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Herman Gulch to Herman Lake Hike

The Herman Gulch Trail is one of the best summer wildflower hikes near Denver. It's also a challenging winter snowshoe and is often used for cross-country skiing. The Herman Gulch Trail is a 2.5 mile (one-way), out-and-back adventure into snowcapped mountain country and provides access to many more trails in Arapaho National Forest. Explore the full Herman Gulch hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Herman Gulch Hike, Colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Herman Gulch

The Herman Gulch Trailhead is located about 20 miles west of Idaho Springs via I-70. From Denver, it's about a 60-minute drive but can take around 1.5 hours in winter ski traffic. The trailhead is located right off Exit 218 by taking a right onto Watrous Way. There are restrooms available at the trailhead. As with all trailheads, but especially those right off the interstate, be sure that your valuables are out of site and locked up. The trail is located in the middle of the parking area, just to the left of the restroom.

herman gulch hike trail

The Hike: Herman Gulch to Herman Lake

From the parking lot, the initial trail segment is steep. But be encouraged, while it's not an easy hike, the trail becomes more gradual as it gains elevation into the widening valley of Herman Gulch. At the trail intersection early in the hike, the trail to Herman Gulch will bear to the left, and a trail that leads to Waterous Gulch will lead to the right. Staying on the Herman Gulch Trail, it will weave in and out of the trees into small meadows with Herman Creek and many meltwater rivulets cascading across the landscape.

Winter may not release its grip on Herman Gulch until mid-summer. For example, all the photos in this trail profile were taken during the first week of June, so prepare for the snow to get increasingly deeper as you progress further on the trail. For this reason, we recommend trekking poles and traction devices for your boots. Also, be aware that at this elevation, thunderstorms often come up quickly on Summer afternoons, bringing dangerous lightning, especially in the open areas of the higher elevations. For this reason, and in order to avoid crowds, it's wise to begin your hike early in the day.

herman gulch hike near idaho springs winter trail

The trail eventually emerges from the trees into a broad alpine landscape where a series of rock cairns leads the way to Herman Lake. This final segment is steep and demanding. The lake is located in a wide bowl beneath the lofty reaches of Pettingell Peak. The lake may be snow-covered through much of June, depending on late-season snowfall. In the early and mid-summer, a series of small meltwater cascades make their way down along the western mountainside into the lake. Be sure to stay the trail as you will be in a fragile alpine ecosystem.

Hiking Herman Gulch in the Winter

Herman Gulch is also a popular snowshoeing and cross-country skiing destination. December to March offer the best snowpack for these activities. It's a very different experience when snow has piled up in Herman Gulch and it's even more critical that those venturing into this area have packed their 10 essentials and are dressed appropriately. There are two avalanche chutes on the right-hand side of the trail about 1 mile into the hike that hikers should keep in mind (see ORIC winter map). During this season, do not go above treeline into the higher reaches as these are very much prone to avalanches. It's also important to bear in mind that snowstorms can come up very quickly, even in Spring and Fall, reducing and even eliminating visibility. So be aware and be prepared. Snowshoeing travel speeds are about 1 mile per hour, depending on the person, which is half of hiking speeds. Adjust your travel times accordingly and for early darkness of winter.

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Golden Gate Canyon State Park Hiking Trails

6 Hikes in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Located less than an hour from Denver and Boulder, Golden Gate Canyon State Park is a remarkable treasure. The park offers over 30 miles of hiking trails and some of the most accessible backcountry camping opportunities near Denver. Golden Gate is full of seasonal creeks and wildflowers, as well as promontories that open out to views of the snow-capped and lead-blue rock faces of the Rocky Mountains. The park is open year-round; however, during many years, snow may cover trails from as early as October through May. Explore this page to get familiar with several hike options and the camping facilities available in the Park.

raccoon loop trail golden gate canyon state park

Raccoon Loop Trail - Shaded and Family Friendly

Distance: 2.5 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

The Raccoon Loop Trail is an easy, 2.5-mile loop hike in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. Because it's short and has a variety of scenery, the Racoon Loop makes for an enjoyable hike for families. Most hikes near Denver are quite exposed to the sun, but this hike offers a good deal of shade. The trail boasts panoramic views of snow-capped peaks, glades of aspen trees, wildflowers, and seasonal brooks.

