rolling grassland and gamble oaks in castle rock colorado

Ridgeline Open Space Hike

Ridgeline Open Space is nestled in the Meadows residential area of Castle Rock. This network of over 13 miles of trails winds through elevated grasslands and gamble oak with a backdrop of distant snow-capped peaks of the Front Range. Hike it or bike it for a quick escape from the work week. Explore the full Ridgeline Open Space hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Castle Rock.

Trail Snapshot: Ridgeline Open Space Trail near Castle Rock, Colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Ridgeline Open Space

From Denver, follow Interstate 25 south to Castle Rock and take Exit 182 and go west on Wolfensberger Road. Turn right onto Coachline and follow this until to Ridgeline Open Space Trailhead (on the left-side of the road). There is a restroom and map at the trailhead. Alternatively, hikers can park at Bison Park in Castle Rock and access one of the several neighborhood access trails that lead into Ridgeline Open Space.

The Hike: Ridgeline Open Space

Ridgeline Open Space is one of our family's favorite places to hike because it's right in our backyard here in Castle Rock. The residents of Castle Rock also use the 13.4 miles of trail for trail running and mountain biking. It's quite a labyrinth of trails, but because it's located right in the heart of a residential area, it's hard to get lost (if you stay on the trail). There are maps posted at several junctions and trailheads along the network in the case you need to reorient yourself. Or print the map from the link above and bring it with you.

trail leading into distance with gamble oak leaves along the ridgeline trail in castle rock

Our approach is usually to go up to Ridgeline for an afternoon and see where the trails take us. You'll likely encounter mountain bikers along the trail. Most are locals and are very considerate of hikers. Less considerate are the rattlesnakes. I've yet to run into one, but my neighbor was stopped short by a rattler recently while trail running. Rattlesnakes are only aggressive when threatened, but they are easy to stumble upon because they are so well camouflaged. So, keep your eyes peeled as you hike. Mountain Lions also frequent the area--like most trails along the Front Range--because of the plentiful deer population. It's wise to always keep your kids near when hiking and not running up the trail ahead on their own. This is just good practice on any trail, but I mention it because we have seen Mountain Lion prints in the mud on one of the western trail segments.

rolling terrain and rock along the ridgeline trail in castle rock

Ridgeline is aptly named because it is situated above the town and offers great views out to Longs Peak, Indian Peaks, Mt. Evans, Devil's Head to the west, and Pikes Peak to the south. Deer bed down in the grass between the gamble oak and birds flit from tree to tree along the trails.

broad green meadows and puffy clouds along the ridgeline trail in castle rock

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Tips & Resources for Hiking the Ridgeline Open Space Trail

  • Rattlesnakes: Keep an eye out for rattlesnakes that sun themselves on rock and the packed, warm surface of the trail.
  • Hiking with Kids: As always, hike as a group, keeping small children near you. Mountain lions live in the area (as with most front-range hikes), and the sight of a small creature running alone on the trail can signal a lion's prey response.
  • Sunscreen: This hike is 100% exposed to the sun's rays, so be sure to wear a hat and apply that sunscreen.
  • More Hikes in Castle Rock Colorado: Castle Rock Trail, Waterfall at Castlewood Canyon, East Plum Creek Trail.
  • Trail Map for Ridgeline Open Space Trail near Castle Rock: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get the list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Crave Burgers

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Hall Ranch Hike Near Lyons, Colorado

Hall Ranch, just outside of Lyons Colorado, is a hiking, mountain biking, trail running destination that features red sandstone buttes, vast green meadows, and panoramic views of white snowcapped meadows. Tucked into the foothills near the St. Vrain River, the trails at Hall Ranch are a great escape from life in the city. Explore the full Hall Ranch hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in the Boulder County.

