wildfowers in foreground on top of north table mountain in golden colorado

North Table Mountain Hike Near Golden, Colorado

When the sun rises over the North Table Mountain, you'll see this mesa rising above the town of Golden, Colorado. A vast network of trails awaits hikers, mountain bikers, and nature photographers. This is a perfect hike near Denver for when you don’t have much time on your hands but need some fresh air. While the trails on Table Mountain are accessible all year round, the best time to hike it is in the Spring and early Summer when wild flowers start to bloom. Check out our detailed description of the hike, the Table Mountain trail map, driving directions so that you can explore this unique Colorado hike.

Trail Snapshot: North Table Mountain Near Golden

Start your tour of North Table Mountain (really it's a mesa) a few hours after the daybreak by entering the main parking lot off of Highway 93, just north of Golden, Colorado. At the trailhead, you'll find a kiosk with trail maps, and a public restroom. There are three ways you can explore the North Table Mountain, so scroll down to read the details on all three options.

Hiking North Table Mountain

road trail up to north table mountain hike near golden

#1 The (short) North Table Loop trail - 3.2 Miles

The first part of the trail starts with a wide path, a long ramp up to the top of the mesa. It's a bit of a challenge, but when you get to the top, the paths level off and are much easier. Leaving the parking lot, take the North Table Loop trail south for 0.7 miles until you reach a trail intersection. Take a left onto the Tilting Mesa trail. Follow Tilting Mesa trail for approximately 1 mile until the next trail junction. Take a left onto the Mesa Top Trail, hiking on it until it intersects with the North Table Loop trail again. Take a left onto the North Table loop trail which skirts the sides of North Table Mountain and takes you back to the trailhead.

north table mountain west side looking toward golden colorado

#2 The Longer North Table Loop Routes - 6-8 Miles

Shake it up a bit: This is a longer route that combines a tour of the top of Table Mountain and a hike around the perimeter. Start the same way you would start the short table loop trail by taking the North Table Loop for 0.7 miles until you reach the Tilting Mesa trail. Follow the trail to the first unmarked intersection and then turn right. On your next intersection turn right again onto the Mesa Top trail. After about .6 mile, you'll encounter a trail intersection with the Rim Rock Trail which is closed seasonally (March 1 through July 31). Continue on the Mesa Top trail until it intersects with the North Table Loop trail which will take you all the way back to the west side of the mountain and to the parking area. This is approximately a 6 mile loop.

Adapt to a Closure Route: At the time of this post, April 2014, a segment of the Mesa Top trail is closed due to flood damage. An alternate route adds some mileage and difficulty to this loop, but that just may be what you are looking for. Here's the route: Same as above, but when on the Mesa Top Trail, take the Cottonwood Canyon Trail (right) until it links you back up with the North Table Loop trail. Then take a left back on to the North Table Loop trail which will then take you on a tour of roughly 3/4 of the perimeter of North Table Mountain. Here's a link to the North Table Mountain Trail Closure map that should help you plan this route. This Route is approximately a 7.5 mile loop.

The Straighforward Approach: The final route is pretty straightforward, just take the North Table Mountain Loop all the way around the perimeter of the mountain. This results in an approximate 7.7 mile loop.

mountain biker on top of north table mountain with denver skyline in background
#3 The Golden Cliffs Trail - 2.7 miles RT

If you are a climber or just looking for a shorter hike, you can take North Table Mountain trail to the Golden Cliffs trail. The Golden Cliffs are very popular Colorado rock climbing attraction. This area is actually a preserve managed by the Access fund. For more information on rock climbing the Golden Cliffs, see the Golden Cliffs page on the Mountain Project and Access Fund Sites. This is a 2.7 mile (Round Trip) out-and-back trip.

Tips for Hiking North Table Mountain:

  • Wear sunscreen because there is no shade once you are atop Table Mountain.
  • Camping and open fires are not permitted at North Table Mountain Park.
  • Don’t forget to bring your camera. You can get some very interesting wildlife images.
  • Rattlesnakes: Jefferson County Open Space notes that North Table Mountain is a known Rattlesnake habitat. They recommend downloading their Snakebite Prevention and First Aid Guide to better understand this native reptile of Colorado.

whitetail deer trailside on north table mountainWeather

Map and Directions to North Table Mountain West Trailheaad

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royal arch red rock formation in boulder's flatirons chautauqua park red rock arch with ponderosa pine in foreground

Royal Arch Trail

The hike up to Royal Arch in Boulder's Chautauqua Park is a serious workout, but the beauty of Bluebell canyon and the view of Royal Arch make it worth the journey. Our most important tip for making this an enjoyable hike is to go when it's not so crowded, during the early morning or on weekdays. Scroll down to get all the details you need for this hike in Boulder, Colorado: trail map link, driving directions, weather forecast, and more tips.