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blue grouse trail golden gate canyon state park

Blue Grouse Trail - A Short Adventure

Distance: 1.6 Miles Round Trip

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Blue Grouse Trail in Golden Gate Canyon State Park is another short hike of easy to moderate difficulty. If you are looking for a short adventure to gains views of green foothills and changing aspens, then this is for you. While not a spectacular hike, the Blue Grouse trail is easy to access and can be used as an access point to other trails and camping sites available in the park.

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forgotten valley trail golden gate canyon state park

Forgotten Valley Hike - Homestead Ruins

Distance: 3 Miles Round Trip

Difficulty: Moderate

A favorite destination hike in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, hikers can put together a segment of the Burro Trail and Mountain Lion trail to access this old homestead and pond situated in Forgotten Valley. Nearby are several reservable campsites and a backcountry shelter, making this area a perfect place to camp before exploring the many miles of trails in the park.
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horseshoe trail golden gate canyon state park

Horseshoe Trail to Frazer Meadow

Distance: 3.6 Miles Round Trip

Difficulty: Moderate

Another trail to some of Golden Gate Canyon's camping areas, this out-and-back trail takes hikers through Greenfield Meadows and terminates at Frazer Meadow. Much of the trail follows alongside a seasonal creek that runs through the main valley. Aspen trees, meadows, wildflowers, and shaded trail segments are all highlights of this hike in the heart of the park.

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beaver loop trail golden gate canyon state park

Beaver Loop Trail

Distance: 2.8 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult

The Beaver Loop trail can be picked up right from the visitor center at Golden Gate. It is a 2.8-mile loop with an out-and-back option of hiking over to Slough Pond. While it's a short hike, it requires about 1000' of elevation gain, making it a more demanding hike. Like so many of the hikes in Golden Gate, the Beaver Loop offers a beautiful panorama of distant, snow-capped mountains in the west.

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windy peak trail golden gate canyon state park

Windy Peak Trail - A Great Vantage Point

Distance: 6.4 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult

Another great destination hike, the way up to Windy Peak combines a few trails to create a loop hike with a spur trail leading to the top of Windy Peak. Windy Peak is an incredible vantage point for taking in the snow-capped Rockies and western skies. The eastern segment of this hike is replete with wildflowers during the summer.

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Camping in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Golden Gate Canyon offers a variety of camping options, making the park a great place for those new to backpacking to test their equipment and to get a feel for what a longer trip into the mountains might require. Families looking to try out camping for the first time can car-camp or hike short distances to some of the backcountry sites. All sites require reservation and a Colorado State Parks Pass. There are less demanding options such as cabins and yurts available. All sites, cabins, and campsites can be booked at the Colorado State Park's reservation page. Here's a quick overview of the camping options at Golden Gate Canyon State Park:

  • 20 Backcountry Campsites: Brochure and Map of Backcountry Sites
  • 5 Cabins: Located at Reverend's Ridge, no hike in required, year-round, max occupancy of 6, heated, electricity, water and restrooms nearby, showers available in Summer season
  • 2 Yurts: Located at Reverend's Ridge, No hike-in required, year-round, max occupancy of 6, heated, electricity, water and restrooms nearby, showers available in Summer season
  • 97 Campsites at Reverend's Ridge: No hike-in or short walk required, accommodates campers, trailers, and some RV spaces, limited sites available during Winter months, max occupancy of 6 per site, water and restrooms nearby, showers available in Summer season
  • 35 Campsites at Aspen Meadows: Tent camping only, closed during Winter months, max occupancy of 6 per site, water pump and vault toilets
snowcapped peaks in distance with green foothills in foreground

Beaver Loop Hike in Golden Gate Canyon

The Beaver Loop is a moderate 2.3-mile loop hike in Golden Gate Canyon State Park views of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains in the West. Add a short segment to Slough Pond to make this a 3-mile hike. Explore the trail profile for a trail map, driving directions, and tips for this hike near Golden, CO