Trail Snapshot: Hall Ranch Hike Near Lyons

Directions & Trailhead Information for Hall Ranch Hike

Hall Ranch is situated west of Lyons, Colorado about 16 miles north of Boulder. It's easy to access via the CO 7. There are two trailheads for Hall Ranch. The primary Hall Ranch Trailhead is located off Saint Vrain Drive/CO 7 West, about a mile outside of Lyons. The parking area is located on the North side of the road. This is the best access for most of the hikes and has both restrooms as well as a picnic shelter that can accommodate up to 24 people. The second smaller trailhead is the Antelope Trailhead, located at the end of Antelope Drive just northwest of Lyons. This second trailhead provides access to the Antelope trail, a connector trail described below.

hall ranch near boulder butte
Sandstone Buttes at Hall Ranch

The Hikes: Hall Ranch Hike

There are several options for trails at Hall Ranch:

  • Nighthawk/Bitterbrush Loop - 9.2 Miles RT - +2480' - Moderat

  • Probably the most popular is the Nighthawk Trail/Bitterbrush Loop. The loop starts at the west side of the main trailhead and sports a variety of landscapes: expansive meadows, tall buttes, pinion pines, and 180-degree views at its higher elevations. Starting at the main trail, hikers will soon come to an intersection with the Nighthawk trail and Bitterbrush. For this trail profile, we'll take a clockwise approach, following the Nighthawk trail westward. The Nighthawk trail makes a steady climb to where it tops out at approximately 7700' where it offers great views out to Longs Peak and a panorama of Rocky Mountain National Park. Here, hikers will notice an intersection with the Button Rock trail. This 2-mile out-and-back trail is not part of the loop. Staying on the Nighthawk Trail, it will meet up with the Nelson Loop Trail. Hikers can choose to go right or left, both trail segments will link up with the Bitterbrush after approximately 1 mile. Now about 5.5 miles into the hike, hikers will follow the Bitterbrush Trail as it descends for 3.7 miles back down to the main trailhead.

  • Nelson Loop Trail - 2.2 Mile Loop - +299' - Moderate

  • The Nelson Loop can only be accessed by first hiking either the Nighthawk or the Bitterbrush to where they connect up with the Nelson Loop. If you would like to do a lollipop loop hike, we recommend taking the Bitterbrush up to the Nelson Loop, hiking the loop, then returning via the Bitterbrush. This makes for a 9.6-mile hike. The Nelson Loop features the remnants of the old Nelson Homestead just off of the southern segment of the loop.

  • Nighthawk Trail at Hall Ranch - 9 Miles RT - +1282' - Moderate/h3>

  • The Nighthawk trail can also be hiked as a 9-mile out-and-back trail. However, we recommend the full loop above because it's almost the same total distance and offers a greater variety of landscape. The Nighthawk Trail is hiker-only, so it makes for a great option if you prefer to avoid horse and mountain bike traffic. This trail is our favorite, offering vast meadows of green in the Spring and early Summer with views out to Mt Meeker and other snowcapped peaks.

  • Bitterbrush Trail - 7.4 RT - +898' - Moderate

  • The Bitterbrush Trail is a moderate 3.7 trail that begins at the main trailhead or that can be accessed midway by way of the Antelope Trailhead. Out-and-back, it makes for a 7.4-mile trip.

  • Antelope Trail - 1 Mile Trail Connector +458' - Moderate

  • From the Antelope Trailhead, the 1-mile Antelope Trail takes you west to meet up with the Bitterbrush Trail. Gaining approximately 500' in a mile, it can make for a great 2-mile out-and-back trail run and provides some unique views not available on the longer trails.

  • Button Rock Trail - 2 Mile Trail Connector +220' - Easy

  • The Button Rock Trail leads down to the Sleepy Lion Trail at Button Rock Preserve where hikers can pick up a whole series of trails around Ralph Price Reservoir.

hall ranch near boulder map

Interpretive Map at Hall Ranch Trailhead

Tips & Resources for Hiking Hall Ranch Hike Near Boulder

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Horseshoe Trail at Golden Gate Canyon Park

The Horseshoe Trail in Golden Gate Canyon State Park is a wonderful hike for older kids, experienced and non-experienced hikers. It's a great trail for spotting wildlife, from birds to deer, viewing fall colors and wildflowers, and taking in the beautiful scenic view along the trail. Several of the backcountry campsites areas are also accessible from the Horseshoe trail. We'll detail those locations, provide links to a trail map, driving directions and more in the trail profile on this Colorado hike.

Trail Snapshot: Horseshoe Trail at Golden Gate Canyon Park

horseshoe trail golden gate canyon state park

Golden Gate Canyon's Horseshoe Trail is a 3.6 mile out-and-back hike (1.8 miles one-way). We've rated it as moderate in difficulty because of the 900+ feet of elevation gain. The Horseshoe Trail is popular because it follows the beds of several small streams, winds through groves of aspen trees, and leads to beautiful meadows, as well as three of Golden Gate Canyon State Park's backcountry camping areas.