Trail Snapshot: Royal Arch Trail in Chautauqua Park

If you talk with someone who has hiked the trail up to Boulder's Royal Arch, they will tell you two things: 1) The Royal Arch, though not as grand as some of the arches in Utah's backcountry, is really a beautiful sight, and 2) That the hike is a real challenge.

While the trail is relatively short - 3.5 miles round trip - the hike up through Bluebell Canyon to Royal Arch has a lot of uphill and downhill, making the elevation gain around 1400' over the course of the trip. Because the trail has a lot of rock steps and is heavily used, the latter half of the hike requires some negotiation. It's still a good trail, just don't expect a walk in the park.

royal arch trail chautauqua park

The Hike to Royal Arch

Beginning at the Chautauqua Park Trailhead, take the Bluebell Road Trail through the meadows and up to the Bluebell Shelter (see trail map here). You'll come to a junction near the Bluebell Shelter, and will see signs pointing you to the Royal Arch Trail.

Soon, you'll enter Bluebell Canyon. The Royal Arch trail will descend before beginning its climb to the top. This section of the hike is especially alive and enchanting during the early morning hours. Bluebell Canyon is home to raptors and is seasonally protected when the birds are hatching. The trail is still accessible during those times, but signs are posted to keep the canyon drainage clear of hikers.

flatirons through bluebell canyon on royal arch trail

The higher you hike, the more stairs you'll encounter. It's nothing like hiking the Incline in Colorado Springs, but it's still a real workout. If you hike to the Royal Arch on the weekend, this is where you'll begin to experience the trail congestion. In fact, I'd have to say that this was the most overcrowded trail I've hiked in Colorado. A lot of hikers had stopped to rest, huffing and puffing trailside. Others gathered right in the middle of the trail. I overheard several people deliberating whether or not to keep going, and watched others turn around without making it to the top. So, our first and most important tip would be to hike to Royal Arch early in the morning by getting on the trail before 8AM, or hiking the Royal Arch trail on a weekday.

 

royal arch rock formation in the flatirons near boulder colorado

After pushing up to Royal Arch, be sure to walk around it and go through it. The views of Boulder are incredible. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Denver. I'd recommend taking a picnic or at least a snack, and kick back for a while. There is supposedly a way to make this hike more of a loop by taking a trail down the backside of the arch, but it's an unmarked trail and one hiker who took it warned against it. So, we recommend taking the marked Royal Arch trail back down to the shelter. From there, you have some trail options.

 

chautauqua park meadows on way back from royal arch

On my way back, I decided to take the Bluebell Mesa trail down to the Chautauqua trail, which led me home to the trailhead and ranger cottage. I'd highly recommend this route back. It takes you through a stand of pines on a mesa above the meadows of Chautauqua Park. You can pick up the Bluebell Mesa trail near the Bluebell Shelter soon after you exit the canyon.

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Royal Arch in Boulder:

  • Leave Fido At Home: I love dogs; in fact, I took our Dog, Francine, on the hike up to Royal Arch. But it was so congested that it made it difficult for her and I to navigate the trail together. Other dog owners with long leashes nearly tripped several hikers along the trail. If you want to bring your dog on this hike, I'd recommend going early or going on a weekday.
  • Bring Snacks and Water: It probably goes without saying, but be sure to bring food and water to refill your tank. This hike demands it.
  • Bring Trekking Poles: The trail up to Royal Arch can be hard on the knees--especially the descent--so bring trekking poles if you have them. The trail is heavily shaded, so my guess is that it will ice up in the winter. Just another reason to bring something that will help you get traction.
  • Take Time at the Top: Build time into your hike to rest and maybe have a picnic under the Royal Arch.
  • Keep and Eye on the Weather: Talking to one of the rangers, he shared that storms can come up quickly along the Flatirons, which will catch hikers unawares. Because you are hiking through a densely wooded canyon and are so close to the mountain, it makes it difficult to really judge the skies. But the Flatirons area is like a lot of other mountain hikes, storms typically roll in during the early afternoon.
  • Trail Map for Chautauqua Park: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Ozo Coffee in Boulder, Colorado

