Booth Creek Falls is a 60-foot waterfall located in the Eagles Nest Wilderness near Vail, Colorado. The journey to the waterfall requires a strenuous, 2-mile hike along the banks of Booth Creek. Explore the full Booth Creek Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure near Vail.
The Shanahan Ridge Loop Hike is an easy, 4-mile lollipop-loop trail with stunning views of the Shanahan Ridge of the Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado. Explore the full Shanahan Ridge Loop hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this hike in Boulder.
Trail Snapshot: Shanahan Ridge Loop Trail in Boulder, Colorado
The Tarryall Falls Trail is a short, 1/4 -mile hike across a small canyon to a waterfall that pours into Tarryall Creek. The slopes of snow-capped peaks along Boreas pass make for a majestic backdrop against the contrasting sage grasslands of surrounding South Park.Tarryall Falls draws its waters from the Tarryall Reservoir, a popular camping and fishing destination here in the high-plains. Explore the full Tarryall Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure near Jefferson, Colorado.
Ridgeline Open Space is nestled in the Meadows residential area of Castle Rock. This network of over 13 miles of trails winds through elevated grasslands and gamble oak with a backdrop of distant snow-capped peaks of the Front Range. Hike it or bike it for a quick escape from the work week. Explore the full Ridgeline Open Space hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Castle Rock.
Trail Snapshot: Ridgeline Open Space Trail near Castle Rock, Colorado
The St. Vrain Mountain trail is just a 3-mile hike into Indian Peaks Wilderness to stunning views of the rocky peaks of Wild Basin. Hike up and additional 1.5 miles from the RMNP boundary to the summit of St. Vrain mountain for 360-degree panoramic views of a wildflower-laden wilderness. Explore the full St. Vrain Mountain hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more.
The Butler Gulch Trail near Berthoud Falls is a moderately difficult out-and-back trail with a balance of shade on the first half and then above treeline with spectacular views of peaks and wildflowers all around. Activities here include stream crossings and steep climbs, and one can visit an old mine above the treeline. This is also a great snowshoeing hike during winter and is a well-known skiing destination. Explore the full Butler Gulch hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure near Berthoud Falls.
Trail Snapshot: Butler Gulch Hike
Approx 5 Miles Round Trip
Moderate (difficult in Winter)
Approx 3.5 hrs
Out and Back
June to September; October to May for Winter Trail Conditions
The Trailhead for Butler Gulch is about 1 hour West of Denver via Interstate 70. Take the exit for Hwy 40/Winter Park (easy to miss) through Empire (be alert for reduced speed limit) up to where US 40 makes a sharp bend to begin climbing up the mountain toward Berthoud Pass. Just before this turn, there is a left-hand turn to take for the Henderson Mine Road. Follow Henderson Mine road for about a mile. It will pass the mining operation and the parking area is just past the mine on the left. The main parking area is the first one you will encounter and it’s large. A smaller one is about .25 mile up the road (the road is 4WD after the first lot) is small and fills fast. We recommend parking in the first lot as it is maintained and this will prevent damage to the trailhead.
The Hike: Butler Gulch Trail
From the parking area, hike the 4WD road for about 1/4 mile to where the trail splits. There should be signage here at the fork indicating the Jones Pass Trail goes to the right, and the Butler Gulch Trail goes to the left. Soon, the trail begins to climb through mixed forest of spruce, fir, and aspens. After approximately one mile, a mountain stream nears the trail, forming a quaint meltwater waterfall (right side of trail).
Soon, the trail emerges from the trees into a landscape of snow-capped mountains. This bowl will be replete with wildflowers in the early weeks of Summer. At this point, hikers are exposed to the elements, and during the Summer months, lightning storms can come up without warning in the afternoon. So, keep an eye on the sky. Winter travelers should be alert to avalanche conditions.