To get to the trailhead (first,use our driving directions). Once in the park, exit to the right out of the Visitors Center--you'll want to stop here first to pick up a map. You'll find the Frazer Meadows parking area and trailhead for the Horseshoe Trail on the left-hand side of the road. Keep in mind that parking is limited, so it would be best to arrive early. There are also restrooms at the Horseshoe trail trailhead and we found them to be kept up and clean.

peak along horseshoe trail in golden gate canyon state park

One of the highlights of this trail are the streams that run along it. You'll find that there are several small bridges to cross as you make your way up the trail. Seasonal streams also mean that sections of the Horseshoe trail will get muddy on after rains and during the Spring melt-water runoff. But water also means wildflowers, and this trail comes alive with them in late Spring through the Summer.

The Horseshoe Trail also leads you to access trails for three of the five Golden Gate Canyon backcountry camping areas. Use this link to the backcountry camping brochure to get details on cost per night and how to make campsite reservations in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. The first campsite access trail is at 1.1 miles and will take you to Greenfield Meadows, which has 4 campsites. Continuing on the same spur, you can hike further in to the Frazer Meadow campsite which has 4 campsites and one backcountry shelter. If you continue on the Horseshoe trail, you'll come upon the access trail for Rim Meadow campsite at 1.3 miles. Rim Meadow also has 4 campsites.

girl on trail with black dog in colorado mountains spruce tree in foreground and snow and evergreen trees in background

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Horseshoe Trail:

  • Park Pass: A Colorado State Park Pass is required to enter Golden Gate Canyon State Park. Check the Golden Gate Canyon Fees page for details on park passes. Some trails offer passes at self-serve dispensers.
  • Printed map: The trail forks to the left, make sure to have a printed map on hand which you can pick up at the Visitors Center.
  • Bug spray: for hot summer days not a bad idea.
  • Sun protection: The trail is often shaded--a rare thing for Front Range hikes--but be sure to bring sun protection because it is almost 4 miles round trip and there are areas exposed to the sun.
  • No cell phone: There is no cell phone coverage at Golden Gate Canyon State Park.
  • Download our Dayhikes Hiking Guide for a day hike packing checklist
  • After the Hike: Windy Saddle Cafe in Golden
  • Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Trail Map for Golden Gate Canyon State Park: Trail Map Link

A big thanks goes out to Lisa Palmer, a member of our Dayhikes Pathfinder Team, who hiked this trail with her family, gathered the information for the trail profile, and took the photos for this post.

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Greenland Open Space Trail Near Larkspur, Colorado

Rolling meadows stretch to spectacular views of Pikes Peak on this easy Colorado hike near Larkspur. The Greenland Trail takes you across the stunning grasslands near Larkspur, Colorado, a Douglas County Open Space that spreads across 3,600 acres of sun-drenched fields.The Greenland Open Space trailhead can be easily accessed from I-25. Check out the full trail profile below for detailed descriptions, trail map, and driving directions to this great hike along Colorado's Front Range.

Trail Snapshot: Greenland Open Space Trail Near Larkspur, Colorado

greenland open space trail mountain

Greenland open space has one main trail, the Greenland Trail (appropriately named) that forms a 10 mile loop. However, your not stuck hiking the entire thing, you’ve got options. We’ll briefly profile three different ways you can hike the Greenland trail and customize it for you and your family (scroll past the video panorama for the three options).

It’s a perfect place for horseback riding. In fact, when I-25 disappears from view, you may think you’ve time-traveled back to the early 1800‘s. You can leave your trailer on the parking area, but keep in mind that Greenland open space can get very crowded on the weekends. So, get there early to make sure you’ve got a place to park.

There is also a great 17 acre off-leash dog park just to the east of the trailhead. The open space area requires fido to be on a leash. Click here for more info on the Devon Theune off-leash dog park and for a list of the others in Douglas County.

Hike Options at Greenland Open Space

#1 - Greenland Trailhead to the Santa Fe Trailhead in Palmer Lake - 5.6 Miles One Way
At the first fork in the trail, stay straight (right) on the Greenland Trail. You’ll pass a small pond and work your way through scrub oak and pines as the trail rises. At 3.5 miles you’ll see the option to turn left onto Kipps Loop. Instead of going left onto Kipps Loop, continue straight (South) on the trail. You’ll cross County Line road around 4.6 miles, then you’ll have one mile left until you arrive at the New Santa Fe Trailhead in Palmer Lake, Colorado. Out and back, this is an 11.2 mile trek across Greenland Open Space. The views of Pikes Peak and the neighboring Buttes of Spruce and Eagle Mountain mean a lot of beautiful scenery to soak in.