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dirt trail leading toward the flatirons of boulder colorado in chautauqua park wooden fence in foreground and broad meadows

First and Second Flatirons Hike in Boulder

Hiking the Flatirons near Boulder, Colorado is a must. The trail draws you across an green meadow, then up through a notch between the First and Second Flatiron. You'll find the best part of this hike in the Flatirons at the end of the trail: some breathtaking and unmatched views of Colorado's Rocky Mountains. There's even more though. Explore the trail profile below to get links to the Flatirons map, hiking tips, trail details, and driving directions to the Chautauqua Park trailhead.

First and Second Flatiron Hike Trail Snapshot

The Flatirons are the most prominent feature of Boulder Colorado's landscape. They are beautiful to take in from a distance, but they are even better to explore. Here I'll give you a some options on how to make the most of the First and Second Flatiron trail, and some details on what to expect.

The Flatirons Trailheads at Chautauqua

#1 - Chautauqua Trailhead: You can start your hike from a couple different places. I chose Boulder's Chautauqua Park trailhead. The parking lot will fill up fast, by 8:30 on the weekend, but you can park along Baseline Road. The city of Boulder is doing some improvements on the parking area beginning September 3rd, 2013 and it looks like the lot will be closed. Here's a link for construction updates. But don't let that deter you, just park out on Baseline. The Chautauqua trailhead features an historic Ranger Cottage (link for hours of operation), and you'll find free trail maps for the flatirons in a box attached to the sign at the entrance to meadow.

#2 - Enchanted Mesa Trailhead: This is a lesser known trailhead (but probably well known by locals). Here's a google map to help you find it. From here, you can walk across to Chautauqua Park and pick up the Chatauqua Trail, or you can make a longer trip out of it by following the McClintock Upper Trail in. See the Chautauqua Area Hiking Map for details.

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The Flatirons Panorama:

In the panorama video above, you'll see that the first flatiron is the most prominent. It's on the far right (North) and the second and third flatirons follow it to the south. There is an impressive canyon between the second and third flatirons that you'll get to peer down into towards the end of the trail. But let's start this hike profile at the trailhead.

The First Flatirons Trail Sequence

Here's the basic set of trails I'd recommend just because it's the most direct approach: Chautauqua Trail to First and Second Flatiron Trail. On the way back, I'd recommend the Bluebird Mesa trail; it takes you through a pine glade along the spine of a Bluebird Mesa, then gently drops back down to the Chautauqua trail near the trailhead. This makes for a roughly 2.5 mile hike.

Make it a loop. Deb Stanley details an interesting loop by taking a little known trail down the back side of the flatirons that hooks back into the Saddle Rock Trail. Looks like fun, but it also looks like it could be easy to get turned around in there if you're not careful. Check out the details on her loop trail profile if you're interested in taking this route.

First and Second Flatirons Hike Details

This photo gives you the best overview of the Flatirons one and two trail. Basically, once you break out of the meadow and start on the 1st and 2nd Flatirons trail, your going to ride the ridge of the 2nd flatiron up to a notch between the 1st and 2nd Flatirons. The trail continues behind the flatirons, then bends north and takes you up into a canopy formed by the back of the first flatiron.

map of route between first and second flatiron in boulder colorado chautauqua parkStarting at the Chautauqua Trail, you'll hike through the spectacular meadows at the base of the flatirons. If it's after a rain, be prepared for a lot of rain along what is essentially a fire road. The sides of the trail here have a good bit of poison ivy that tries to reach out and touch your calves, so keep an eye out for it. What I found most interesting about this section of the trail was the diversity of both plants and trees along the trail. There is a greater variety of deciduous trees and shrubs that I've seen anywhere on the front range.

