Exploring Lair O’ The Bear

Bridge to Dunafon Castle

Lair o’ the Bear Park is a beautiful mountain retreat for those looking for a serene day out amidst the beauty of the Rockies. The park is 30 minutes from Wheat Ridge, 4 miles west of Morrison, near Idledale. 

The park comprises 394 acres with 8.2 miles of easy-to-moderate hiking, biking and equestrian trails. Bear Creek, meandering gracefully under a canopy of cottonwood and box elder trees, is a highlight of Lair O’ the Bear Park and provides a habitat rich in wildlife. This is a popular haven for outdoor enthusiasts and families looking for a leisurely stroll and a picnic alongside the creek. 

For birders, this diverse habitat attracts various birds, including Lesser Goldfinch, American Dippers, Lazuli Bunting, Spotted Towhee and Steller’s jay. Anglers can enjoy casting lines in the tranquil waters of the creek, known for its brown and rainbow trout populations — varied water conditions in Bear Creek, from gentle flows to deeper pockets, create ideal habitats for these fish, making it an ideal location for novice and experienced fishermen. 

The park’s well-maintained trails provide varied experiences, from serene creek-side walks to more elevated landscape views. The park features several trails suitable for different levels of hikers. Bruin Bluff Trail offers a loop through the central part of the park with diverse scenery, including creek views and dense pine areas. Creekside Trail is an easy, hiker-only trail along Bear Creek, offering tranquil views and access to several picnic areas and fishing spots. Rutabaga Trail boasts a 3.2-mile bike-only trail that opened last Spring. For those looking for a more challenging adventure, Bear Creek Trail is a stunning 12.6-mile trail that passes through Corwina, O’Fallon and Pence Parks.

A mile west along the Bear Creek trail is Dunafon Castle, which adds a fairytale element to the area and will delight younger visitors. The castle’s construction began in 1929 by a water engineer named Marcus Wright and was completed in 1941. It is a stunning 17-acre property with private trout ponds, arches, turrets, tunnels and bridges. Today, the castle is primarily used for weddings and private events, but its historical presence and unique architecture make it a point of interest. 

Lair o’ the Bear was once the homestead of Swedish settlers John and Mathilda Johnson. In the early 1900s, the Johnsons farmed fertile land in the canyon, raised livestock, and sold their prized produce in Denver and Evergreen. The Johnson’s children, Finis and Francis, grew up on the property and named the farm “the mountain nook.” Remnants of the Johnson’s farm can be found at the park, including lilac bushes, cherry trees, and part of the fireplace. In 1987, Jefferson County Open Space made a significant move by purchasing the property, thus transforming it from a privately owned farm to a public park. This acquisition shifted the land’s purpose from agricultural use to recreational and conservation purposes.

With its easy accessibility and diverse offerings, Lair O’ the Bear Park is an enchanting escape into nature, perfect for a day trip to explore Colorado’s great outdoors.

After a morning of exploring, enjoy breakfast or lunch at the Blackbird Cafe in Kittredge, a unique cafe along the banks of Bear Creek that offers window seating overlooking the creek, allowing diners to enjoy the views of the surrounding wildlife. 

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