Here in the bowl, the trail has come to about 2.5 miles and a hike back will make this a 5-mile round-trip adventure. Hikers can add a strenous hike up the nearby ridgeline to gain panoramic views on the Continental Divide. When I hiked this in April of 2016, tracks were evident that led past the remains of old mining equipment along the ridge. At the top, the views are absolutely beautiful. It’s a great place to take in hundreds of miles of changing aspen trees in the Autumn. The trail map link for Butler Gulch in this post is not the best. Because of this we recommend The Latitude 40 Summit County Trails Map.
Tips & Resources for Hiking Butler Gulch Hike
Gear: Bring your trekking Poles. And be sure to wear traction devices like YakTrax in the Spring and early Summer..
Bugs: Because of standing water there may be mosquitos in the summer months.
The Bear Canyon Loop Hike near Boulder, Colorado is a beautiful trail that spans wide open spaces and meadows near National Center for Atmospheric Research. The Bear Canyon Loop is a relatively easy 3.3-mile loop that features some of the best views of the Flatirons in Boulder. Explore the full NCAR Bear Canyon Loop hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure near Boulder.
Canyon, Creek, Wildflowers, Meadows, Wildlife: Mule deer
Hiking, Photography, Birding, Running
Parking & Trailhead: Bear Canyon Loop Trail
The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Trailhead is located about 40 minutes North of Denver. From Denver, follow U.S. Route 36 to Boulder. Take the exit for Table Mesa Drive and follow it West. It will wind through a neighborhood to the end as it winds through the neighborhood and past Bear Creek Elementary School. The road will turn into the Drive for NCAR which winds up and around to a large parking area at the lab.
The Hike: NCAR Bear Canyon Loop Trail
From the NCAR Parking area, hikers can pick up the NCAR trail just West of the main entrance to the building. The trail heads West, over a small ridge, past a water tank, then to a fork in the trail. Both the left and the right fork are considered the NCAR trail and both will lead to the Table Mesa Trail–but the left fork is shorter. At approximately 0.7-mile into the hike, the NCAR Trail will intersect with the Table Mesa Trail. Straight through takes hikers up on a 0.8-mile hike up to Mallory Cave, but for this loop hike, the correct way is to go left/South onto the Table Mesa trail. This first stretch provides some incredible views of the magnificent Flatirons Formations of Boulder. This trail segment heading south goes in and out of a forest grove, then the trail comes to its second important intersection.
At the Bear Canyon Trail intersection, take a left onto the Bear Canyon Trail which follows Bear Creek as it descends East. At about 1.5 miles into the hike, you’ll encounter another fork. You can cut off about 1/4 of a mile of the trail by taking the left-hand segment. But the right-hand trail provides more pleasant scenery along the creek. The trail will near a neighborhood then bend to the North. This straight 0.7-mile stretch follows along the Eastern boundary of NCAR. Eventually, it meets up with the NCAR trail, which will lead back on a 1/2 mile stretch to the parking area.
Tips & Resources for Hiking the NCAR Bear Canyon Loop
Wildlife Aware: Like many of the trails in the Boulder area, keep alert because mountain lions and black bears frequent the area. Know what to do if you encounter a Mountain Lion or a Black Bear.
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!
Red Rocks, Views of Pikes Peak, Wildflowers, Meadows, Aspens, Wildlife: Mule Deer, Whitetail Deer, and Bighorn Sheep.
Hiking, Biking, Running, Horseback Riding, Rock Climbing (in approved areas with permit), Camping, Visitor & Nature Center, Free Guided Nature Walk, Geo-Trekker Movie, Outdoor Scavenger Hunt.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 lotl
Trail Option #5 – The Scotsman and Buckskin Charlie Loops
Scottsman Loop Approx. 1 Mile; Scotsman+Buckskin Charlie Approx. 2 Miles
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.
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.
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
Hikes in Colorado Springs will take you to some stunning waterfalls and through the red rocks of Garden of the Gods with the snow-capped backdrop of Pikes Peak filling against a blue sky. Because Colorado Springs is situated right at the base of the foothills, there are many trailheads right within the city limits. You can be out of the car and on the trail in a matter of just a few minutes. If you live in the Denver area, Colorado Springs is located just 1 hour south of the city center.