After taking the Bluebird-Baird Trail (left), you'll encounter a fork in the trail. Follow the signage towards the 1st and 2nd Flatirons trail (see photo below). Soon the trail will fork again and you'll want to take the 1st and 2nd Flatirons trail. The signage is really good in the Chautauqua/Flatirons area.
trail marked on photo up to first flatiron chautauqua park in boulder colorado

Emerging from the woods, you'll hike up through a long talus field, but the trail is well-constructed through this gigantic pile of rock. Be sure to look back at the views that open to Boulder.

talus field below first and second flatiron in chautauqua parkThe trail goes in and out of the shade, over a lot of rock, and eventually to a short scramble over some larger rock to regain the trail. The next landmark you'll reach is the notch between the first and second flatiron; you'll see the angled outcrop of the second flatiron just below the notch (photo below). This is a great place to stop and relax.

first flatiron hike near boulder looking up toward first flatiron formation in chautauqua parkThe notch between the first and second flatiron offers more views of Boulder and a birds-eye view of the CU campus, it's terracotta roofs against the green of the city lawns.
family resting on hike between first and second flatiron in boulder colorado

But the better place to take a break is just behind the notch. Here, you'll be able to look down into canyon that runs between flatiron two and three, and you get a great view of the imposing profile of flatiron three.

view of third flatiron from the notch between first and second flatiron hike in boulderThen take the trail up a few switchbacks as it bends north. You'll hit a saddle but the trail will continue to bend to the right, until you find yourself in the shade of the massive top of the first flatiron. Back here you'll find all kinds of rock shelves and nooks to sit and take in some of fantastic views of Colorado's Rocky Mountains to the West.

view toward indian peaks western front range of colorado from first flatiron alcoveTips & Resources for Hiking the First and Second Flatirons:

  • TIP: This hike gets really crowded, so start early (before 8:30 AM).
  • TIP: Take a lunch or breakfast and coffee with you. The first flatiron nooks are perfect for just sitting and enjoying a picnic.
  • TIP: Weather can come up fast on the flatirons in the summer. Just be aware that it can change fast and bring a rain jacket.
  • TIP: Dogs are allowed if they are leashed. Boulder does have a special tag you can get for your dog to allow it off leash in the park. It's called the Voice and Sight Control tag and you can get more information here.
  • After the Hike: Ozo Coffee Roasters in Boulder
  • Trail Map for Chautauqua Park: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions

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Devils Head Fire Lookout Hike

If you've not hiked to the top of the Devils head trail and climbed the 143 steps to the fire lookout, then I think you're not allowed to have one of those Colorado Native bumper stickers. The Devils Head trail is the classic Colorado Front Range hike and is just about an hour from the center of Denver. The views from the top offer a 360 degree panorama of mountains layered upon mountains. Scroll down to explore the trail profile and photos of one of the best hikes on the Colorado Front Range.

The Devil's Head Lookout Trail has been closed by the USFS for the duration of 2020

Devil's Head Lookout Trail Snapshot

Parking & Trailhead for Devils Head Hike

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This Colorado hike begins in a glade of tall aspens, some of the biggest we've seen this close to Denver. Then the trail meanders through some unusual rock formations until the trail opens into a high meadow where a quaint ranger cabin sits nestled in the trees. Up ahead and to your left, you'll see the red steps that lead to the Devil's Head fire lookout.

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The Devil's Head fire lookout is the only operational fire lookout in the state of Colorado and is over 100 years old, though the current structure was built in 1951. If you are a history buff and enjoy historical photos, check out these this site: Firelookout.org

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Bill Ellis and his wife have been operating the lookout for over 25 years, and many visitors remark that their discussions with Bill are the highlight of their trip. The Denver Post did a great piece on the Ellises and the fire lookout that is worth reading -
link to the Devils Head Article by the Denver Post.

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The views from Devil's head reveal features of Colorado's Front Range that are rarely discovered. My favorite is looking North down the spine of the foothills where red tinted rock formations push up from the peaks and resemble a chain of castles high above the forest.