#2 - The Greenland Open Space Loop Trail - Approx. 10 Mile Loop

Our first tip on hiking Kipps loop is hike it counter-clockwise. This will give you a nice long and gradual two-mile descent as you are coming back into the trailhead. There’s only about 500’ of elevation gain on this hike, but your knees will be grateful at the end of the trip. Follow the same directions above, but when you get to the Kipps Loop option after 3.5 miles, take a left (East) onto the Kipps Loop of the Greenland Trail (your still officially on the Greenland Trail). The first 5 miles of the hike are uphill until you reach the high point which is at 7,400 feet. This is a great place to stop and enjoy the view. You’ll pass the gravesite of E. Kipp, and an unusual white rock formation along this eastern side of the loop. As we said before, the rest of your hike will be pretty much downhill from there back to the trailhead.

greenland open space entrance

#3 - Just Explore - Approx. 1-3 Miles

Just because it’s a big loop doesn’t mean that you have to hike the entire thing. If you are hiking this as a sunset hike, you’ll likely want to keep it short. You can take either the eastern or western sides of the loop and hike until you are ready to turn around. Sunrises and sunsets are quite glorious in Greenland, and this is a great way to enjoy them.

girl on trail with black dog in colorado mountains spruce tree in foreground and snow and evergreen trees in background

Tips & Resources for Hiking Greenland Open Space Trail :

  • TIP: There is no water on this trail so bring more than one bottle just in case. Don’t forget, dogs need plenty of water too!
  • TIP: You are very exposed to lightning. Douglas County has some of the worst stats in the nation when it comes to lightning strikes, so really pay attention to the weather. Dark clouds moving over the edge of the foothills means that you should be headed back to the car.
  • TIP: Bring the Sunscreen - you are also very exposed to the sun - no shade in Greenland. If you are hiking mid-day, then be sure to bring a hat and sunscreen.
  • TIP: If you are snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, or even hiking in winter, be aware that drifts form along the Greenland Trail.
  • TIP: There is a fantastic picnic area on the other side of the facade of the old Greenland general store.
  • Trail Map for Greenland Open Space: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Charito’s House

greenland open space general store

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Spruce Mountain Hikes Near Larkspur

These hikes along Spruce Mountain near Larkspur, Colorado offer both expansive vista of Colorado's rolling green hills and a unique view of Pikes Peak. Spruce Mountain is a tall butte just 45 minutes south of Denver. This hiking trail follows the outer edge of the mountain giving you a great 360 degree view of the area. Check out the entire hike profile below to get acquainted with Spruce Mountain before you hike it. You'll find links to trail maps, driving directions, and all the details you'll need to strike out on this Colorado trail.

Trail Snapshot: Spruce Mountain Hikes Near Larkspur

Spruce Mountain offers breathtaking views of Pikes Peak, Eagle Mountain, and the rolling hills of Greenland and Larkspur. Most trails close to Denver are pretty exposed to the sun, so we were pleasantly surprised with how much shade the trees provided along the trails. Still, bring sunscreen because the South side of Spruce Mountain is a bit more exposed.

We rated this as medium in difficulty because of the first segment, which climbs about 400' in the space of about a quarter mile. After that that trail is relatively level. So, we'd put this on the easy side of medium. Because of that, this makes a great family hike close to Denver. But we'd highly recommend getting on the trail by 9am on the weekends (see the tips below).

Two Options for the Spruce Mountain Hike:

1 - 1.5+ Mile Hike to the Greenland Overlook - (out and back) Take a left where the trail forks and head up to the overlook (about 3/4 mile). This is a great first option if you have children with you. The views of Pikes Peak may be the best in Douglas County, and you can see how the family is doing and decide whether or not you want to continue on the loop hike.

spruce mountain hikes near larkspur eagle mountain view north

2 - 4+ Mile Spruce Mountain Loop Trail - Continue west on the trail making a loop around the top of Spruce Mountain. You'll encounter fantastic views of Eagle Mountain, and the Windy Point overlook. Just a quick note that the service road may look like a shortcut back to the trailhead, but it's not. It is an option though if you would like to hike the open meadows between Eagle and Spruce mountains.