Trail Snapshot: Beaver Loop in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for the Beaver Loop Hike

From Denver, take US-6 West to Golden. Just outside Golden, US-6 will turn left (West) into Clear Creek Canyon; it's at this intersection that you'll continue North on 93. After 1.3 miles on 93, turn left onto Golden Gate Canyon Road. Now, prepare for the rest of your drive being pretty windy. After 12.7 miles on Golden Gate Canyon Road, it will intersect with Crawford Gulch Road on a wide curve. Turn right onto Crawford Gulch road and the visitor center for Golden Gate Canyon State Park will be on your immediate right. This is the best parking area for the Beaver Loop. However, the parking here fills up fast, especially on the weekends. Another option is to park at the Ralston Roost Trailhead, located about 0.2 mile further down the road (see the State Park Map Link above). A third option is to begin your hike at Slough Pond. This will add about 3/4 of a mile to your hike, making it closer to a 3-mile trip.

beaver loop golden gate canyon trail start
The Beaver Loop Trailhead Across Golden Gate Canyon Road from the Visitor Center

The Hike: The Beaver Loop Hike in Golden Gate Canyon

The Visitor Center at Golden Gate is worth exploring. Kids will be fascinated by the trout in the man-made creek and small pond surrounding the building. The Beaver Trail can be picked up just South of the Visitor Center by taking one of the paths around the perimeter of the building. The trail begins under the powerlines on the opposite side of Golden Gate Canyon road. Exercise caution crossing the road as vehicles may be descending the hill and not be looking out for pedestrians. Be alert for cyclists, as they frequent the road and come down the hill at high speeds.

beaver loop golden gate canyon another trail sign
First Trail Fork on the Beaver Loop

At the first trail fork, hikers have the option of taking the loop clockwise or counter-clockwise. I hiked this clockwise, taking the trail towards the shelter. The clockwise route offers a more gentle ascent, but steep descent on the back side of the loop. Taking it counter-clockwise will mean a steeper ascent and a more gentle descent on the way back, which is probably easier on the knees, but a more demanding climb.

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

You'll notice that the State Park trail map rates this trail as "most difficult." It's important to note that these ratings are relative to the other trails in the park. I 've classified the Beaver Loop as medium/moderate because, while it does have over 1000' of elevation gain, it is only a 2.3-mile hike. Add about 3/4 of a mile if you make the out-and-back trip out to Slough Pond. See our Hikes by Difficulty page for more hikes and the basic criteria we use to classify hikes. It should be noted that difficulty will differ by persons, so be sure to review the details of a hike before attempting it.

beaver loop golden gate canyon yet another trail sign
Sign Indicating Spur Trail to Shelter

At approximately 1 mile into the loop, hikers will encounter a sign (pictured above) pointing to a 0.5-mile spur trail leading to a backcountry shelter. A permit is required to camp here and can be purchased online at the Golden Gate Canyon fees page. Continuing on the loop, the trail will soon lead to an overlook of views to the West. During most of the year, snow-capped peaks appear above a verdant green valley in these western foothills.

mountains in the west at golden gate canyon state park

After the overlook, the trail begins a steep descent. I had brought my trekking poles (I always bring them), and was glad that I did. I would imagine that this trail gets slicked over with ice and hardened snow during the winter, making it really difficult to navigate. The trail then leads down to an intersection with the Slough Pond trail.

beaver loop golden gate canyon downhill segment
Downhill Trail Segment on the Beaver Loop

At this intersection at the bottom of the hill, you have the option of making the trip over to Slough Pond. The hike over to Slough Pond is pleasant and mostly flat. At the pond, a quaint creek flows out of the pond and under a footbridge. Slough Pond is a popular fishing spot and a great place for kids to learn to bait a hook. As mentioned above, adding this out-and-back segment to the hike, makes this closer to a 3 mile hike.

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windy peak golden gate canyon state park header

Windy Peak Hike in Golden Gate Canyon

Windy Peak is a summit hike in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. A moderate to difficult 6.4-mile loop hike that follows meltwater creeks, crosses green meadows replete with wildflowers, and offers great views at the summit of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains in the West. Explore the full Windy Peak Hike profile for trail map, driving directions, and many of the details you need to enjoy this adventure in Golden Gate Canyon State Park.

