OUT: Haggerty’s Hikes October 25, 2008


Hiking the Liberty Trail on the Monument, the lizards did not care which party or which candidate I liked. It proved to be a relaxing way to get away from the political hoopla.

Ten days until Election Day. Think we can make it?

Internal temperatures continue to rise during this heated political season. But outside, fall temperatures in the valley couldn’t be more pleasant for a hike along Corkscrew Trail in Colorado National Monument.

Grasshoppers continued hopping this late in the year near the trailhead. Lizards continued slithering further along the trail, and look below, “Ohh, who lives there? Nice house!”

Corkscrew Trail dates back to 1909 and John Otto, the first full-time caretaker of this unique area on the southwest edge of the happy valley.

It was one of the first trails constructed in the monument and provided the only official route through Ute Canyon. Over time, however, the original access to Corkscrew Trail was lost because of encroaching development.

Eventually, the main route leading into Ute Canyon became the Liberty Cap Trail. Once you climbed one mile up the first little stretch from the valley floor, you could jump off the Liberty Cap Trail and head over to Ute Canyon, or you could continue up to Liberty Cap itself.

But then, you missed the “corkscrew,” a tight set of switchbacks apparently carved out of rock by good ol’ John Otto himself.

In 2005, portions of Corkscrew Trail were rehabilitated by the Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado. Prior to that, few people used the trail because there was no formal access leading to it.

Nonetheless, people who did use it “insisted on their right to cut across the terrain, instead of following natural contours,” said former monument Superintendent Bruce Noble at the time.

Noble and the Park Service embarked on a much needed educational program to inform visitors to the area “that all these ‘social’ trails only increase erosion, increase maintenance costs and decrease the aesthetic values of their own experience.”

Noble and his cohorts also studied the effects of constructing a decent trail that connects the Wildwood Trailhead with the Corkscrew Trail.

The idea was to build one good access trail that would connect Ute, Liberty Cap and Corkscrew trails, and create a loop trail on Corkscrew from the parking lot at Wildwood.

It was a great idea, and not only did they conceive of it, they got ‘er done.

To reach the Wildwood Trailhead on the Redlands, take Broadway (Colorado Highway 340) to the Redlands Parkway and turn left on South Broadway (or take the Redlands Parkway and stay on it since it turns into South Broadway).

Travel past South Camp Road and continue on South Broadway just past Riggs Hill until you come to Wildwood Drive.

Turn left, then veer to the right past the private residences. Please respect their privacy and drive slowly.

You’ll soon spy the Wildwood Trailhead sign on your right. Turn here and park in the gravel lot.

Take the main trail across the desert leading toward Liberty Cap. In short order, you’ll pass a sign pointing toward the left, or southeast, and Corkscrew Trail. You can go either way to hike the Corkscrew Loop.

If you continue forward, follow the Liberty Cap Trail up a slightly more gentle set of switchbacks until you reach a trail junction sign at one mile. Turn left and hike 0.2 miles to the Corkscrew Trail sign and
take another left.

The upper reach provides a series of switchbacks leading back down the hill — all well-engineered nearly 100 years ago.

Once down, numerous social trails used to meander across the desert, around large prickly pear patches and through valuable, yet highly erosive cryptobiotic soils.

  So, as you descend the steep “corkscrew” switchbacks, enjoy spectacular views along the way and check out some of those houses. Who lives there?

Follow the Corkscrew Connector Trail signs back to the trailhead.

That’s the old way. Instead of following the old Liberty Cap trail half-way up the hill the other day, I chose to take that hard left turn not far from the trailhead and hike across the valley to the south, then climb the famous switchbacks from there.

It provided a different, very broad, very expansive perspective, which is always nice, especially during this diverse, heated and narrow-minded political season.

Honestly, the lizards did not care which party or which candidate I liked. Neither did the grasshoppers.

They were just sunning themselves and staying out of the way.

I guess I should be more grasshopper and lizard-like.


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