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.

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Beaver Loop 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

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Windy Peak

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Elk Range Trail at Centennial Cone Park

For those who are looking for a nice hike that incorporates the highland meadows of Colorado and views to snowcapped mountains, then the Elk Range Trail at Centennial Cone Park is the perfect hike. The Elk Range Trail can be hiked as an out-and-back 6.6 mile adventure, starting from one of two different trailheads. We saw a lot of wildlife and few people. Explore the full trail profile below for trail details, Centennial Cone park map, driving directions, and more.

Trail Snapshot: Elk Range Trail at Centennial Cone

Centennial Cone Hike 01Looking East towards Centennial Cone

Elk Range Trail at Centennial Cone Profile

For a high country hike the elevation gains and descents are very gentle, and the inclines are not difficult. Centennial Cone Park is about 10 miles west of Golden, Colorado, and feels like a backcountry trail in many ways.

You have two trailhead options when taking the 6.6 mile Elk Range Trail.The driving directions link above are for the Centennial Cone Road trailhead. A North Centennial Cone Park Trailhead has equestrian trailer parking and can be located at this link. Our trail profile here describes the trail hiking from West to East.

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From the Centennial Cone trailhead, you immediately find yourself surrounded by green open fields. At about half a mile in you'll encounter a fence with a gate. When you walk through the gate, you'll be on private property for a few hundred yards. Jefferson County parks has some sort of easement, so continue your hike but stay on the trail, until you get to the other gate. There are horses and cows that wander about the area without fences, so they may be on the trail when you arrive. Another reason to be sure that the gates close behind you.

Centennial Cone Hike 02

Hiking along the Elk Range Trail, I couldn't help wondering, "Can you hike up to the top of Centennial Cone?" There is no trail on the map but there appears to be the vestiges of an old road or trail leading up the North end of Centennial Cone. Because I haven't hiked it yet, I can't recommend it, but the old trail can be found just before the trail enters private property. Where the trail bends just before the gate, you can follow a set of what look to be markers for an underground gas line. These lead up to the trail at the base of Centennial Cone. This is as far as I explored, and hope to get back to attempt a hike to the top of the cone.

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It's important to know that on the weekends the trail alternates from hiker-only to biker-only. Here's how to keep track of it: Odd days are hiker only and even days are bikes only.The weekdays are open to both hikers and mountain bikers.The park is closed during certain days for hunting season. You can get the exact closure dates from the Centennial Cone page of Jefferson County's opens space site.

If you've started from the Centennial Cone Road trailhead and would like a pleasant and beautiful drive home, take Highway 6 through Clear Creek canyon, and into Golden.

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 Elk Range Trail:

  • Mud: The Elk Range Trail can be a bit muddy after a good rain. You'll want to bring appropriate gear if you're planning a hike after a storm for a good day or two, including sturdy shoes.
  • Storms: The Elk Range Trail is at a high enough altitude that you'll want to keep an eye out for thunderstorms. There is very little cover on this trail, so check the weather report before heading out as well.
  • After the Hike: Cafe13 in Golden
  • Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Trail Map for Centennial Cone Park: Trail Map Link

elk range trail

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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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man painting red rocks at trading post trail in red rocks park near denver with red rocks in background hikes 30 minutes from denver


Golden Gate Sate Park Blue Grouse Trail Landscape

Blue Grouse Trail at Golden Gate Canyon Park

The Blue Grouse Trail is a short, 1.6-mile hike on the western edges of Golden Gate Canyon State Park. A pleasant trail with little gain in elevation and mellow terrain makes this a great escape from the city. The Blue Grouse Trail is a perfect hiking trail for spotting wildlife, from birds to deer, viewing fall colors and wildflowers, and taking in the beautiful scenic view along the trail. Explore the full hiking trail profile below for hike details, trail map, and links to similar trails near Denver.

Trail Snapshot: Blue Grouse Trail

Before you start this hike there are some things you should know - a Colorado State Park Pass is required to enter Golden Gate Canyon State Park. A day pass can be purchased at the Visitors Center upon entrance into the park. Some trails offer passes at self-serve dispensers, but the Blue Grouse Trail does not.

