snow capped pikes peak in background and orange rock of garden of the gods in foreground

Garden of the Gods Ultimate Hiking Guide

Garden of the Gods is argueabley the best place to hike in Colorado Springs. Designated a National Natural Landmark, the park is known for its towering red sandstone formations and panoramic views of Pikes Peak. Hiking, Horseback riding, mountain biking, birding, and climbing are among the activities that can be enjoyed here. This guide to the Garden of the Gods features 6 different hiking trail options, spanning from easy to moderate and 1/2 mile to 2.5 mile hikes.

We've attempted to create the definitive guide to hiking in Garden of the Gods. In this guide, you'll find: Driving directions to Garden of the Gods, Trail Maps, Photography tips, Camping information for the Garden of the Gods area, and other Resources for planning your Colorado Vacation. This guide to Garden of the Gods is extensive, so we have created a table of contents to help you navigate. Have fun exploring!

Garden of the Gods Hiking Guide Contents

  1. Trail Snapshot
  2. Driving Directions
  3. Hiking Trails
  4. Central Garden Trail
  5. Ridge Trail
  6. Siamese Twins Trail
  7. Palmer Trail
  8. Scotsman & Buckskin Charlie Loops
  9. Balanced Rock Trail
  10. Photography
  11. Hiking with Kids
  12. For Out-of-State Hikers
  13. Things to Do Nearby
  14. History and Geology
  15. Protect Garden of the Gods

Trail Snapshot: Garden of the Gods

Driving Directions to Garden of the Gods

Take interstate I-25 to Colorado Springs. Exit onto West Fillmore Road and head West. Fillmore will change names to Fontmore Road. Take a right onto North 30th Street, and you'll find the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center just 1.2 miles up on the right/east side of the road. We recommend you stop at the Visitor Center to pick up a free color trail map. The main parking area for hiking is located on the North end of the park. You'll find Gateway Road (the access road into Garden of the Gods) directly across from the Visitor Center. Head west on Gateway road, then right at the intersection with Juniper Way Loop Road. The main parking area is located on the left-hand/South side of the first bend of the Juniper Way Loop. There are restroom facilities available at both the main parking area and at the visitor center.

Before you park, consider driving around the entire Juniper Way loop to take in the sites and get your bearings. It's one of the most beautiful drives in Colorado, especially during sunrise and sunset. The loop is one way, has a low speed limit, and is frequented by cyclists. So, it also makes for a great bike ride-- the northbound loop is a gradual but demanding climb. Be attentive to hikers and cyclists as you drive in the park.

6 Hiking Trails at Garden of the Gods

concrete path winding through red rock formations with scrub grasses and juniper trees

Central Garden Trail at Garden of the Gods Steve Walser

Trail Option #1 - The Central Garden Trails

We've put this loop hike first on our list because it takes you right into the heart of the park. It's also paved and wheelchair and stroller accessible. From the parking lot, hikers will head south on the main trail (pictured above). On your right will be the largest of the sandstone Monoliths, North Gateway Rock. The tower on its north end is called the Tower of Babel, and its south end marks the gateway into the famous central valley. But before you enter the valley, be sure to look up at the Kissing Camels formation located at the middle-top of North Gateway Rock.

The loop begins right after you enter through the gateway at the twin spires of Sentinel Rock. Going left will take you on a clockwise circuit around the valley. You'll first pass between the Three Graces and Pulpit Rock before the trail bends to the North. Finally, the trail will bend South and meet back up with the trail that leads back to the main parking lot. There are many other trails that come off of the main loop trail, so bring a map with you if you plan to explore some of the nooks and crannies of the park.

snow covered pikes peak with red sandstone and tree in foreground

View of Pikes Peak from the South End of Garden of the Gods Courtesy of John Kalla


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

Looking for more places to hike with your dog? Explore more Dog-Friendly hikes near Denver by visiting our 25+ Dog Friendly Hikes and our Top 10 Dog Hikes Near Denver.


