Hike 28 Big Dry Creek Trail in Westminster, Colorado – May 6, 2020

For hike number 28 of our 52 Hike Challenge, we returned to Big Dry Creek Trail, a National Recreation Trail. However, this time we hiked a section we haven’t been on for several years.

We parked at Westminster City Park and started our hike where we left off the last time we were on Big Dry Creek Trail, at the Armed Forces Tribute Garden. From Westminster City Park, we headed southwest on the trail. First we past the Butterfly Pavilion which was still closed because of the pandemic. The Butterfly Pavilion is struggling to make it through the lockdown, just like many of the zoos. They still have most of their expenses, but have lost their income. On their website, they offer virtual learning programs and accept donations.

It has been a couple of years since Right Buddy (RB) rode her bike on this section of Big Dry Creek Trail when she worked at Syncroness in Westminster. One of the last times she rode through this section, she remembers seeing an artist painting a mural on one of the underpasses. However, we were pleasantly surprised to see that all of the underpasses along Big Dry Creek Trail are now dressed up with beautifully painted murals. They exist thanks to the Westminster’s Mural Program.

We continued on Big Dry Creek Trail for five and a half miles to reach Stanley Lake Regional Park, a park run by the city of Westminster. The trail has a little bit of a climb to reach the top of the dam at the east side of the lake as the trail enters the park, but not a lot. Our total elevation gain for the day was just 380 feet. Stanley Lake has a boat ramp and a campground; however, both were closed due to the lockdown. It was a sunny day, with temperatures in the low 70’s. We ate our lunch sitting on a couple of large rocks on the lake shore with a wonderful view of the lake in front of us with the mountains as a backdrop. Our lunch entertainment was a hairy woodpecker hammering on a nearby tree trunk. There were some people fishing along the shoreline of the lake. A couple of young kids screamed with joy as they witnessed a man catching a fish.

About half the people we saw that day were wearing masks. They were walking, jogging, or riding bikes. We watched a dad pushing his young son on his bike to help him get started on the steep hill. We past by Lukas Elementary School with its vacant playground despite being a weekday because the schools are still closed.

We stopped to take a video of a great blue heron. A cyclist stopped to watch. He said he's lived in Colorado all his life and never saw one before. He even asked what type of bird it was.  He was very excited about his first encounter. It adds to our excitement when we witness the emotions of others experiencing things for the first time. Other wildlife we saw that day were prairie dogs, butterflies, hawks, pelicans, red-winged blackbirds, and other birds. A pair of red-tailed hawks flew over our heads. They were flying very close together and it looked like one was chasing the other one. 

There was a farm just north of Big Dry Creek at 10050 Wadsworth Ave. which we loved riding our bikes past years ago, seeing the farmhouse, twin silos, and a few heads of cattle. The property was owned by Charles Ranch McKay as late as 2014. His family had settled in the area in the 1860's and owned most of the surrounding land. However, the Churches Ranch is considered to be at 17999 West 60th Avenue in Arvada at the edge of the Long Lake Regional Park and was purchased by the Denver Water Board in 1937. As the cattle business was becoming less profitable in 1980's, Charles Ranch McKay developed most of his land into what is now the Church Ranch area of retail, commercial, and residential properties. When we walked by the farm that day, the area was under construction. No animals were to be seen and the farmhouse was jacked up off of its foundation. We were able to determine that the property is owned by Home Place Land & Cattle Co Inc., but we were not able to determine what their plans are for the property or how long they have owned it. Is the farmhouse being moved to another location to preserve it or are they just rebuilding the foundation and in the process of restoring the property?

Going for a walk makes us feel more connected to the area. Our curiosity of what we witness causes us to research what is going on around us. Hopefully you can get out and figure out the latest news and history of where you live.

Check out our related video: Big Dry Creek Trail in Westminster, Colorado

(RB)