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Pikes Peak dominates the landscape to the South. And the Western view from Devil's Head is riddled with the red mountains of the Tarryalls, Kenoshas, and Platte range. And there are few signs of civilization, at least not in the early morning hours when I took these photos.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking Devils Head

  • TIP: Go Early: Devil's Head is one of the most popular hikes on the front range. If you are hiking this on the weekend, try to get to the trailhead by 8am if you want a less crowded experience hiking Devils Head.
  • TIP: Go Even Earlier for photography: The rising sun lights up the front range, and you can see hundreds of miles of mountains from the tower on Devil's Head.
  • Camping: There is a USFS campground near the trailhead parking area. Some friends of ours have camped here and said it was a good experience. See the USFS Devils Head Campground site for details on camping and parking fees.
  • TIP: Rough Drive: The 10 miles of Rampart Range Road can be dusty and a real washboard experience. 2WD is sufficient and this road is kept in pretty good condition, but be prepared for a less than comfortable drive on your way to Devils Head.
  • TIP: Rampart Range Road is closed December 1st to about April 1st each year. You can call the South Platte Ranger District at 303.275.5610 to get the current status of the road.
  • TIP: Be Lightning Aware: The front range is notorious for its lightning strikes and this is the highest point. If weather is looking bad, play it safe.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: After the Hike: Obrien's Cafe in Sedalia
  • Trail Map for Front Range USFS: Trail Map Link

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

Looking for more waterfalls near Denver? Explore our more than 50 Colorado Waterfall Hikes, our favorite Waterfall Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, or 7 Waterfalls within One Hour of Denver.



view of wide dirt trail at mount sanitas in boulder looking south to green mountain in boulder colorado ponderosa pine in foreground

Mt. Sanitas Hike Near Boulder

If you are visiting Boulder, this is a great Colorado hike. Mt. Sanitas gives you several trail options ranging from an easy stroll along a meandering brook to a demanding trail up the mountainside. Explore the trail profile below for all the info you need on this hike near Boulder.

Trail Snapshot: Mt. Sanitas Hike in Boulder

Mt. Sanitas offers three different hike options, ranging from the more difficult climb up the mountain, to an easy walk through a peaceful valley. Sanitas is Latin for "health", and this hike may either get you in better shape (the 3.1 mile loop), or restore your sanity (the easier options). If you are visiting Boulder, this is a great Colorado hike.

3 Hike Options at Mt. Sanitas in Boulder, Colorado

1 - The Mt. Sanitas Loop - 3.1 Mile Loop - Medium+

mt sanitas loop labeled
This is the classic hike at Boulder's Mt. Sanitas, and it's the most difficult of the three hike options because it involves a series of log and rock steps that will leave your quads and knees either thanking your for the workout or aching for a couple days afterwards. Because of this, we would give it a Medium+ difficulty rating. The prize of this Front Range Hike are the views at the top. You'll be able to look down into Boulder and get some great views of Colorado's Front Range.

2 - Mt. Sanitas Valley Hike - 2 Mile Out-and-Back - Easy

Mt. Sanitas Valley Hike Near Boulder

Here's the easiest option; 1 mile straight up the valley and back. The two words that best describe the Sanitas Valley trail: idyllic and busy. Dogs run about and jump in the creek that runs along the beginning of the path, runners fly by, and families talk and stroll together. The trail rises gently at first, then goes into more of an incline. We took our stroller; it worked fine, but was tough pushing the kids up the last 1/4 mile uphill. We turned around just after the Dakota Ridge Trail junction, making it a 2 mile out-and-back hike.

3 - Dakota Ridge Trail at Mt. Sanitas - 2 Mile Loop - Easy to Medium

Mt. Sanitas Dakota Ridge Route
You'll find side trails running East/West off of the Sanitas Valley trail which will take you up onto the Dakota ridge, a hogback that boxes in the Sanitas Valley. You can make this an out-and-back hike, or turn it into a loop by hiking back through the valley (see photo above and the Mt. Sanitas Trail Map for the route).

Tips & Resources for Hiking Mt. Sanitas in Boulder:

  • Parking: This is kind of a no-brainer, but get to the trailhead early. I think we arrived around 8am on a Saturday and grabbed the last parking spot. However, we noticed that many people were walking to the trailhead from town, so there are other parking options.
  • No Shade: Bring your sunscreen; the trail is mostly exposed.
  • Lots of People: If you are looking for solitude, I'd recommend trying another hike. The Mt. Sanitas trail is essentially in Boulder, and its great location means that it's quite busy.
  • Trail Map for Mt. Sanitas Trail: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Ozo Coffee

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


spruce mountain hikes near larkspur header

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

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Bridal Veil Falls Hike at Rocky Mountain National Park

Atwenty foot waterfall hidden away in the northern reaches of Rocky Mountain National Park, Bridal Veil Falls makes for a great destination hike. Keep your eyes out for Elk in the meadows along this hiking trail in Colorado's favorite National Park. Get the hike information you need with our hiking snapshot for Bridal Veil Falls, and get more details by exploring the details and tips below.