To get to the Blue Grouse trailhead, pass Kriley Pond and take the first right at Mountain Base Road. The trailhead parking area is to the right at the fork in the road. At the trailhead you’ll find picnic tables. There is a porta-let at Kriley Pond and there are restroom facilities at the Visitors Center. Below you'll find more details on the trail, Kriley pond, and some information on camping at Golden Gate Canyon State Park.

Hiking the Blue Grouse Trail

You'll make your way along a nice dirt path with a few rocky sections. The elevation gain is slight, and this short hike can be turned into a longer one by joining up with the Mule Deer Trail where the Blue Grouse trail terminates at .7 mile. Mule Deer Trail is a 7.4 mile loop, and there is a Golden Gate Park map at the trail intersection.
Blue Grouse Trailhead Golden Gate Colorado

The Blue Grouse Trail is a popular trail for mountain bikers who use it to access the longer trails in Golden Gate. Mountain bikers in Colorado are typically very considerate of hikers, but just be aware that you'll be sharing the trail with others. After the initial rise, the trail is more gentle as it ascends the hillside. You'll be drawn to the rock outcroppings ahead and a beautiful grove of aspens.

Blue Grouse 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 the Blue Grouse Trail:

    blue grouse trail marker

    • Trail options: View the Golden Gate Canyon Park map to see the various other trail options you have after hiking the .7 mile in on Blue Grouse.
    • Rim Meadows: a great destination if you would like to continue on the Mule Deer Trail but are not wanting to hike the entire Mule Deer trail loop.
    • Picnic: Because Golden Gate Canyon State Park is an hour drive, make a half-day or full-day out of your trip. Bring a picnic, and sling up a hammock for a nap in the shade.
    • Download our Dayhikes Hiking Guide for a day hike packing checklist
    • Sun protection: The trail is only partly shaded, so be sure to bring sun protection for the parts not covered.
    • After the Hike: Buffalo Moon Coffee
    • Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
    • Trail Map for Blue Grouse Trail: Trail Map Link

    Kriley Pond at Golden Gate Canyon State Park

    Kriley Pond is a popular fishing spot in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. In the fall, the hillsides are peppered with the golden glow of Aspens.The early morning hours are the best time to visit if you want to soak in the songs of Colorado songbirds before families and fisherman arrive. Fishing in Kriley Pond requires a Colorado Fishing License. There are several other ponds to visit at Golden Gate Canyon, including: Ranch Ponds, Slough Ponds, Dude's Fishing Hole, and the pond at Forgotten Valley.
    kriley pond at Golden Gate Canyon State Park

    Camping in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

    There are several camping options at Golden Gate. However, because this State Park is less than an hour from Denver, the sites can fill up fast in the busy summer months. There is a car camping area at Reverends Ridge, a tents only site at Aspen Meadows, 20 backcountry shelters, and a limited number of cabins and yurts that can be reserved. All sites require fees which are posted at the Golden Gate Canyon Camping page.

    We want to thank 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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ponderosa pine arched over mt galbraith trail with foothills at sunset near denver hike

Mt. Galbraith Loop via the Cedar Gulch Trail

Hiking Mt. Galbraith near Golden, Colorado will spoil you with it's views into two canyons and into the City of Golden. Mount Galbraith is about 25 minutes from downtown Denver, so it makes for a quick escape from the bustle of life in town to take in the fresh air of the foothills. This Colorado hiking trail is a moderate loop great for avid hikers but still accessible for beginners. Explore the full Mt. Galbraith Loop hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure near Golden.

Trail Snapshot: Mt. Galbraith Loop Trail Near Golden

Mount Galbraith

TMt. Galbraith Loop Hike via the Cedar Gulch Trail

The Mt. Galbraith hike profiled here is a lollipop loop, and the out-and-back section of the Cedar Gulch trail starts in Cedar gulch along a stream. I hiked this in the early morning when the sounds of hummingbirds could be heard all along the stream bed. It makes for a perfect sunrise hike.

After crossing the stream, it's a steady, moderate climb with views into Golden Gate Canyon. In the Spring and early Summer, wildflowers will be blooming trailside.

