Arapaho National Forest

Maxwell falls waterfall in Arapaho National Forest in Colorado.

Arapaho National Forest Overview

It’s hard to beat national forest land for a lot of reasons. These areas are often brimming with natural beauty and offer the opportunity to camp, sometime for free and sometimes for a small fee. You should check the regulations in the area you are interested in. Hiking trails tend to not be marked as well as in county parks, however, that is not always true. There are only a few hikes within the Arapaho National Forest that are covered in this post. Another great spot to check out is Beaver Brook Watershed, which is also part of Arapaho National Forest, but covered in a separate post. The first section is the Maxwell falls area and the next is the Cub Creek area that leads into the Mount Evans wilderness area and connects with several other trails leading farther back into the wilderness.

Only the areas on National Geographic map 100 are covered in this post

8.4 miles of trails (In this section of the park)

Arapahoe National Forest Details

  • Hiking is allowed
  • Dogs are allowed but must be on a leash
  • Picnicking
  • Free Camping is allowed in places
  • Centaurs errr…. Equestrians
  • Hunting in places and during certain seasons
  • No entrance fees for areas listed in this guide

Emergency contacts:

Forest Supervisor’s Office @ (970) 295-6600

Boulder Ranger District @ (303) 541-2500

Canyon Lakes Ranger District @ (970) 295-6700 and (970) 295-6710

Clear Creek Ranger District @ (303) 567-4382

Pawnee National Grasslands @ (970) 834-9270

Sulphur Ranger District @ (970) 877-4100

Jefferson County Sheriff’s office @ (303) 277-0211

If the event is life threatening dial 911

Quick Reference Map

Sorry there are no park maps for this area, I recommend either the Boulder/Golden # 100 Map, or use the GPX files on a phone or GPS for navigation.

Cub Creek Trail

Difficulty Rank7 (Moderate)
Views Rank4
Distance Rank4.8 Miles
Time NeededAbout 2 Hours

Cub Creek Trail Details:

  • Connecting Trails: Unfortunately there are no connecting trails until you reach Mount Evans Wilderness area (Not covered in this post)
  • Strong elevation gain/loss
  • Mostly forested
  • Closest parking area: There is one parking area off of Carol Ln. just off Black Mountain Dr. it is not the same lot as the Upper Maxwell Falls lot.
  • Trailhead directions: This is the only trail from this parking lot
  • Note: There are free camp sites near this lot

Cub Creek Trail Highlights:

  • Lots of camping opportunities along the trail
  • Dense forest in places
  • Chance to see areas regrown after fire

Cub Creek Trail Review:

The Cub Creek trail is a lot less popular than the other hikes in the area, but is a fantastic trek into the woods that can lead you right into the Mount Evans wilderness area where there are ample trails far off the beaten path. The trail is steep in places and the views are lacking at the start of the trail, but soon begin to improve.

As you ascend the trail the forest becomes denser and much taller. By the time you reach mile 2 on the trail you will come to the property boundary and a choice of paths. One path veers to the right leading down to a small mountain subdivision and the path to the left continues up the hill. There is a small flexible marker that points you to where the trail continues.

After a short rise the trail begins to again level off a little and there are several primitive camping areas. If you are planning on staying try and avoid making a fire. Small backpacking stoves are cheap, easy to use and much safer than a fire. I will point out that on the couple times I have hiked this trail I have occasionally seen fresh evidence of a large predator in the area, however, I have never seen a large predator in the area, aside from the most fearsome creature on earth, man. 

Burn area along the Cub Creek Trail in Arapaho National Forest leading to Mount Evans Wilderness area
Cub Creek Burn Area

Cub Creek continues gaining elevation as you skirt Staunton Ranch. About 4.5 miles in there is a large area that was burned in a forest fire where small trees are once again taking root to reclaim the area. At this point you will be at about 10,000 feet and depending on the time of year you may see snow. The last time I hiked this trail was in late May of 2017 and it did snow on me while it was in the upper 70s in Denver. This is a good place to turn back if you are doing a day hike.

Note: Boulder/Golden 100 does not show the entire trail, but does cover the area up to private property. There are no markings to let you know before the trail crosses private property, but the far side where you enter Arapaho National Forest again there is a tree across the path. This trail leads into the Mount Evans wilderness area and connects with several other trails.

Maxwell Falls Trail

Difficulty Rank6 (Moderate)
Views Rank8
Distance Rank2.3 Miles
Time NeededAbout 50 Minutes

Maxwell Falls Trail Details:

  • Connecting trail: Maxwell Falls Cliff Loop Trail
  • Out and back trail
  • Moderate elevation change
  • Good tree cover
  • Closest parking area: Upper and Lower parking area
  • Trailhead directions: Trail is right off of Black Mountain Dr. on the upper lot and Right off of S. Brook Forest Rd. on the lower lot

Maxwell Falls Trail Highlights:

  • Waterfall during certain times of the year
  • Follows a small stream for most of the trail
  • OneSunChasers favorite trail in this park
  • Great views

Maxwell Falls Trail Review:

If you’re looking for a moderate hike that offers some stream and waterfall views and a chance to beat the heat this is a great hike. The trail winds up a canyon following a stream that will lead you to a great overlook of a waterfall during the right seasons. 

One of the small waterfalls upstream form Maxwell falls Waterfall in Arapaho National Forest.
Maxwell falls

If you are hiking the trail in the off seasons there will still be a little waterfall but you will not really be able to see it from the overlook. If you hike back down the trail from the overlook to the switch backs there are a couple minor trails that will take you down to the creek and up to the waterfall. They are not marked so you will need to keep your eyes peeled to find them.

Maxwell Falls Cliff Loop

Rock overlook located on Maxwell falls Cliff Loop.
Rock overlook
Difficulty Rank5 (Moderate)
Views Rank8
Distance Rank1.3 Miles
Time NeededAbout 30 Minutes

Maxwell Cliff Loop Details:

  • Connecting trail: Maxwell Falls trail
  • Moderate elevation change
  • Partially treed
  • Closest parking area: Upper parking area Note: there are free campsites just off the trail by the creek
  • Trailhead directions: S-Maxwell Falls Trail | L-Maxwell Falls Cliff Loop

Maxwell Falls Loop Trail Highlights:

  • Fantastic Mountain valley views
  • Opportunities for rock climbing

Maxwell Falls Cliff Loop Review:

Fantastic views of the surrounding mountains along with great cliff overlooks are how this trail gets its name. Maxwell Falls Cliff Loop is not very steep as it weaves in and out of the trees.The trail has several spots that make for great places to take a break or do some rock climbing. There are some pieces of equipment already bolted in so if you’re looking for a picturesque place to climb there are some great opportunities here.

Note: if you are hiking this trail from the top of Maxwell falls back towards the Northeast parking lot when you descend the hill you will come to a T in the trail. Your instincts will tell you to take the path that leads to the north (Left) back towards the parking lot you parked in. This instinct sadly is wrong, if you take this trail you will end up at a dead end to private property. Instead you will want to take the path South (Right) back to the Maxwell Falls trail. You will know you are headed in the right direction as you will see the wooden bridge you came across on Maxwell Falls Trail after a couple minutes hiking.

All the information listed in this post is also available in an E-book which can be purchased from Amazon. Please consider purchasing a copy, all proceeds assist in the creation of new content!

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