Mitchell Creek Trail is the only hiking trail that connects Flat Tops plateau directly to the town of Glenwood Springs, offering a scenic six-mile bottom-to-top hike that gains around 4,000 feet in elevation. The trail, often next to the rushing stream, proceeds up a steep-sided valley, in places heavily wooded, crowned with rock palisades on both sides. Probably because of its southern exposure and mid-level elevation, Mitchell Creek Trail passes through what appears to be a jumble of biotic zones, its lower reaches populated by douglas fir, Gambel oak, and ponderosa pine, with cottonwood-lined streambanks, and thickets of chokecherry, raspberry, willows, and other shrubs. Wildflowers are numerous in spring and summer, and large clumps of red columbine are found along the trail.
This mixture is complicated by evidence of the canyon’s gradual recovery from the 2002 Coal Seam Fire, with various stages of forest succession in view along with the towering skeletons of fire-killed trees. A little farther up, aspens join the mixture, and the upper reaches of the valley are characterized by dense aspen forests mixed with occasional spruce trees and punctuated by open glades, frequented by a huge herd of elk.