Trail Option #2 - The Ridge Trail at Garden of the Gods

The Ridge Trail is a short, half-mile loop on the southeastern end of the park. From the parking area indicated in the table above, the trail is located across the street to the left by takign a crosswalk. Before you cross, be aware of cars and cyclists (often the cyclists come around the curves of the park much faster and can take you by surprise). The Ridge trail makes it way to the foot of The Sleeping Giant formation before bending back toward the parking area.

two red rock towers rock formation with pikes peak mountain in background

Siamese Twins Rock Formation - Courtesy of Matt Santamarco

Trail Option #3 - The Siamese Twins Trail

To hike to the Siamese Twins formation, take the trail on the north end of the parking lot that leads North. As you hike, you'll observe a very different landscape to the West, desert terrain that stretches out and up to Rampart Range Road. At the Siamese Twins, be sure to grab a photo of Pikes Peak framed by the window in the rock. Be sure to adjust your camera to take it's light reading from the distant mountain rather than the foreground (on your phone, simply press your screen to readjust the reference point for the lighting and focus). The trail heads South and will pass the parking area as it bends around and back up to it.

garden of the gods colorado springs header

View of Central Garden From Palmer Trail - Courtesy of John Fowler

Trail Option #4 - The Palmer Trail (Chambers/Bretag Loop)

This 2.5 mile loop hike is a great way to take in the full spectrum of terrain and rock formations in the park. The route, as describe below is about 2.5 miles, and mileage may vary depending on the side trails you decide to take. From the main parking area/trailhead, the Palmer Trail can be picked up by crossing Juniper Way directly North of the lot. Heading left/West on the Palmer trail, it will wind around South, roughly following the main road through Garden of the Gods.

To make the loop, at about 1.3 miles on the Palmer Trail hikers will cross Juniper Way at the Scotsman Picnic Area and join up with the Scotsman Trail. It will dips South initally, then heads Northeast to meet up with the trails of the Central Valley. This area can be quite a labyrinth and the best way to pick up the Eastern side of the loop will be to keep an eye out for the gateway, the space between North Gateway and South Gateway Rocks. Once through the gateway, hikers will pick up the Garden Trail, head East, and join up with the Susan G. Bretag Trail, by crossing Juniper Way where it intersects with Gateway Road. Heading North on the Bretage Trail, it will eventually come to a fork. Taking the left-hand/West trail (Palmer Trail) will lead back to the parking lot.

Trail Option #5 - The Scotsman and Buckskin Charlie Loops

These are two loops found just South of the Central Valley area. The parking area is small and will likely be full during most days during the Summer months. One alternative is to begin your hike at the main lot, then pick up the Scotsman trail on the South end of the Valley.

The Scotsman Loop is 1.1 mile in its entirety. Picking up the trail from the Scotsman Picnic ground by following social trails East, the Scotsman dips South then winds Northeast before making a sharp turn South and back to the parking area. Bring your trail map, or have it up on your phone to keep oriented.

The Buckskin Charlie Trail can be added to double your hike. Hikers will pick up the Buckskin Charlie Trail on the southern bends of the Scotsman. The trail winds around until it begins again to head North, following the line of the main road, Juniper way, until it joins back up with the Scotsman and returns home to the Scotsman Picnic area.


above bear lake in rmnp looking to glacier gorge colorado hike finder


giant red rock balanced on rock fulcrum in garden of the gods

Balanced Rock - Courtesy of Chica-Tika

Trail Option #6 - The Balanced Rock Loop Hike

You don't have to hike to Balanced Rock (see driving directions in the table above). In fact, this loop hike is named "the Balanced Rock Trail" only because it is near Balanced Rock, not because it takes you there. For visitors entering through the South end of the park, Balanced Rock will be the first stop, then on to the Trading Post. In fact, the best way to pick up the Balanced Rock Trail is from the Northern end of the Trading Post lot. Hikers will find a connector trail that goes directly from the lot North, crosses the road, and immediately picks up the Balanced Rock Loop trail. Hiking counter-clockwise, the trail follows alongside Garden road, then leads North until it terminates at another section of the road. Hikers can cross the road (watch for cars and cyclists) and pick up the Cabin Canyon Trail across the street. Taking the Cabin Canyon Trail South, it will come to a crosswalk where you can pick the Balanced Rock Trail up again and back to the parking area.