Mount Galbraith view north

The Cedar Gulch trail runs for 1.3 miles skirting the side of Mt. Galbraith until it hits the intersection with the loop. At this point, you can choose to take the Mt. Galbraith loop trail to the left (clockwise), or to the right (counter-clockwise). We recommend taking the clockwise (left) route which will make for a nice shaded downhill hike off the mountain.

Mount Galbraith trail split

Before you hike to the backside of Mt. Galbraith, you'll get some great views into Golden, Colorado with the Coors Brewery dominating the landscape below, and views to the southwest of Clear Creek Canyon. The video below gives a short panorama from the overlook where you can look down into Golden.

As you continue on the Mt. Galbraith, the trail will take you west until you encounter a rock outcrop (pictured below). I scrambled up to the top and got some great views of the sides of Mt. Galbraith and far down into Clear Creek Canyon. If you are hoping to see wildlife, this is where I'd recommend stopping for a while and breaking out the binoculars.

Mount Galbraith rock outcrop

The back side of Mt. Galbraith provides a bit of shade under ponderosa pines. You'll enter a burn area, and that's when the rest of the hikes shifts to going gradually downhill. As the trail enters the canyon again the pines will transition to spruce and fir, and the trail will become more rocky. I talked with a volunteer ranger and he mentioned that this section can be a bit harrowing when it's covered with snow and ice, but on the May morning I hiked it, only small patches of snow were left.

Soon, you'll emerge from the canyon and be back on the hillside. You'll see the familiar trail intersection where you'll want to take a sharp left onto the Cedar Gulch trail which will take you back down Mt. Galbraith to the trailhead.

Mount Galbraith trees

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

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Mt. Galbraith Loop Near Golden

  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • TIP: The Mt. Galbraith trailhead is on the south side of the road. Be aware as you pull out and back onto Golden Gate Canyon Road, as it’s difficult to see cars coming around the bend.
  • TIP: If you’re taking your dog to hike Mt. Galbraith with you, it’s a good idea to bring extra water because there is only one stream at the entrance of the trail and no where else for them to drink. However, after a rain, near the rock outcrop, you should be able to find water pooled the rock alongside the trail.
  • TIP: Bring the sunscreen. Although there are a lot of trees on the western and northern sections of the loop, most of the trail is exposed to the sun.
  • Keep and Eye Out for Rattlesnakes: Like many of the trails in the foothills and along the Front Range, hikers should keep their eyes out for Rattlesnakes as they will often sun themselves to keep warm on the path or along the path.
  • TIP: Take it easy at the beginning of the trail. Hiking Mt. Galbraith is most challenging at the start and the rest of the trail is more peaceful and relaxing after that initial incline.
  • Trail Map for Mount Galbraith Park: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Big Daddy Bagels

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Map & Driving Directions to Mt. Galbraith Trailhead


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White Ranch Sunset Loop Near Golden, Colorado

This loop hike in White Ranch Park is a great escape, a place to watch the glow of twilight on the city of Denver as the sun sets in the West. This Colorado trail is set at the very beginning of the foothills. You'll journey across a tranquil meadow punctuated with ponderosa pine and decorated with Spring and early Summer wildflowers. In the trail profile below, we'll show you how to create what we are calling the Sunset Loop by putting together a series of short trails. To get the details on this hike near Denver, Colorado, scroll down and take a look at the detailed trail profile, map, hiking trail tips, and the video panorama.

Trail Snapshot: White Ranch Park Sunset Loop Trail

Ifyou are looking for a great family hike or for a mountain biking experience in the foothills, White Ranch Park offers you a network of trails, with enough variety to please anyone. There are two parking lots .3 miles apart. The second parking at White Ranch has more capacity. We went on a Friday afternoon and only a handful of folks were on the trails, but we hear that it gets much more traffic on the weekends. The Ralston Buttes, a unique geologic formation, dominates the landscape in the distant northeast region of the park. It's a protected area because of its sensitive ecosystem. Though it's not accessible by trail, you'll get a lot of great views of the Buttes at various points of this loop hike.

White Ranch Loop parking lot
Start your adventure at the second parking lot with the Rawhide Trail.

Rawhide trail lays on the edge of a vast meadow. The complete trail is 4.5 miles long, but to form this loop, you'll only hike a segment, before you join up with the Longhorn trail. It can be tricky to find the Rawhide trail, but it's the first one to the east at the trailhead (on your right, if you are facing the trailhead sign). See the photo just below.