Trail Snapshot: Windy Peak in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Bridge across Ralston Creek at Bridge Creek Trailhead in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for the Windy Peak Hike

From Denver, take US-6 West to Golden. Just outside Golden, US-6 will turn left (West) into Clear Creek Canyon; it's at this intersection that you'll continue North (not turning left) on 93. After 1.3 miles on 93, turn left onto Golden Gate Canyon Road. Now, prepare for the rest of your drive being pretty windy. About 4 miles down Golden Gate Canyon Road, you have the option of taking Crawford Gulch road to the Right or to stay on Golden Gate Canyon Road. Both routes will get you there.

I believe that Google Maps from Denver is going to default to Crawford Gulch Road. Do take your time and be alert for cyclists and motorcycles, especially on the weekend, as both Golden Gate Canyon Road and Crawford Gulch Roads are popular roads for riding. Eventually, Crawford Gulch Road will turn into Drew Hill Road, which runs through the heart of Golden Gate Canyon State Park. If you decide to take the Golden Gate Canyon Road option, it will intersect with Crawford Gluch/Drew Hill at the visitor center (on your right, just after the intersection on Crawford Gulch). If you take this route, the Bridge Creek Trailhead will be 2.3 miles down the road and on your left (north). One last thing to note is that Crawford Gulch Road has yet one more name, Ralston Creek Road. So, if you see that on any signage, just know you are on the right track.

The Bridge Creek Trailhead is a bit unusual because it's composed of several parking areas along the on the north side of the road. However, all parking areas have trails that will lead hikers to the footbridge that crosses the trail and serves as the official start of the Burro trail and this hike. A sign (pictured above) reads "Burro Trailhead."

The Hike: The Windy Peak Hike in Golden Gate Canyon

trail junction on burro trail in golden gate canyon

This is a Lollipop-loop trail with a spur trail at the end that leads up to the summit. There are several trail junctions, which can make this the route a bit confusing. I've provided photos below of the trail junctions, but it's important to remember that weather can change the landscape and signage. The description here hikes the loop portion of the trail in a clockwise direction. We've classified this as moderate/medium in difficulty. However, its right on the edge because of the over 1000' elevation gain and more than 5 miles of trail. For some, this will be difficult. It's also on our list of dog-friendly hikes, but it's important to know that the peak is all rocky terrain that may be a bit tough on your dog's paws. As always, if you are taking your best friend, be sure to keep them on a leash out of respect for the wildlife, environment, and other hikers.

creek along the burro trail

After crossing Ralston Creek, the trail makes its way up a gentle slope into the trees. At the first trail junction, stay on the Burro Trail (left). The second trail junction leads either straight on the Mountain Lion Trail to Forgotten Valley or right toward Windy Peak on the Burro Trail. The trail will make its way along a creek. Look for Calypso flowers, also called Pink Lady Slippers in this area. They grow along the creeks in Golden Gate Canyon State Park.

trail junction on burro trail with orange arrow

The loop begins at the third junction (pictured above), the way up to Windy Peak is clearly marked as the left-hand trail. From this point, it's 2.2 miles to the peak. Here the trail begins a steeper climb through an area with prominent chalk colored cliffs.

chalk colored cliffs along the burro trail

As you gain altitude, you'll gain views out to the Continental Divide rising above the green foothills of Golden Gate. The trail will then enter the shade of lodgepole forest.

snow capped mountains behind green foothills colorado

At the top of the loop, hikers will encounter the junction for the .7 mile spur trail that leads to the summit of Windy Peak (pictured below). There will be one more sign pointing the way at 0.4-mile below the summit.

spur trail sign for Windy peak along Burro Trail in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

The summit of Windy Peak is one of my favorite places to read and journal. Be sure to bring a picnic lunch with you, because you'll want to spend some time here resting and refueling for the hike back to the trailhead. The spur trail will lead back to the main Burro loop trail. At this point, you can return the way you hiked in to the spur trail (a slightly shorter way back), or continue on the rest of the loop toward Nott Creek. The landscape on this back end of the loop is riddled with wildflowers, so it's well worth doing the full loop hike.

windy peak golden gate canyon state park another summit view

The trail will weave its way down into a valley with a dirt service road. Here, hikers will want to follow the Burro trail towards the Bridge Creek Trailhead as it makes its way on and off the service roads.