Photography: Great Photos in Garden of the Gods

  • All year round and any time of the day, Garden of the Gods is already photogenic. However, the best times to take photos are during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset when the rock faces are lit up and cast their shadows across the landscape. Going early in the morning will also help you avoid having people in your photos.
  • Snow adds its white contrast during the Winter months and early Spring. If you want a snowcapped Pikes Peak in the background, you'll likely need to get that shot before mid-June.
  • Wildflowers appear most noticeably in April through July.
  • After heavy rains, standing water can form what look like small ponds (but are really giant puddles). These offer the rare opportunity to capture the reflection of the rock formations on water.
  • One classic vantage point is to take your photo from the North End of the Palmer Trail at Sunset. This will give you one of the best photographs of the Central Valley area.
  • For sunrise, a great place to capture Garden of the Gods with Pikes Peak in the background is from the parking area up on Mesa Road that overlooks the park.

Hiking with Kids at Garden of the Gods

  • Hydrate: This goes for adults as well, but is even more important with kiddos. Almost all the trails in Garden of the Gods are exposed to the sun. You're also in a High-Plains Desert environment, so you simply need more water. Then add onto that physical exertion. So, bring water and hydrate.
  • Pack Snacks or Bring a Lunch: Even though the hikes are not long in Garden of the Gods, it always helps to have fuel. Plus, nothing beats finding a great view of Pikes Peak and kicking back to rest and enjoy a picnic.
  • Climbing can result in injury: Having hiked often in Garden of the Gods, I've witnessed people--usually young people--who have climbed up into areas and gotten themselves in a tough spot. Children should know that climbing up into an area is a lot easier than getting down.
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Visiting Garden of the Gods From Out-of-State

  • Download our Hiking Guide for a list of hiking tips, 10 essentials that everyone should pack for their dayhike, and recommended hiking snacks.
  • Free Full-Color Map: Don't get lost. Pick up this freebie at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center information kiosk.
  • Bring Lots of Water: It can be very hot and dry, and there may not be a chance to refill, so bring a full water bottle.
  • Altitude: If you are visiting Colorado from out-of-state, chances ar that it will take you a few days to adjust to teh altitude. The good news about hikes in Garden of the Gods is that they are relatively easy. However, a little exertion at altitude can result in feeling naseauted, winded, and just plain tired. So, don't overdo it if you are not feeling well. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate (because it oxygenates your blood), and get good rest.
  • Camping Near Garden of the Gods

    Camping is prohibited in Garden of the Gods, and it's important to understand that the Park is located in the town of Colorado Springs--it's not a backcountry experience. Those looking to camp will need to explore campgrounds and tent camping options outside the immediate area. However, there is a nearby campground in Manitou Springs that offers cabins, bunkhouses, and RV spots. It's pet-friendly and even offers bike rentals. You can find current rates and more at Garden of the Gods RV Resort. Most of the tent camping is going to be out near Rampart Range Reservoir or further West past Woodland Park, CO.

    Things to Do and Places to Eat Near Garden of the Gods

    History and Geology of Colorado’s Garden of the Gods

    Imagine a prehistoric landscape of sand dunes plunged and crushed into the earth by some violent upheaval involving tectonic and hydraulic forces. That's how the red rock fins of Garden of the Gods were formed in the womb of the earth. Then another cataclysm. The Pikes Peak massif gets thrust to the sky along with the surrounding red sedimentary rock. Some at angles and some perpendicular to the land. Then the forces of wind and water began to wear down the loose rock creating the unusual holes and across the surfaces of the rocks. You'll find these types of rock formations stretching from North of Ft. Collins down into Southern Colorado. Some of the most notable are Roxborough State Park and South Valley Park near Littleton and Red Rocks Park in Denver.