girl on trail with black dog in colorado mountains spruce tree in foreground and snow and evergreen trees in background

Tips & Resources for Hiking Spruce Mountain Hikes Near Larkspur :

  • Speed Trap? We haven't seen the lurking cop car, but their are all the makings of a good old speed trap in Larkspur. So, take it easy. Our guess is that when the Renaissance festival is in full swing that traffic will really back up. The first reason to go early, and to probably allow more than 45 minutes for the drive.
  • The Spruce Mountain Trailhead Parking Fills Fast: There is a lot of parking, but the lot was full by 11am on a Saturday. Second reason to go early.
  • Great For Fido: There were more dogs on this trail than we've seen on any other, probably because most of the hike is pretty level and shaded. However, it makes for a bit of a traffic jam at times. Third reason to go early.
  • Great Hike For Visiting Friends and Family: This hike has a lot of bang for the buck, and once you are up the first mile it's smooth sailing. It would be a great place to take out of towners who may be looking for a less demanding hike.
  • Trail Map for Spruce Mountain Open Space: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Charito’s House

spruce mountain open space trailhead

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Canyon View Nature Trail at Castlewood Canyon

Castlewood Canyon cuts a unique and green landscape into the plains near Denver. It's not the mountains, but it's worth the drive. Castlewood Canyon State Park has created this beautiful paved trail that follows the canyon rim.

The Canyon Rim Trail also offers an audio tour and is a great way for children to learn more about the plains habitat that covers much of Colorado. Explore this full trail profile for driving directions, trail map, and all the details and tips you'll need to plan your trip to this Colorado State Park.

Trail Snapshot: Canyon View Nature Trail at Castlewood Canyon

One of the best handicap accessible trails near Denver, the Canyon View Nature Trail at Castlewood Canyon State Park is a 1.2 mile interpretive trail. It runs along the western edge of the top of the canyon and weaves through ponderosa pine and a wonderful variety of wildflowers. The entire trail is a concrete walkway, making the area very accessible to wheelchairs. The trail ends at the Bridge Canyon overlook. Don't miss the view, it's wonderful.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Canyon View Nature Trail at Castlewood Canyon

  • TIP: Pick up a brochure so that you can find the various access points for the trail and can take advantage of the side trails.
  • Audio Tour: Begin at the visitor's center where you can pick up an audio tour player which guides you through the 5 different ecosystems that are found in Castlewood Canyon.
  • Wildflowers: Late June and Early July are the best times to view the wildflowers in Castlewood Canyon.
  • Bring Sunscren: Hikes in Castlewood Canyon can be quite exposed to the sun, so bring the sunscreen.
  • TIP: Poison Ivy: We've been surprised how poison ivy flourishes in this park, often along the edge of the trail. Know how to identify it, so that you can avoid it. But don't let that deter you from the park. You just need to keep an eye out. See our post on how to identify and treat poison ivy.
  • Trail Map for Castlewood Canyon: Trail Map Link
  • Additional Maps: Castlewood Canyon State Park Trails
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Crowfoot Valley Coffee

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Lakes Loop Trail at Rocky Mountain Arsenal

An arsenal turned into a Wildlife Refuge. What a great idea! The refuge boasts over 15,000 acres and over 300 species of wildlife. It also hosts three lakes and Denver lake hikes. The Lakes Loop Trail at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge is a 1.7 mile loop that winds along the shores of two lakes in the park, Lake Mary and Lake Ladora. Explore the full trail profile for all the details: hiking trails, trail map, and detailed directions to the trailhead.

Trail Snapshot: Lakes Loop Trail at Rocky Mountain Arsenal

How to Hike the Loop: Check in and begin your hike at the visitors center. Follow the Lake Mary Trail along the northwest of the lake until it merges with the the Prairie Trail. Follow the Prairie Trail to the south until it merges with the Ladora Trail which will take you back to the visitors center and along the shore of Lake Ladora.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Lakes Loop Trail at Rocky Mountain Arsenal :

  • TIP: Hiking and site seeing are open 7 days a week. However, the visitors center is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and pets are prohibited (makes sense - it's a wildlife refuge).
  • TIP: Trolley Tours are available on the weekends. Check out this tours link or call 303/289-0250.
  • Trail Map for Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Butcher Block Cafe
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Ray Fetherman for sharing such a beautiful photograph of this hike.

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