Trail junction with aspen trees in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

The trail will work its way through a green meadow, then along Nott creek, following it West until retracing the trails that lead back to Bridge Creek Trailhead.

green meadows with trail in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

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realization point view to front range snow capped mountains on hike near boulder colorado

Gregory Canyon Hike to Realization Point

The trail up Gregory Canyon is a moderately challenging hike to Realization Point Trailhead where hikers can pick up two different loop trails. Both loops offer expansive views of the Rocky Mountains in the West and wildflowers along the trail. Explore the full Gregory Canyon-Realization Point hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Boulder, Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Gregory Canyon to Realization Point

Parking & Trailhead Information for Gregory Canyon

Hikers have several parking options for the Gregory Canyon Trail: 1) the Gregory Canyon Trailhead, 2) Parking at Chautauqua Park, or 3) along permitted stretches of Baseline Road. The Gregory Canyon Trailhead can be reached by following Baseline Road in Boulder west past Chautauqua park. Gregory Canyon Road is located on the left/South about 1/2 mile West of the park. Parking is allowed along most of the south side of Gregory Canyon Road and there is room for 7-8 vehicles at the trailhead. Both the roadside parking and the small parking area at the Gregory Canyon Trailhead require an access fee. Because of the fee and because this parking area fills quickly most mornings, many hikers opt to park along Baseline or at Chautauqua Park. Another option is to park at the Realization Point Trailhead (another fee parking area) and to hike down through the Canyon.

The Hike: Gregory Canyon Trail to Realization Point

In addition to its proximity to Boulder, this hike sports a number of options and a variety of landscapes. The stretch between Gregory Canyon Trailhead and Realization Point Trailhead is the main artery of all the options in this profile. Because most hikers will begin their adventure at Chautauqua Park, there are a couple 1/2 mile (one-way) approaches: the Baseline Trail or the Meadow Trail. On the upper end of the hike, at Realization Point Trailhead, there are two different loop options that offer beautiful views to the West of seasonal snowcapped peaks. These are the Rangeview/Ute Loop and the Tenderfoot Loop. You can review each of the hike options below to decide which trail combination is best for you.


View of the Flatirons from the Baseline Trail between Chautauqua Park and Gregory Canyon Trailhead

Gregory Canyon Trailhead to Realization Point Trailhead - 2.4 Miles Round Trip

This segment constitutes the main artery for all the hike options below. The Gregory Canyon Trail begins in the shade along Gregory Canyon Creek and climbs gradually to 0.5 mile where it crosses another small creek. Here the trail becomes more steep, making its way up a ridge via a set of switchbacks. Then the trail descends to a junction. At the junction, the Northern (right) segment leads a short distance up to Flagstaff Road and the Realization Point Trailhead (the destination for this hike as described here), or South (left) to the Long Canyon and Ranger Trails. After hiking the short segment to Flagstaff road, Realization Point Trailhead will be located across the street to the North. Be sure to watch for both cars and cyclists before crossing. If starting at Chautauqua Park and taking the Baseline or Meadow Trails to the Gregory Canyon Trailhead, add approximately 1 mile to this hike, making it 3.4 miles Round Trip.

looking out to boulder and the plains from gregory canyon

A View down into Boulder from the Upper Reaches of the Canyon

Gregory Canyon Trailhead to Realization Point Trailhead + Rangeview/Ute Loop - 3.2 Miles Round Trip

After traveling the 1.1 miles up through the canyon to Realization Point, hikers will find two loop options. The first is the shorter Rangeview/Ute Loop. This loop makes a 0.8-mile clockwise circuit around Flagstaff Mountain then joins back up to the trailhead. The loop offers views to the mountains in the West and great viewpoints to take in the changing aspens in the Fall. If starting at Chautauqua Park, add approximately 1 mile to this hike, making it 4.2 miles Round Trip.

