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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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
Heil Valley Ranch near Boulder offers this rewarding lollipop-loop hike which features views of distant snowcapped mountains and geological features unique to this section of Colorado. Nestled in the foothills between Boulder and Lyons this singletrack trail is a great destination for both hikers and mountain bikers. However, soil erosion has required occasional trail closures, so be sure to check out the Boulder County Open Space Twitter feed for trail conditions. Explore the full Heil Valley Ranch hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in the Boulder County, Colorado.
The Meyers Homestead Hike located in Walker Ranch is an almost perfect family hike near Boulder, Colorado. This 5.2-mile out-and-back hike travels through Meyers Gulch, past the remnants of a historic homestead, to an overlook offering panoramic views of Boulder Canyon and the snowcapped mountains of Indian Peaks. It’s a wide trail through meadows, stands of aspen, and punctuated by ponderosa pine and wildflowers. Explore the full Meyers Homestead hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this trail near Boulder.
The trail up Gregory Canyon is a moderately challenging hike to Realization Point Trailhead where hikers can pick up two different loop trails. Both loops offer expansive views of the Rocky Mountains in the West and wildflowers along the trail. Explore the full Gregory Canyon-Realization Point hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Boulder, Colorado.
Trail Snapshot: Gregory Canyon to Realization Point
Parking & Trailhead Information for Gregory Canyon
Hikers have several parking options for the Gregory Canyon Trail: 1) the Gregory Canyon Trailhead, 2) Parking at Chautauqua Park, or 3) along permitted stretches of Baseline Road. The Gregory Canyon Trailhead can be reached by following Baseline Road in Boulder west past Chautauqua park. Gregory Canyon Road is located on the left/South about 1/2 mile West of the park. Parking is allowed along most of the south side of Gregory Canyon Road and there is room for 7-8 vehicles at the trailhead. Both the roadside parking and the small parking area at the Gregory Canyon Trailhead require an access fee. Because of the fee and because this parking area fills quickly most mornings, many hikers opt to park along Baseline or at Chautauqua Park. Another option is to park at the Realization Point Trailhead (another fee parking area) and to hike down through the Canyon.
The Hike: Gregory Canyon Trail to Realization Point
In addition to its proximity to Boulder, this hike sports a number of options and a variety of landscapes. The stretch between Gregory Canyon Trailhead and Realization Point Trailhead is the main artery of all the options in this profile. Because most hikers will begin their adventure at Chautauqua Park, there are a couple 1/2 mile (one-way) approaches: the Baseline Trail or the Meadow Trail. On the upper end of the hike, at Realization Point Trailhead, there are two different loop options that offer beautiful views to the West of seasonal snowcapped peaks. These are the Rangeview/Ute Loop and the Tenderfoot Loop. You can review each of the hike options below to decide which trail combination is best for you.
View of the Flatirons from the Baseline Trail between Chautauqua Park and Gregory Canyon Trailhead
Gregory Canyon Trailhead to Realization Point Trailhead – 2.4 Miles Round Trip
This segment constitutes the main artery for all the hike options below. The Gregory Canyon Trail begins in the shade along Gregory Canyon Creek and climbs gradually to 0.5 mile where it crosses another small creek. Here the trail becomes more steep, making its way up a ridge via a set of switchbacks. Then the trail descends to a junction. At the junction, the Northern (right) segment leads a short distance up to Flagstaff Road and the Realization Point Trailhead (the destination for this hike as described here), or South (left) to the Long Canyon and Ranger Trails. After hiking the short segment to Flagstaff road, Realization Point Trailhead will be located across the street to the North. Be sure to watch for both cars and cyclists before crossing. If starting at Chautauqua Park and taking the Baseline or Meadow Trails to the Gregory Canyon Trailhead, add approximately 1 mile to this hike, making it 3.4 miles Round Trip.
A View down into Boulder from the Upper Reaches of the Canyon
Gregory Canyon Trailhead to Realization Point Trailhead + Rangeview/Ute Loop – 3.2 Miles Round Trip
After traveling the 1.1 miles up through the canyon to Realization Point, hikers will find two loop options. The first is the shorter Rangeview/Ute Loop. This loop makes a 0.8-mile clockwise circuit around Flagstaff Mountain then joins back up to the trailhead. The loop offers views to the mountains in the West and great viewpoints to take in the changing aspens in the Fall. If starting at Chautauqua Park, add approximately 1 mile to this hike, making it 4.2 miles Round Trip.
