of the way back to the parking lot.

Total distance for the loop: 4.2 miles.