    After his death in 1907, the children of railroad tycoon, Charles Elliott Perkins, fulfilled their father's wishes by donating 480 acres of Garden of the Gods to become a permanent park and free to the public. The park has expanded over the years to over 1,300 acres. The park got its name from a German surveyor mapping out the land in 1859.


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    How You Can Protect the Garden of the Gods Area

    • Stay the Trail: The sandstone in the parks is easily eroded, and because this area sees a lot of visitors the impacts of individuals quickly adds up. So keep on established trails during your hikes.
    • Keep Dogs on a 6' Leash: And be sure to bring bags for picking up after your pet.
    • Pack Out All Trash: It should go without saying but be sure to pick up after yourself. In the last few years it seems that litter along trails in Colorado has grown to be a real problem. Do your part to keep the park and our State beautiful. One of our family hiking habits is to pick up trash as we hike.
    • Climbing and Bouldering: Climbing and Bouldering in Garden of the Gods require both the proper equipment and permits. You can pick up permits at the Visitor Center or online at the City of Colorado Springs climbing permit page.
    • Thanks goes out to Joel Tonyan for his great photo of Garden of the Gods and snow-dusted foothills.
    • Care for the Rock: This should also go without saying, but don't carve or deface the rock in any way.
    • Let them sit and grow: Removing rocks, plants, or animals is prohibited.
    • Mountain Biking: Mountain biking is limited to designated trails.

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cascade waterfall leaping over granite boulders eldorado falls in walker ranch hike near boulder colorado

Eldorado Falls at Walker Ranch

Eldorado Falls is a cascade waterfall tucked back in Walker Ranch near Boulder, Colorado. It's an easy to moderate 1.25 mile hike from the Ethel Harrold Trailhead down to where South Boulder Creek winds through the park and crashes over the boulders blocking its path. Explore the full trail profile below for all the details: tips, trail map, and driving directions to the trailhead.

Trail Snapshot: Eldorado Falls at Walker Ranch

Eldorado Falls can be reached from several different trailheads that tie into the Walker Ranch Loop system. However, the shortest and probably easiest access is by starting at the Ethel Harrold Trailhead. See the directions driving directions links on this page, and be sure to make note of your last couples turns because cell phone services are spotty.

The drive up to the trailhead on Flagstaff Road is a beautiful one, but do be aware of the many hikers, climbers, and cyclists along the road. After Flagstaff road, the two roads that lead to the trailhead, Pika, then Bison, are improved dirt roads. These were recently graded when we visited (early April) and were fine to drive. However, 4-wheel drive is probably necessary during the winter months or after early Spring rains or snowfall. The trailhead parking area has a pit toilet and information board. If you are interested in birdwatching, you'll find a Birds of Walker Ranch Chechlist at the board.

eldorado-falls-walker-ranch-beginning-of-hike

The Hike to Eldorado Falls

The hike begins with expansive views of Walker Ranch and out towards Eldorado Canyon State Park (pictured above). The air was full of the scent of juniper trees, and we found abundant Elk sign in the meadows near the trailhead. The trail winds down to a intermittent stream that was gushing with the early Spring snowmelt. A bridge buried in snow leads across the creek, then the trail skirts the hillside for most of the hike, gradually working its way down to a junction with the Walker Ranch Loop Trail. At the junction, the trail to Boulder Creek and Eldorado Falls is to the right and takes hikers further downhill to a bridge that crosses South Boulder Creek.

looking-down-onto-eldorado-falls-walker-ranch

The sound of water is almost always within earshot, and the chirps of a variety of birds fill the air. Shortly before the bridge, hikers may notice a "To Eldorado Canyon" sign and trail on the left side of the Walker Ranch Trail. This leads to Eldorado Canyon State Park, about 3.5 miles away, but does not lead to the falls. The falls can be found almost immediately after crossing the bridge that spans South Boulder Creek. Here the trail becomes a series of uneven rock stairs that lead to the top of the falls (pictured above is view from the top).

lower-cascade-of-eldorado-falls-walker-ranch

"Eldorado Falls" seems to be a local and unofficial name given to this set of cascades. The trail map simply marks them as "falls." On the back side of the falls, South Boulder Creek seems to disappear under massive boulders that block its path. Here the water slips under the rock then shoots out on the other side in a series of small cascades. The water pools, then pours over another lower falls (pictured above) before returning to calmer waters.