Realization Point Trailhead Across Flagstaff Road
Gregory Canyon Trailhead to Realization Point Trailhead + Tenderfoot Loop – 4.7 Miles Round Trip
From Realization Point Trailhead, the Tenderfoot Trail bears to the left (Northwest) and makes for a more demanding loop when compared to the Rangeview/Ute Trail because of both the added distance and the additional elevation loss and gain. At its most northern point, hikers will find a short spur trail leading to a small peak that affords expansive views to the West. If starting at Chautauqua Park, add approximately 1 mile to this hike, making it 5.7 miles Round Trip. By adding the spur trail, it becomes closer to 6 miles total.
Trail Junction for the Two Loop Hikes at Realization Point Trailhead
Both loop hikes afford multiple opportunities for taking in views out to the Rocky Mountains. The photo below was taken along the beginning segment of the Rangeview Trail.
Views of the Front Range from the Rangeview Trail
Video of Gregory Canyon Hike
Gregory Canyon to Realization Point Hike - Boulder Colorado - YouTube
Tips & Resources for Hiking Gregory Canyon
Poison Ivy: The canyon trail segment has a good deal of poison ivy trailside. Be aware and stay the traill
Stay the Trail: Bear and Mountain Lion frequent this area of Boulder. It’s wise to stay the trail and to hike with others.
Hall Ranch, just outside of Lyons Colorado, is a hiking, mountain biking, trail running destination that features red sandstone buttes, vast green meadows, and panoramic views of white snowcapped meadows. Tucked into the foothills near the St. Vrain River, the trails at Hall Ranch are a great escape from life in the city. Explore the full Hall Ranch hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in the Boulder County.
Directions & Trailhead Information for Hall Ranch Hike
Hall Ranch is situated west of Lyons, Colorado about 16 miles north of Boulder. It’s easy to access via the CO 7. There are two trailheads for Hall Ranch. The primary Hall Ranch Trailhead is located off Saint Vrain Drive/CO 7 West, about a mile outside of Lyons. The parking area is located on the North side of the road. This is the best access for most of the hikes and has both restrooms as well as a picnic shelter that can accommodate up to 24 people. The second smaller trailhead is the Antelope Trailhead, located at the end of Antelope Drive just northwest of Lyons. This second trailhead provides access to the Antelope trail, a connector trail described below.
Sandstone Buttes at Hall Ranch
The Hikes: Hall Ranch Hike
There are several options for trails at Hall Ranch:
Nighthawk/Bitterbrush Loop – 9.2 Miles RT – +2480′ – Moderat
Probably the most popular is the Nighthawk Trail/Bitterbrush Loop. The loop starts at the west side of the main trailhead and sports a variety of landscapes: expansive meadows, tall buttes, pinion pines, and 180-degree views at its higher elevations. Starting at the main trail, hikers will soon come to an intersection with the Nighthawk trail and Bitterbrush. For this trail profile, we’ll take a clockwise approach, following the Nighthawk trail westward. The Nighthawk trail makes a steady climb to where it tops out at approximately 7700′ where it offers great views out to Longs Peak and a panorama of Rocky Mountain National Park. Here, hikers will notice an intersection with the Button Rock trail. This 2-mile out-and-back trail is not part of the loop. Staying on the Nighthawk Trail, it will meet up with the Nelson Loop Trail. Hikers can choose to go right or left, both trail segments will link up with the Bitterbrush after approximately 1 mile. Now about 5.5 miles into the hike, hikers will follow the Bitterbrush Trail as it descends for 3.7 miles back down to the main trailhead.
The Nelson Loop can only be accessed by first hiking either the Nighthawk or the Bitterbrush to where they connect up with the Nelson Loop. If you would like to do a lollipop loop hike, we recommend taking the Bitterbrush up to the Nelson Loop, hiking the loop, then returning via the Bitterbrush. This makes for a 9.6-mile hike. The Nelson Loop features the remnants of the old Nelson Homestead just off of the southern segment of the loop.
Nighthawk Trail at Hall Ranch – 9 Miles RT – +1282′ – Moderate/h3>
The Nighthawk trail can also be hiked as a 9-mile out-and-back trail. However, we recommend the full loop above because it’s almost the same total distance and offers a greater variety of landscape. The Nighthawk Trail is hiker-only, so it makes for a great option if you prefer to avoid horse and mountain bike traffic. This trail is our favorite, offering vast meadows of green in the Spring and early Summer with views out to Mt Meeker and other snowcapped peaks.