realization point sign and parking area along flagstaff road
Realization Point Trailhead Across Flagstaff Road

Gregory Canyon Trailhead to Realization Point Trailhead + Tenderfoot Loop - 4.7 Miles Round Trip

From Realization Point Trailhead, the Tenderfoot Trail bears to the left (Northwest) and makes for a more demanding loop when compared to the Rangeview/Ute Trail because of both the added distance and the additional elevation loss and gain. At its most northern point, hikers will find a short spur trail leading to a small peak that affords expansive views to the West. If starting at Chautauqua Park, add approximately 1 mile to this hike, making it 5.7 miles Round Trip. By adding the spur trail, it becomes closer to 6 miles total.

trail junction at realization point

Trail Junction for the Two Loop Hikes at Realization Point Trailhead

Both loop hikes afford multiple opportunities for taking in views out to the Rocky Mountains. The photo below was taken along the beginning segment of the Rangeview Trail.

view to snowcapped peaks realization point in boulder colorado

Views of the Front Range from the Rangeview Trail

Video of Gregory Canyon Hike

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mcgregor falls waterfall ocky mountain national park

MacGregor Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

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diamond lake in indian peaks wilderness on hike near denver

Diamond Lake Hike

The Diamond Lake Trail leads hikers to a high alpine lake nestled in the forest below Jasper Peak in Indian Peaks Wilderness. This 2.7 mile, moderately demanding trail leads to good fishing at Diamond Lake, past a waterfall and multiple cascades, and opens up to the incredible views that make Colorado's high-country famous. Explore the full Diamond Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Trail Snapshot: Diamond Lake Trail

Directions to Diamond Lake Trail & Trailhead

Drive for approximately for 1hr from Denver to Nederland, Colorado. From Nederland, drive south on CO 119 for about half a mile. Turn right onto CR 130 towards Eldora, then proceed westward through the town of Eldora on Eldorado Avenue which will turn into Hessie Road as it leaves town. At the intersection with CR 111 (4th of July Road) turn right; this will take you to the Fourth of July Trailhead. On the way to the trailhead, you'll pass Buckingham Campground. Though this looks like a trailhead and parking area, drive past it to the actual trailhead. It is important to note that 4th of July Road is a dirt road and only useable by passenger vehicles during the Summer months, and rain and snow can cause the road conditions to be unpredictable.

The Hike to Diamond Lake

The hike to Diamond Lake begins at the 4th of July Trailhead by taking the Arapaho Pass Trail #904. The Arapaho Pass trail ascends quickly into Indian Peaks Wilderness area. New views open up about every quarter mile featuring distant waterfalls, trailside cascades, creeks, wildflowers, and expansive mountain views. Hikers will encounter the first trail junction at 1.2 miles in. The correct trail, the Diamond Lake Trail (easy to remember) is to the left/west. The first 1/2 mile on the Diamond Lake Trail heads west along a drainage then descends to Middle Boulder Creek. At approximately 1.7 miles into the hike, the trail follows a bridge over Middle Boulder Creek. This a great place to stop and take in Diamond Lake Falls (pictured below).

diamond lake falls as it spills out of Middle Boulder Creek high in Indian Peaks Wilderness

After the waterfall, the trail crosses two more creeks then begins a steep ascent through a series of switchbacks. This final trail segment is approximately 1 mile, making the entire one-way hike to Diamond Lake approximately 2.7 miles. This segment from the waterfall to the lake is often covered with snow into early Summer, so orienteering and snow-travel skills are recommended for those who decide to negotiate the snow-covered trail.

forest near diamond lake with snow and fogSnow and Fog on the Forest near Diamond Lake

Campfires are prohibited at Diamond Lake, but camping is allowed by permit and in the designated sites. For more details on backcountry travel and permits in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area, see the Indian Peaks Wilderness Alliance. The Diamond Lake Trail continues past Diamond Lake into the high country where it meets up with the Devils Thumb trail. Hikers in Indian Peaks should always prepare by packing the 10 Essentials, and have a plan in case they encounter rapidly changing weather conditions. In the summer, this means thunderstorms and lightning that rapidly form, and un-forecasted snowstorms from Fall to early Summer.

