Once a working ranch for cattle, horses, and foxes, Alderfer/Three Sisters Park East Trailhead is now a place that offers a variety of experiences, from hikes across rolling terrain to challenging rides. It is situated in Evergreen
It is one of the many foothills parks with terrain varying from about 7,500 feet to 8,536 feet at the summit of Evergreen Mountain, the only named, and therefore the highest and most prominent, mountain in the park. The park has 15.6 miles of trails in an area of 1,135 acres, giving it the highest trail density of any foothills park. Alderfer/Three Sisters Park East Trailhead has two trailhead parking areas about one mile apart along the Buffalo Park Road which are about a five-minute drive from the center of the historic town.
The park derives its name from two sources. What is now the park used to be a private ranch controlled by the Alderfer family until 1988 They raised horses, cattle, and foxes, and even maintained a sawmill on the site. After they sold 1,000 acres of the ranch to Jefferson County and donated additional land, it was formed into the present park. Their historic barn is a distinctive landmark in the park. The barn was initially a small log building built as part of the Hester Homestead in the 1850s. In 1900, a timber frame addition was built, and the barn was further expanded in 1985. Currently, the barn is used for weddings as well as other special events. Two picnic shelters can also be found close by. In 2002, additional land was purchased from the State Land Board.
Alderfer/Three Sisters Park East Trailhead is primarily composed of rolling hills and meadows with some stunning rock formations interspersed throughout and which are often covered in wildflowers. There are stands of impressive ponderosa pines at the lower elevations, with lodgepole pines higher up. Several species of wildlife can also be found in the park, including black bears, foxes, deer, and elk.
In this park, most activities are confined to hiking and mountain biking, so all trails are open to both. In addition, horseback riding is allowed, but not very common. The park is divided into two segments, one on each side of Buffalo Park Road. The southern part of the park appears to be the most popular and is well-used for the main reason that this is where Evergreen Mountain lies. An easy loop hike with a spur trail to the top of the mountain is a nice half-day outing of about six miles. Beginning at the east parking area, the hike starts with the Evergreen Mountain East Trail, which meanders through mostly intermittent forested areas with occasional viewpoints. It then reaches a junction with the Summit Trail and the Evergreen Mountain West Trail.
The Summit Trail continues to the relatively flat summit area which is mostly forested until you reach the two summit overlooks. From there you will get fine views toward the west, where the mighty Mount Evans dominates the view. You then return to your starting point, except when you arrive back at the trail junction, don’t go back the way you came but instead take the Evergreen Mountain West Trail. This trail is mostly in lodgepole pine forest and ends at a nice meadow, from where the Ranch View Trail takes you back to the parking area. You will encounter lots of bikers on this hike. The larger northern segment, on the other hand, contains most of the park’s trails, including access to the Three Sisters. If exploring the Three Sisters, and perhaps even scrambling around on or climbing their cliffs, is what you would like to experience, there are several fine loop hikes of different lengths available starting at either trailhead.
The simplest is the combination of the Sisters Trail and the Ponderosa Trail, with the bonus of a short spur to the Brother’s Lookout, which offers fine views to the east. If climbing is your objective, please note that permanent protection is not permitted, in other words, don’t leave your hardware behind.
If you want to experience a longer hike in the northern segment of the park and encounter a lot fewer people, at least for part of the hike, try this one. Take the Hidden Fawn Trail from the east trailhead until it intersects the Sisters Trail. Take that to the junction of the Bearberry Trail until it meets the Mountain Muhly Trail. This trail will take you past some old ranch buildings after which it reaches the northernmost point in the park. It then loops around to the south until it meets the Homestead Trail, which in turn meets the Silver Fox Trail, which you can then take as far as the Ponderosa Trail.
From here, the Ponderosa Trail follows alongside Buffalo Park Road to your starting point. This hike involves some significant elevation gains and losses and is about seven miles long. Winter can be especially pleasant here so go hiking in Alderfer/Three Sisters Park East in Evergreen
Trailhead during this time.