Trail Snapshot: Bridal Veil Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

Bridal Veil Falls is a gem tucked away in the northern reaches of Rocky Mountain National Park. This hike is about 1hr 45 minutes from the Denver area and features expansive meadows, wildflowers, forest, and a little bit of a rock scramble. Bridal Veil Falls launches from a rock slab at a diagonal, making it a beautiful site. Most visitors to the National Park go to the center of the park, so you may find yourself alone on the trail on a weekday. I wouldn't expect that on the weekend though.

trail to bridal veil falls in rocky mountain national park

Like most areas in the park, the wildlife is abundant. We often joke, calling it the zoo. Elk and deer, as well as eagles and other raptors can be seen along Cow Creek trail. The trail to Bridal Veil Falls begins at the Cow Creek Trailhead. You'll pass through meadows and see the cascades along Cow Creek. Eventually, you'll hike up in the forest, getting a bit of a break from the sun. Before the waterfall, you'll encounter some rocks to hike and scramble over, making this a more moderate hike.

bridal veil falls in rocky mountain national park
Thanks to Catherine Kunst for the photos on this profile. You can read Catherine's trip report at her site here. and to John Kalla for his photo of the falls at the top of this post.

ouzel falls waterfall in rocky mountain national park wild basin hike with text overlay explore more hikes in rocky mountain national park

Tips & Resources for Hiking Bridal Veil Falls:

  • A Great View: Cross the stream then work your way up the area just left of the falls to the stream above. It's beautiful above the falls, just take care not to turn it into a rock climb. Remember that Water + Rock = Slippery.
  • Parking is a Limited: It's just a small area along the road near the ranch. You'll need to parallel park. Also, get their early for a space.
  • Not Much Shade: Bring the sunscreen. You'll be in the sun a lot along Cow Creek Trail.
  • RMNP Park Map: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: After the Hike: Poppy's Pizza

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Meyer Ranch Open Space Hikes

Meyer Ranch is just 30 minutes outside of Denver, Colorado and offers three different hiking trail options, ranging from 2.4 to 4.8 mile, easy to moderate hikes. Check out the three different hiking trail options for this hike near Conifer, Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Meyer Ranch Open Space Hikes

Meyer Ranch Open Space offers 3 great hiking options only 30 minutes from Denver. They range from easy to moderate in difficulty and 2.4 to 4.8 miles in length. Meyer Ranch has expansive meadows and patches of wildflowers, grazing deer & elk, and trails that take you to overlooks.

1. Lodgepole Loop: 2.4 miles - Easy - Take the Owl's Perch Trail South and continue straight (left) down the trail, at the next junction go right and continue on the Lodgepole loop for 1.2 miles until you arrive back at the Owl's Perch trail and take (left ) that back to the parking lot.

2. Sunny Aspen Trail Loop: 3 Miles - Moderate - Take the Owl's Perch Trail South and continue straight (left) down the trail, at the next junction go right and continue on the Lodgepole loop, go .6 miles and take a right onto the Sunny Aspen Trail, continue on the Sunny Aspen Trail for .8 miles until it joins again with the Lodgepole Loop (go right), follow this back to the Owl's Perch trail and back to the parking lot.

3. Old Ski Run Trail 4.8 Miles - Moderate - Take the Owl's Perch Trail South and continue straight (left) down the trail, at the next junction go left again for .2 mile until you find your next junction, go left onto the Sunny Aspen Trail taking that for .5 mile until you reach the junction with the Old Ski Run Trail. The Ski Run trail is an out & back trail with a loop at the end. The Ski Run section is 2 miles out and back (including loop). Return the way you came via the Sunny Aspen Trail.