White Ranch Loop Rawhide trail beginning

In the distance you will have a chance to see some old ranch buildings and farm machinery. You can imagine what it might have been like to farm this rugged area perched above Denver. While cattle no longer graze these meadows, White Ranch Park is home to several species of wildlife including elk, deer, mountain lions, bears, wild turkeys, and bobcats.

White Ranch Loop North View Along Rawhide

When you get to the intersection with the Longhorn trail, you'll turn right and enter the second part of the hike. Open meadows are replaced with shade and the distinct perfume of Ponderosa pine as you walk along the trail.

White Ranch Loop Longhorn Trail

The trail itself is pretty clear and very well-kept. After about of a mile of ups and downs with some nice and easy inclines you can stop and enjoy the view before you turn right again and take the Maverick trail.

White Ranch Loop Hiking The Trail

Maverick Trail is good for riders and hikers of all skill levels. It's 0.9 miles long and it is primarily used for hiking. While hiking on this trail your eyes may be drawn to the beauty of the high plains, but watch out for the shallow roots that make their way into this part of the trail. It is not technically challenging but some riders have found themselves on their backs on this segment, and I'm sure a few hikers have tripped.

White Ranch Loop View of North Table Mountain

After some great views of Denver and out to the horizon in the East you will reach the end of the Maverick trail and an intersection with Belcher Hill trail. Turn right on the trail split and take a short path to the next intersection. Looking from right to left in front of you will be three roads - Sawmill trail (0.5 mi) that will take you back to the parking lot where you started your trail, Belcher Hill trail (0.6 mi) and Sawmill trail (0.8 mi) that can take you to Sawmill Hicker Camp. Take the Sawmill Trail to complete the Sunset Loop hike.

White Ranch Loop Sign to Camping area
White Ranch is one of just two Jefferson County parks with campsites.

There are 10 campsites available on this site, each has a picnic table, a metal fire ring, and some food storage poles. Also there is a maximum of three tents and eight people per site. Camping permits are free and valid for a maximum stay of up to three nights. Click here for more details on camping in White Ranch Park and the most up to date regulations.

White Ranch Camping Permits

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 The Sunset Loop at White Ranch Park

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

man painting red rocks at trading post trail in red rocks park near denver with red rocks in background hikes 30 minutes from denver


view west to colorado front range mountains from chimney gulch trail at windy saddle hike near denver

Chimney Gulch Trail at Windy Saddle Park

It's a demanding hike up Chimney Gulch near Golden, Colorado, but the views at the top are worth the workout. This hiking trail crosses streams as it zigzags up the side of local landmark, Lookout mountain. Explore the full Chimney Gulch hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Windy Saddle Park.

Trail Snapshot: Chimney Gulch Trail at Windy Saddle Park

The Hike: Chimney Gulch Trail

Steep - that's probably the best adjective for this hike. The trail is very accessible from Denver - on average, just a 25 minute drive. The trail begins at the base of Lookout Mountain in Golden and weaves it's way to the top, crossing the road twice, to a wonderful mountain vista. It's a perfect place, complete with benches, for viewing sunsets. However, a hike down in the twilight may be pretty difficult to negotiate. The Chimney Gulch Trail joins up with both the Beaver Brook Trail, and Lookout Mountain Trail. See the link to the trail map above for details.

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Chimney Gulch Trail

  • TIP: Because the trail can be narrow and has a lot of mountain bike traffic, we suggest leaving the dog at home.
  • TIP: If you want to start at the top, you can park at the Windy Saddle Trailhead along Lookout Mountain Road. Click for Google map and driving directions.
  • Adjust Expectations: If you are hoping for a quiet, solitary hike, this is probably not the best choice. Because this trail is very accessible and challenging, there is a lot of hiking, running, and biking traffic.
  • For a great detailed trail description: , check out Deb Stanley's Chimney Gulch Trail profile.
  • Trail Map for Chimney Gulch Trail: 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: Cafe 13

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Map & Driving Directions for Chimney Gulch Trailhead


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man painting red rocks at trading post trail in red rocks park near denver with red rocks in background hikes 30 minutes from denver