|Elevation Gain||1,322 ft|
|My Time||3 hr 47 min|
|Closest Town||Winter Park|
|Food Nearby||Doc’s Road house|
Jim Creek Trail
The Jim Creek Trail is a wonderful trail through the Arapaho National Forest outside of Winter Park, Colorado. The moderately challenging hike follows the Jim Creek up into the forest and to a waterfall. The Jim Creek trail is great in the summer and fall and even for snowshoeing in the winter.
The Jim Creek Trail is located just outside of the Mary Jane ski area in Grand County. It was my first time in Grand County so add another county to my list of Colorado Hikes! There are two spots to start the hike. You can start in G-lot right off of 40 and Winter Park Drive or you can drive up Fire Road 128 to start at the National Forest Trailhead.
I liked starting at the G Lot. From there the trail begins at the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation sign and begins on some nice decking that takes you in the woods. The trail will split off and families with youngers might enjoy the easier nature walks. Or you can continue on to the Jim Creek Trailhead.
The Jim Creek Trailhead is about nine tenths of a mile from the Bonfils trailhead so it isn’t too much further to do the hike from here. In the spring the Bonifils portion was full of amazing flowers and some open benches with views of the Mary Jane Hill.
The Real Jim Creek Trail
No matter how you come upon the real trailhead, either by hiking or parking there, the trailhead begins at a small dam and a small parking area. The trail continues on the southeast corner of this area and will take you into the nation forest. The trail will begin a slight but continuous uphill grade from here on. The trail will also get considerably more rocky. Not huge rocks like having to deal with boulders but the small to medium rocks of an old creek bed.
Over the next mile and half you will increase about six hundred feet of elevation while staying almost completely under the canopy of thick woods. The creek is close enough to hear from this wooded section but you won’t really see it. I actually thought this section was an extremely relaxing and wonderful walk through the woods. A few flowers were even blooming in the sections where some sunlight pierced the canopy of tree branches.
The Hill and Above
The heavily wooded section of the trail finally breaks in a magnificent way two and half miles from the Bonfils trailhead. To the left as you are ascending the trail, the trees will break and a small trail will head towards the open area. The opening also reveals a wonderful tree and grass covered hill that is an amazing sight after walking through the woods for so long.
This meadow oasis was such a great sight after being in the trees for so long and marks about the halfway point of the hike. I took some time to head on the small trail that explored the meadow and just enjoyed the views for a bit before heading back up the main trail.
Continuing on the main trail from here leads back into the trees but the trees quickly thin out and you will get to the upper section of the hill which is much more open.
Upper Woods and Waterfall
The upper wood section of the Jim Creek trail has a much more rustic feel than the earlier trail. The early portion of the trail is well manicured, if a little rocky, while the upper section has more tree’s down. The trail gets a little harder to find in the upper section and alternates between some open air sections and some dense woods.
This upper section of the trail also reconnects Jim Creek with the trail. The creek runs very close to the trail at times and even a couple of creek crossings are required. In the late spring and early summer the trail being so close to the creek causes some very muddy and wet conditions for the trial.
The upper section of the trail is about a mile and a half of this more rustic feel until you get to the waterfall. As you get closer to the waterfalls the trail spider webs in several directions and I think I ended up on some old or social trails. One of the issues is needing a couple of creek crossings and the water was so high that I don’t think all the crossings were possible on the day I hiked it.
Even though I don’t think I was on the proper trail I was able to get up above the waterfalls. The views were nice but the trail began to vanish in the mud. I decided to turn around and not do any new damage to ground.
I do feel if the creek was a bit lower it would have been easier to see the best place to cross. I still ended up having a wonderful hike through the woods and with a couple of smaller waterfalls. The creek being high made it a bit wet but it was still a really enjoyable hike that I would definitely do again.
I have put together this time lapsed version of the hike to give you a feel of what the trail is like. If you enjoy the video make sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel. It is free and you will get all the latest updates.
Distance and Elevation
If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 8.0 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 1,322 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 10,518 feet. I was also moving for a total of 3 hours and 47 minutes.
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While the Jim Creek Trail doesn’t have too many extreme elevation gains, it is mostly up hill at a steady pace. It is one of those trails that doesn’t seem to be that challenging. Then all of a sudden you are huffing and puffing so make sure you pace yourself. I am setting the difficulty at moderate based on the distance and consistent elevation gain.
The trail itself is pretty rocky with some big rocks and loose rocks to deal with. It feels like an old creek bed. In the spring and early summer when the water is running high the trail gets pretty muddy and wet. I would highly suggest waterproof boots or shoes. This is also a popular trail in the winter where snowshoes are often required depending on the snow fall.
Access For Jim Creek Trail
There are actually two parking lots for the Jim Creek Trail. You can park at the lower lot which is where this blog is based from. The lower lot is in the G Lot of winter park at the sign for the Bonfils Nature walk. Lot G is located just off of US 40 on Winter Park Drive. The upper lot takes you to the National Forest Trailhead on Forest Road 128. The map is for the G lot parking lot since that is where I started this hike. There are no restroom facilities at the trailheads.
Wrapping up the Jim Creek Trail
I really enjoyed the hike on the Jim Creek Trail. The trail was easy to section off with a relaxing hike through the thick woods, a beautiful hill in the middle, the upper section with the creek and finally the waterfalls. This made the hike feel like a few unique hikes all wrapped into one which kept it interesting.
The trail can get really busy due to its proximity to Winter Park. I saw several folks from out of town that were struggling with the elevation gain. It is a challenging hike and not a nice walk in the park. While the elevation is never overwhelming it is definitely consistent and the rocky terrain can be rough on the joints. The creek crossings also add a layer difficulty. If you are a lower skilled hiker you might want to stop at the middle hill before the hiking gets a bit more technical.
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