Mad Creek Trail (just north of Steamboat Springs) is a popular and relatively easy hike.  It is about 1 hour to the barn (with a brisk pace) – leave additional time for investigating the rocks.  The first part of the hike is a relatively steep climb, but look for golden minerals – biotite mica (platy silicate minerals – igneous to metamorphic origin). The first 2/3 of the hike traverses through mainly metamorphic gneiss (layered metamorphosed sandstone and mudstone).  The rocks are also nearly vertical with an strike orientation ~ E-W.  This relates to the plate tectonic history of the rocks (Proterozoic subduction zone).  Look for some K-Feldspar-rich granite and basalt.  The last 1/3 of the hike before and including the area around the Mad Creek Barn traverses glacial till/moraine and glacial outwash sediment.  The terminus of the last glacial advance is interpreted to have occurred in this location (for maps and more information including references see Geology of Mad Creek Trail).


With ‘early’ 2016 spring with high February and March daily temperatures, the question about trends in snow depth arises.  Using the NCDC climate data from a station in Steamboat Springs (in the valley), we can investigate trends in snow depth and snow fall.


The March Snow Depth (inches) and Snowfall (inches) graph is shown below.  The data suggests that over the past century, the number of years with  no snow depth (inches) by the end of March has increased.  A linear trend was fitted to the data to highlight the overall general decrease in snow depth through time.  But, there is considerable range in the data.  Early in the century the years with deep snow were approximately 50-55 inches.  In past few decades (1970’s to 2010’s) – the years with deep snow were approximately 35-40 inches.  Also, beginning in the 1970’s more and more years have March ending with little to no snow depth in the Steamboat valley.

March Snow Depth and Snowfall:  National Climatic Data Center (NOAA) data.  


For a more comprehensive look at the snow depth and snowfall data for Steamboat Springs, CO: November through April





Steamboat Springs, CO  outdoor activities include hikes through great geology.  Butcherknife Trail is an easy access, relatively flat, short hike accessed from Stehley Park, Old Town.  Igneous, Metamorphic, and Sedimentary Rocks crop out along the trail. The Geology of Butcherknife Trail provides a brief overview of rock types observable along the trail.  Happy Hiking!


Google Earth Image of Butcherknife Trail in Steamboat Springs, CO