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

Tips & Resources for Hiking Meyer Ranch Open Space Hikes :

  • Picnic areas: There are picnic areas close to the trailhead as you go along Owl's Perch Trail.
  • TIP: Initially you will hear noise from the road below. This will fade as you hike further into the park.
  • Trail Map for Meyer Ranch Open Space: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Aspen Perk Cafe

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Rattlesnake Gulch Trail at Eldorado State Park

The Rattlesnake Gulch trail takes you up the sides of Eldorado Canyon, one of Colorado's historic State Parks. This lollipop trail takes you past the ruins of the Crags Hotel, then on to gain views of the Continental Divide. Scroll down to look over the trail snapshot, then explore the trail details and tips below for this rewarding hike in Eldorado Canyon State Park.

Trail Snapshot: Rattlesnake Gulch Trail at Eldorado Canyon

If your legs are ready to gain some quick elevation to some rewarding views, the Rattlesnake Gulch trail will give you just that. This trail starts at the west trailhead of the Fowler Trail about 1/2 a mile into Eldorado Canyon. The hike first takes you about 1.2 miles to the site of the Crags Hotel. The hotel was built in 1908 and visitors could reach it by taking an incline railroad and by an old wagon trail. In 1912, the hotel burnt to the ground, and just a few ruins remain. The parks department has put up interpretive signs to give you an idea of what the site was like in the early 1900's.

If you continue past the Crags Hotel site, you can add on an additional 1.4 miles by hiking the Rattlesnake Gulch Loop. A spur along the trail takes you to the Continental Divide overlook, where you can look out to the plains and towards a few peaks to the west. If you don't want to hike the entire loop, but you want to catch the view from the overlook, take the trail to the right after the hotel site and hike about 10 more minutes. See the map link above for the exact location of the spur that leads to the overlook.

The picture above is looking northeast towards the Cadillac Rock area. If you take a pair of binoculars, scan the formation for rock-climbers. Eldorado Canyon makes for some great Denver area hiking. It's one of those places with so many unique features, that you'll find yourself drawn back there time and time again.

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Rattlesnake Gulch Trail at Eldorado State Park:

  • Exact Trail Length: Exact trail lengths are approximate until we can GPS this one. We've noticed discrepancies on maps and reports. So, be sure to add some buffer time on to this hike.
  • Parking: Parking fills up fast at Eldorado Canyon. So, we suggest you go early in the day, or as the crowds are filtering out of the park in the late afternoon. As well, you'll find weekdays less crowed. Eldorado Canyon is open from sunrise to sunset year round.
  • Directions: Use the driving directions on this page. They will lead you to the nearest parking area to the Rattlesnake Gulch Trailhead.
  • Fee: There is an $8 parking fee per car or you can use your Colorado State Parks Annual Pass
  • Trail Map for Eldorado Canyon State Park: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Boxcar Coffee Roasters in Boulder

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Homestead Trail at Castlewood Canyon

his trail is great place to begin if you plan to explore the west side of Castlewood Canyon. It's a short hike, but the Homestead Trail can be used to link up to other hiking trails in this Colorado State Park. Scroll down to get all the hiking info you need in the trail snapshot, trail options descriptions and tips.

Trail Snapshot: Homestead Trail at Castlewood Canyon

The Homestead Trail in Castlewood Canyon is the first trail you will encounter as you enter the west side of the park. Park at the first lot and you'll immediately see the ruins of the old Lucas Homestead, an unusual concrete structure built in the late 1800's.

The trail is less than a mile round trip, but it links up with several other trails which form 2 loops. Download the Castlewood Canyon Brochure & Trail Map to get a better idea of how these two loops work.

4 Mile Loop: Hike the Rim Rock Trail for 2.14 miles to enjoy the east side of Cherry Creek. Eventually, you will meet with the Creek bottom trail. Take that North for 1.7 miles until you have returned to the Homestead Trail.

2 Mile Loop: When the Homestead Trail meets the Creek Bottom Trail, take the Creek Bottom Trail south for about .7 mile until it intersects with the Cherry Creek Trail. Take this North for 1 mile back to the Lucas Homestead.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Homestead Trail at Castlewood Canyon :

  • Finding the Trailhead: The West Side entrance can be hard to find. Usually, Colorado state parks have brown signs indicating the park roads. The west side doesn't. But the name of the road you're looking for is "Castlewood Canyon" - easy to remember.
  • TIP: 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 State Park: Trail Map Link
  • Additional Castlewood Canyon State Park Maps: Other Trails
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Crowfoot Valley Coffee

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