DIRECTIONS: From Santa Fe Drive (85), exit by turning west onto Mineral Ave. Turn right on S. Platte Parkway and left on W. Carson Drive. When you reach the nature center there are parking lots to the right and the left. If parking is full, you can park at the large parking lots for the Aspen Grove Shopping Center and walk over to the Nature Center.
South Platte Park and the Carson Nature Center is a wonderful hiking area, close to Denver and filled with quiet trails and beautiful scenery. The Mary Carter Greenway (Part of the larger South Platter River Trail) is a paved multi-use trail that runs through the park but there are various natural surface nature trails that run parallel to the Greenway and are accessed via the Greenway.
The Northern Wildlife Area is a small, wooded refuge just north of the Carson Nature Center in the northeastern part of the Park. From the northern end of the nature center, find the paved round-about and the natural surface trail at the western end of the round-about. Follow this trail towards the S. Platte River. This trail will lead to a natual surface trail that runs parralel to the river, turn right and head north.
On your way to the fenced-in Northern Wilflife Area, the trail along the river has various river access points that are fun to explore. When the water levels are low you can walk along the river bed rather than the main trail. After a few minutes of hiking you'll come to the fence for the Northern Wildlife Area and the map. The loop is .6 miles with the western portion being the most scenic. Follow the loop whichever way you choose. Keep your eyes out for deer, birds, and other wildlife and the views towards the Front Range Mountains on the western part of the loop are fantastic.
When you return to the start of the loop you can either follow the same trail back to the nature center or walk along the Mary Carter Greenway. There are many more miles of trails in the park if you want to extend your outing, here are two more hikes in the park (click here and here) that you can link to this hike for a longer day in the park.
HIKES BY REGION
NATIONAL PARK HIKES
- BENT'S OLD FORT NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
- BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NATIONAL PARK
- COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT
- CURECANTI NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
- DINOSAUR NATIONAL MONUMENT
- FLORISSANT FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT
- MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK
- ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
- GREAT SAND DUNES NATIONAL PARK
- HOVENWEEP NATIONAL MONUMENT
- SAND CREEK MASSACRE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
- YUCCA HOUSE NATIONAL MONUMENT
- HIKES BY CATEGORY
- $UPPORT GHC
- INTERACTIVE MAP
Northern Wildlife Area
South Platte Park, Mary Carter Greenway
Date Hiked: November 19, 2017
Distance: 1.4 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: minimal
Elevation: 5,300 ft
Trailhead Lat/Long: 39º 35' 02" N; 105º 01' 44" W
Managing Agency: S. Suburban Parks & Recreation District