diamond lake header

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diamond lake falls header

Diamond Lake Falls Hike

Diamond Lake Falls requires a 1.7 mile one-way hike into Indian Peaks Wilderness. Many hikers choose to hike the 1 mile further up to Diamond Lake. Wildflowers, cascades, and expansive mountain views are just a few of the features that make hiking to Diamond Lake Falls worthwhile. Explore the full trail profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Trail Snapshot: Diamond Lake Falls Trail

Directions & Trailhead Information for 4th of July Trailhead

Travel for approximately for 1hr from Denver to Nederland, Colorado. From Nederland, travel south on CO 119 for about half a mile. Turn right onto CR 130 towards Eldora. Proceed westward through the town of Eldora on Eldorado Avenue which will turn into Hessie Road as it leaves town. At the intersection with CR 111 (4th of July Road) turn right and proceed to the Fourth of July Trailhead. On the way to the trailhead, you'll pass Buckingham Campground. Though this looks like a trailhead and parking area, drive past it to the actual trailhead. It is important to note that 4th of July Road is a dirt road and only useable by passenger vehicles during the Summer months, and rain and snow can cause the road conditions to be unpredictable.

diamond lake drive to 4th of july trailhead

On the Way to 4th of July Trailhead

The Hike: Diamond Lake Falls Trail

Diamond Lake Falls is actually an unnamed waterfall situated in Indian Peaks Wilderness about 1 mile below Diamond Lake where the trail crosses the North Fork of Middle Boulder Creek. Most hikers will include a stop at the falls on their way up to Diamond Lake (2.7 miles one-way). The hike begins at the 4th of July Trailhead on the Arapaho Pass Trail #904. This first segment on the Arapaho Pass trail climbs into Indian Peaks Wilderness and is adorned with wildflowers in the early and mid-Summer.
trail sign turn left to diamond lake
At 1.2 miles, the trail will come to a junction. The way up to Diamond Lake Falls and Diamond Lake will follow the left-hand trail. The Diamond Lake Trail first heads west along a drainage then descends to Middle Boulder Creek. This segment from the trail junction to the bridge and waterfall is 0.5 mile.

diamond lake falls as it spills out of Middle Boulder Creek high in Indian Peaks Wilderness

waterfall in canyon with bridge in foreground fish creek falls waterfall in colorado

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golden aspens and green pine trees on the mountains of kenosha pass colorado hikes near denver in the fall

Kenosha Pass Hiking Trails

Kenosha Pass is probably the best place to view the changing aspens near Denver. It offers both an East and West trail option with gradual ascents to stunning views. Starting at 10,000' the initial elevation gain on the trails make for easy to moderately strenuous hikes, all depending on how far one decides to travel on these beautiful segments of the Colorado Trail. Vantage points can be accessed about 1/2 mile up both trails offering views down into the high country plains of South Park and out to the Rocky Mountains. Explore the full Kenosha Pass hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this Colorado hike.

Trail Snapshot: Kenosha Pass Colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Kenosha Pass Hike

Kenosha Pass is located about 65 miles southwest of Denver along US 285. From Denver, take US 285 towards Bailey, Colorado. From Bailey, continue driving approximately 19 miles on 285 to the Kenosha Pass Trailhead. The trailhead parking area is located on both East (left when coming from Denver) and West (right side when coming from Denver) of 285. There is additional parking on the East side after crossing a cattle gate. Parking can get tight in the Autumn when the aspens are at their peak, so be considerate of others and the land as you park your vehicle. It's about a 90 minute drive from Denver. Restrooms can be found on both trailheads.

Hiking the Kenosha Pass Trail

kenosha pass map

Two Hiking Options and Where the Trails Begin

The hiking trails at Kenosha Pass easy to moderate in difficulty and can be done by hikers of all experience levels. At Kenosha Pass, the Colorado Trail, which goes from Denver to Durango, intersects with US Highway 285. This creates an East side trail option and an West side trail option. Both offer incredible views down into the South Park plains of Colorado and out to the often snow-capped peaks of the Mosquito Range.