The hike back is mostly uphill, but it's only about a +500' of elevation gain. The park is open in the winter; however, the trail from the Ethel Harrold trailhead down to the Walker Ranch Loop might become difficult to discern after a blanket of snow. So, the ideal times are Spring through Fall.

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

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Eldorado Falls

  • Come Prepared in Spring and Winter: Because the trail is mostly in shade of ponderosa pines, the snow and ice can settle in during both winter and spring. Therefore, we recommend Trekking Poles and/or Traction Devices for this trail (I wish I had brought mine).
  • Exercise Caution Around the Falls: The area around Eldorado Falls is rocky and uneven. The falls is also difficult to photograph because of how it's tucked back into the canyon. For this reason, exercise caution along the slippery rock and near the waters of South Boulder Creek.
  • Trail Map for Walker Ranch: 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
  • After the Hike: Ozo Coffee in Boulder

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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.


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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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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crown hill lake trails header

Crown Hill Lake Trails

Jefferson County seems to turn to gold about every park they touch here in Colorado. Crown Hill Lake Park is a prime example. It's an oasis in the midst of the busy city of Denver. The park has beautiful views of the Front Range mountains, including the Flatirons down in Boulder.

Crown Hill Lake Park has three miles of paved trails and .7 of them are considered ADA accessible, all in the heart of Denver. On the northwest side of the park, you'll find a wildlife sanctuary for migratory birds. Explore the full trail profile below for all the details: hiking trails, trail map, and detailed directions to the trailhead.

Trail Snapshot: Crown Hill Lake Trails

Hikes at Crown Hill Park:

  • Loop Trail - 1.2miles - goes around the lakeside
  • Perimeter Trail - 2 miles - goes around the edge of the park
  • Nature Preserve Trail / Wildlife Sanctuary Trail - .7 mile - Hiker Only and ADA accessible trail
  • Link to the Park's Map

Tips & Resources for Hiking Crown Hill Lake Trails :

  • TIP: It's a busy park, so try earlier and later in the day.
  • TIP: The wildlife preserve is hiker only. No dogs in this area.
  • TIP: There is a lot of multi-use traffic on the trails, so be alert and yield when appropriate.
  • Trail Map for Crown Hill Park: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Danny's Carnation Restaurant
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Kasey Cline for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike.

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canyon view nature trail castlewood canyon header

Canyon View Nature Trail at Castlewood Canyon

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

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

Trail Snapshot: Canyon View Nature Trail at Castlewood Canyon

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

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

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

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lakes loop trail rocky mountain arsenal hike with sunrise on tree beside lake with snowcovered grasses

Lakes Loop Trail at Rocky Mountain Arsenal

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

Trail Snapshot: Lakes Loop Trail at Rocky Mountain Arsenal

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

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

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

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Waterfall Hike in Castlewood Canyon State Park, Colorado

Waterfall Hike at Castlewood Canyon

This may be the most accessible waterfall near Denver. If you hit the right parking lot, it's a 10 minute hike.So, grab a park brochure and find the Northernmost trailhead for the Creek Bottom Trail (Homestead Trailhead). This will add close to 1 mile to your hike. Then you can loop back via the Cherry Creek Trail for a total of about 2 miles.

