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Location Temptation
Tanglewood Trail
by Curtis Johnson

When we think of wildlife photography, we tend to emphasize animals. But, there is also a form of wildlife that has no hooves, fangs, wings, talons or claws: wildflowers. We have a wide variety of wildflowers in Colorado, and many places to find them within a short day trip from the Denver/Boulder area.

With the severe drought in the summer 2012, I’ didn't pursued many opportunities to photograph wildflowers, but I did spend many weekends in 2011 looking for, and finding, wildflowers. One of my favorites, Tanglewood, is a relatively easy drive south on Highway 285. Okay, it’s easy for me, since I live right off 285 between Wadsworth & Kipling; it’s not too bad of a trip from most of Denver, anyway.

To get there, go south on 285 (I know: it’s really west for a good many miles going out of Denver, but the signs say South, so that’s what I’m going with) and turn right on Deer Creek Rd/County Road 43. This is shortly before Bailey, so if you get there, you’ve missed it. At about the 6.8 mile mark, the road forks; take the left fork. Three miles later, you’ll see find the Deer Creek campground. Go to the right at the stream crossing. Going left takes you up some private land, with limited space to turn around; I made that mistake once and wouldn’t recommend it. The right-hand route takes you up to the Tanglewood trailhead. Once you’ve gone right, the road narrows significantly and gets extremely rocky. In fact, it gets rocky enough that I had to slow down in my Subaru and creep up the road. It’s not a long way from the trailhead at that point, so it’s not too bad. It narrow enough for traffic in only one direction and has turn-outs that allow one driver to pull aside to let another pass through.

At this point, with my description of the narrow, rocky road, someone might wonder if it’s worth going to Tanglewood to find wildflowers. It is. At the trailhead, I’ve seen a Prius, so I know low ground-clearance vehicles can make it with relative ease. And, the narrowness of the road shouldn’t deter anyone either; I’ve seen, and pulled over for, large Winnebagos that had spent the night in the parking lot at the trailhead.

The guidebook I use lists a large variety of flowers for this trail, including wintercress, wild roses, a couple varieties of penstemon, pink pussytoes, various violets, cinquefoils, and Parry primrose. I’ve personally seen bluebells, claytonias, cowpen daisies, and lupines there. The trail also follows a nice stream that, at points, is open enough to do some nice, long, soft water shots. Last time I was out there, I also saw an enormous, red mushroom. I took a photo and let the fungus alone. I know better than to sample unfamiliar fungi. The altitude ranges from 11,691 to 11,941 feet. Keep this in mind if hiking with folks sensitive to higher altitudes.

It’s been about a year since I’ve been out to Tanglewood, so I can’t say what this dry year has done to any of the foliage. So, venture forth with the expectation that any flowers are a bonus. If nothing else, it’s a beautiful, secluded place to hike.

At this point, I’ll recommend the guidebook I used to find this trail: Colorado’s Newest & Best Wildflower Hikes with text by Pamela Irwin and photography by David Irwin.