Hiking the East Side of Kenosha Pass

Hikers can pick up the Colorado Trail after crossing the cattle gate (if parked along 285) and hiking along the dirt road that leads to the restrooms that are near the 2nd parking area (after the cattle gate). The Trailhead is located just before the 2nd parking area, and will be located on the right (south). While most visitors park, take a jaunt into the aspens, snap a few photos and leave, the more stunning views await those who venture further south along the trail. The initial trail segment enters with a gradual ascent into the aspens, then at 1/2 a mile into the hike the woods opens up to incredible views into South Park.

kenosha pass moose

South Park is a high mountains plains area that stretches out mile-upon-mile to its western and norther mountain borders, the Collegiate Peaks and the Mosquito Range of the Rocky Mountains. The climb continues at a gradual pace and hikers will emerge to a second panorama at 1.5 miles. This is a great place to turn-around, making it into a 3 mile out-ant-back hike. Of course, hikers can continue on the trail all the way back into Denver, but that requires a multi-day backpacking trip. As always, keep eyes peeled for changing weather, and pack the 10 Essentials. If you are wondering what should be in your daypack, be sure to download our free Dayhike Hiking and Packing Guide. As for wildlife, moose are often spotted on this side along the lake near the trailhead.

Hiking the West Side of Kenosha Pass

Changing Aspens at Kenosha Pass Colorado

The West Side Trail at Kenosha Pass can be picked up immediately on the West side of 285. The trail enters conifer and aspen forest, making a gentle climb toward the northwest until popping out of the trees to breathtaking views down into South Park and the Mosquito Range. After this viewpoint, the trail travels a short distance uphill, then makes its way down toward Guernsey Creek. The distance from the trailhead to Guernsey Creek is approximately 3 miles, making this a 6 mile out-and-back adventure. Because this is the Colorado Trail, it does continue west, offering multi-day backpacking options that lead all the way to Durango, Colorado.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking the Kenosha Pass Trail

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Granite Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Granite Falls takes a 5.1 mile journey from the Green Mountain Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. At Granite Falls, the waters of Tonahutu Creek drop fifty feet through a course of smooth granite slabs. The hike offers a diverse landscape: from tranquil forests, to expansive meadows, and verdant creeksides--all alive with wildflowers and wildlife. Explore the full Granite Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Snapshot: Granite Falls Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Granite Falls

The Green Mountain Trailhead is located on the western side area of Rocky Mountain National Park, north of Grand Lake, Colorado, along Trail Ridge Road. From the Kawuneeche Visitor Center in Grand Lake, drive 3 miles north on Trail Ridge Road. The Green Mountain Trailhead will be on the right/east side of the road, and has a capacity for around 25 vehicles.

The Hike: Granite Falls Trail in RMNP

The hike begins at the Green Mountain Trailhead and follows the Green Mountain Trail for 1.9 miles to Big Meadows, and encounters the first trail junction. The way to Granite Falls is to take the left-hand trail for 0.7 mile that skirts the western border of Big Meadows. There is a group campsite in Big Meadows that offers some of the most spectacular views of the night sky. Moose and elk frequent this area and brook trout can be found in nearby Tonahutu Creek.

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Big Meadows Courtesy of Michael Levine-Clark

At 2.6 miles, the trail meets a second trail junction. The way to Granite Falls is to go right/east on the Tonahutu trail towards Flattop Mountain. Because their is only a 1000' elevation gain over the course of the 5.1 miles to Granite Falls, the trail only has a mild and undulating slope. After crossing two creeks, a small sign will point the way down a spur trail that leads to Granite Falls. The waterfall is a series of slide cascades flowing over broad granite slabs into a pool of swirling waters. The hike back follows the same route, making this a 10.2 mile out-and-back hike.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking to Granite Falls in RMNP

  • Prepare: Bring lots of water and high-energy food for this longer 10.2 mile hike.
  • Trail Map for Kawuneeche Valley: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Will Currier for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Granite Falls in RMNP.
  • After the Hike: Fat Cat Cafe It may be the best breakfast in Colorado!

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elk bedded down in tall grasses of moraine park in rocky mountain national park hike with text overlay explore more hikes in rocky mountain national park