Trail Snapshot: Waterfall Hike at Castlewood Canyon

Tips & Resources for Hiking to the Castlewood Canyon Waterfall

  • Easy to Miss: 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.
  • Shortest Access: The shortest way to access the falls is by parking at the Waterfall Parking Lot, then taking the Waterfall Spur to the Creek Bottom Trail. Head South, and you'll hear the waterfall in just a few moments.
  • Exposed: Hikes in Castlewood Canyon can be quite exposed to the sun, so bring the sunscreen
  • 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
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Crowfoot Valley Coffee

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

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two women sitting on rock along clear creek trail in golden colorado with bridge in background and green trees

Clear Creek Trail in Downtown Golden

Want a hike to please everyone?The Clear Creek Trail in Golden, Colorado is it! It's got shade, the kids can bring their bikes, and you can finish your hike with a stroll around downtown. We might get some flack for calling this a hike, because it runs through the business district of Golden, CO.But you can wear the soles of your shoes down on this one. Jefferson County even has plans to expand the trail several miles into Clear Creek Canyon. Explore the full trail profile for all the details: hiking trails, trail map, and detailed directions to the trailhead.

Trail Snapshot:Clear Creek Trail in Downtown Golden

When you have small children, some mornings can be harder than others to get through the foothills and into the mountains. This trail is made for those mornings. We like to park downtown, grab coffee at the Windy Saddle, then stroll down the trail. A local training school is often seen near the Washington Street Bridge doing water rescue training. It's highly entertaining and a great opportunity. Visiting family and friends will find this trail accessible, easy, and refreshing.

Echo Lake Trail Near Mt. Evans

Colorado's Echo Lake is looped by an easy hiking trail and serves as a trailhead to even more classic Colorado hikes. When we have friends and family visiting Colorado from out of town, this is one of best destinations for a great views. Go early to Echo Lake to get perfect photos of Mount Evans reflected in the water. Explore the full hike profile below that will give you driving directions from Denver, a trail map, and all the information you need to launch out on this adventure.

Trail Snapshot: Echo Lake Near Mt. Evans

Echo Lake Area

A great Colorado park to take visiting family and friends. It's an hour from Denver and has very short trail, but it's a great place to introduce others to the beauty of the Rocky Mountains and to take in a high Colorado lake. The trail circles Echo Lake and connects to several other trails: Chicago Lakes, Bear Track Lakes trails, which give you access to Mount Evans Wilderness Area which is full of other great hiking trails,and Mt. Evans summit.

echo-lake-colorado-morning
Near the parking area, you'll find a stone picnic shelter which was built in 1937. When the weather is getting hot, it's a great place for a picnic or a wonderful place to break out the hot chocolate on a snowy winter day.

If you are looking for more Colorado lake hikes, be sure to check out our Lake Hikes Near Denver page.

Echo Lake Colorado Camping

There are great camping opportunities at the Echo Lake Campground near the lake. Near the shores is a spruce forest. For detailed information on camping near Echo Lake in Mt. Evans, see the Recreation.gov page.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Echo Lake, Colorado :

  • TIP: Early morning means that Echo lake is still, providing no windy weather, and is a perfect time to photograph or just to observe the rocky mountains reflected in the water.
  • TIP: A nice short Colorado hike can be made by parking at the parking lot (see map above & below), and hiking around the lake to the Historic Echo Lake Lodge. Visit there, then turn around and enjoy the lake on the way back again.
  • TIP: When you finish, drive up to the summit and enjoy the view from the top of Mt. Evans. Or visit Summit Lake Park
  • TIP: One of our favorite day-trips with visitors who are not from Colorado, is to take them to Echo Lake, Mt. Evans Summit (by car), then into Evergreen for Pizza at Beaujos Pizza
  • TIP: In regards to driving to the top of Mt. Evans: We avoid bringing friends who are not in good health. Be sure to have your guests drink plenty of water, and make sure they have had a day or two to get used to the altitude in the mile-high city.
  • Weather: The Weather link below is for Idaho Springs. Weather at the altitude of Echo Lake may be very different, and Weather at the summit will definitely be different. Check this National Weather Service Link for more accurate forecasts.
  • After the Hike: After The Hike: Beaujos in Evergreen
  • Looking for something more adventurous? Try the Chicago Lakes Hike. It starts in the same parking lot.
  • Trail Map for Echo Lake Park: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions