Jim CreekWith the spring season runoff picking up I think about trails in terms of how much my dogs will trash the interior of my car, post-hike. I don’t share their enthusiasm for running and rolling in the muck. In turn, they don’t understand why I hop all over the place looking for dry land. For purely selfish reasons I picked the Jim Creek Trail to feature this month. Jim Creek Trail is found at the Bonfils Stanton Outdoor Center, directly across Highway 40 from the main entrance to the Winter Park Resort. You can access the trail via the Discovery Trail loop, or head further into the parking lot and find the Challenger trail, a natural dirt path, which connects with both. The Discovery Trail loop is primarily a planked wood surface as it is lower in the Valley and has much more direct contact with water. There are a few ponds where you may spot duck and geese and the trail will cross over Jim Creek numerous times. It is a nice short loop if you don’t want to get too deep in to the woods and is great for all ages. The higher (and hopefully drier) Challenger Trail is just 100 yards further on the right and basically runs parallel to the Discovery Trail. Don’t be intimidated by the name, it is just a rolling walk in the woods. You don’t gain much elevation at all until you eventually meet up with the Jim Creek Trailhead (about 1/2 a mile from parking area). The trailhead marks the entrance to the James Peak Protection Area. From this point on the trail is a narrower single track with gentle elevation gains. One thing I love about this trail is that it’s just a 5 minute drive from downtown Winter Park yet, because the trail is heavily forested and stays along the valley floor, you don’t hear any highway noise. This time of the year it is still covered in snow and I recommend that you bring your snowshoes along. I hiked it without them on a warm afternoon so it is possible with a good pair of boots but my travel would’ve been much more efficient had I been wearing them. It gets moderate cross country ski and snowshoe traffic during the winter so the trail is nicely packed down. In its entirety, the trail is 7 miles round trip and gains 1,225 vertical feet. However, you only need to venture in about a mile before the trail starts to open up and James Peak becomes perfectly framed by your path. Happy Hiking!