Bitterbrush Trail – 7.4 RT – +898′ – Moderate
The Bitterbrush Trail is a moderate 3.7 trail that begins at the main trailhead or that can be accessed midway by way of the Antelope Trailhead. Out-and-back, it makes for a 7.4-mile trip.
From the Antelope Trailhead, the 1-mile Antelope Trail takes you west to meet up with the Bitterbrush Trail. Gaining approximately 500′ in a mile, it can make for a great 2-mile out-and-back trail run and provides some unique views not available on the longer trails.
Undine Falls near Colorado Springs is reached via the Seven Bridges Trail in North Cheyenne Canyon. This is a day-use only and family-friendly trail through a canyon to a beautiful slide waterfall. Explore the full Undine Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure near Colorado Springs.
Beauty: waterfall, creek, pine forest, wildlife: deer
Activities: Hiking, photography
Parking & Trailhead Information for Undine Falls – 7 Bridges Trail
The Upper Gold Camp Road Parking area can be reached from Denver by following I-25 South to Colorado Springs, exiting South onto Tejon Street. After about 0.3 of a mile, bear right onto Cheyenne Boulevard. At the fork, bear right onto North Cheyenne Canyon Road. The road will twist and turn through the canyon. After passing the Helen Hunt Falls Visitor Center, the Upper Gold Camp parking area is located about 1/2 mile further up the road and on the left. There are no amenities at this parking area. The trail begins at the gate located on the Northwestern end of the parking lot.
The Hike: Undine Falls Hike
Click to Download the PDF Map
A closed gate near the Gold Camp Road Trailhead on the northwest area of the parking lot marks the beginning of the Undine Falls Trail. This first segment of the hike follows an old dirt road for about 0.7 mile where a trail crosses North Cheyenne creek, taking hikers to the official Seven Bridges Trailhead. This is clearly marked with signage that will point out different hiking options. Aptly named, the trail begins by crossing bridge #1, taking hikers into a beautiful riparian ecosystem full of cascades and aspens. The trail goes in and out of the shade, until it arrives at the seventh bridge. Here, hikers should look for the sign for Trail #622 which, after a short ascent, leads to the best viewpoint to take in the sight and sounds of Undine Falls.
Undine falls is a slab waterfall cascading through a pinch in North Cheyenne Canyon. The best time of the year to view the falls in in the Spring and early Summer seasons when the meltwater is flowing at its best.
Soldier Canyon Falls in Lory State Park is a seasonal waterfall located just a few minutes from the trailhead. Just 25 minutes from Fort Collins, this makes for a pleasant afternoon hike and because Lory State Park has over 20 miles of hiking trails, hikers can easily add additional hikes to their day trip. Explore the full Soldier Canyon Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Lory State Park.
Trail Snapshot: Soldier Canyon Falls Trail in Lory State Park
Activities: Hiking, photography, picnic areas, visitor center
Parking & Trailhead Information for Soldier Canyon Falls Hike
Lory State Park is located about 10 miles West of Downtown Fort Collins, Colorado. To get to the Lory State Park follow the US 287 (from either I-25 or from Northern Ft. Collins to Laporte. Continue west and then turn left onto Rist Canyon Road, and another left onto County Road 23. Drive a little further to take a right onto County Road 25G. County Road 25G leads to the entrance of Lory State Park. The trailhead for the waterfall trail is found at the Timber Group Picnic area where there are both restrooms and parking. This is just past the entrance off of Lodgepole road (follow park signage). As always, be sure to check current road conditions and alerts before traveling.
The Hike: Soldier Canyon Falls Hike
Soldier Canyon occupies most of the northern part of Lory State Park and is just a tenth of a mile from the trailhead. Hikers can pick up the Waterfall Trail behind the picnic shelter. The trail to Soldier Canyon Falls enters a riparian zone covered by massive cottonwood trees. It then crosses a total of three bridges that criss-cross over a Soldier Canyon Creek, then climbs a few steps to arrive at the waterfall’s pool. There is also a quaint cascade viewable from the second bridge. Because this is a seasonal drainage, the best time to view the waterfall is in the Spring and early Summer when the meltwater is flowing.
Tips & Resources for Hiking Soldier Canyon Falls Hike
TIP: There is a visitor’s center near the Lory State Park entrance.
TIP: At the summit of Arthur’s Rock, there is a beautiful view of Horsetooth Reservoir and the Front Range available. Check out our trail profile for Athur’s Rock at Lory State Park.
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Interior fleece headband
Wool knit keeps you warm without being itchy or uncomfortable
What Reviewers Think:
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The inner lining can cause the beanie to shift on your head