The hike to Catamount Falls is a moderate 2.8 mile loop hike about 25 minutes outside of Colorado Springs. This waterfall hike takes hikers to three different waterfalls and over two different creeks that spill down from the heights of Pikes Peak. It makes for a great weekend adventure, coupled with a great opportunity for brunch at the Pantry in ... View Trail Info
Helen Hunt Falls in Colorado Springs is a 35 foot waterfall requiring only a short walk from the parking area. For a longer and more demanding hike, visitors can take the 4 mile Columbine Trail from the bottom of Cheyenne Canyon to Helen Hunt Falls. This strenuous option affords and experience of the rich ecosystem of this canyon at the ... View Trail Info
Hikes in Colorado Springs will take you to some stunning waterfalls and through the red rocks of Garden of the Gods with the snow-capped backdrop of Pikes Peak filling against a blue sky. Because Colorado Springs is situated right at the base of the foothills, there are many trailheads right within the city limits. You can be out of the ... View Trail Info
The hike to Rainbow Falls is a short easy walk to the waterfall and a historic bridge. Rainbow falls is located in Manitou Springs, just west Colorado Springs. The waterfall and bridge had been neglected for decades, but the area is now being restored by local government and local citizens. Explore the full Rainbow Falls hike profile below for trail ... View Trail Info
The hike to Seven Falls in Colorado Springs follows a paved canyon trail 0.8 mile to this famous tiered waterfall. After severe damage by the floods in 2013, the Broadmoor Resort purchased the property and has made significant improvements, including trail and site repairs, as well as creating an on-site restaurant. As in the past, there is an access fee ... View Trail Info
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. Trail ... View Trail Info
Thanks goes out to sctkirk for the beautiful image of Garden of the Gods.
The Herman Gulch Trail is one of the best summer wildflower hikes near Denver. It’s also a challenging winter snowshoe and is often used for cross-country skiiing. The Herman Gulch Trail is a 2.5 mile (one-way), out-and-back adventure into snowcapped mountain country and provides access to many more trails in Arapaho National Forest. Explore the full Herman Gulch hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
Trail Snapshot: Herman Gulch Hike, Colorado
Approx 5 Miles Round Trip
Moderate (difficulty in Winter)
Approx 3.5 hrs
Out and Back
June to September; October to May for Winter Trail Conditions
The Herman Gulch Trailhead is located about 20 miles west of Idaho Springs via I-70. From Denver, it’s about a 60-minute drive but can take around 1.5 hours in winter ski traffic. The trailhead is located right off Exit 218 by taking a right onto Watrous Way. There are restrooms available at the trailhead. As with all trailheads, but especially those right off the interstate, be sure that your valuables are out of site and locked up. The trail is located in the middle of the parking area, just to the left of the restroom.
The Hike: Herman Gulch to Herman Lake
From the parking lot, the initial trail segment is steep. But be encouraged, while it’s not an easy hike, the trail becomes more gradual as it gains elevation into the widening valley of Herman Gulch. At the trail intersection early in the hike, the trail to Herman Gulch will bear to the left, and a trail that leads to Waterous Gulch will lead to the right. Staying on the Herman Gulch Trail, it will weave in and out of the trees into small meadows with Herman Creek and many meltwater rivulets cascading across the landscape.
Winter may not release its grip on Herman Gulch until mid-summer. For example, all the photos in this trail profile were taken during the first week of June, so prepare for the snow to get increasingly deeper as you progress further on the trail. For this reason, we recommend trekking poles and traction devices for your boots. Also, be aware that at this elevation, thunderstorms often come up quickly on Summer afternoons, bringing dangerous lightning, especially in the open areas of the higher elevations. For this reason, and in order to avoid crowds, it’s wise to begin your hike early in the day.
The trail eventually emerges from the trees into a broad alpine landscape where a series of rock cairns leads the way to Herman Lake. This final segment is steep and demanding. The lake is located in a wide bowl beneath the lofty reaches of Pettingell Peak. The lake may be snow-covered through much of June, depending on late-season snowfall. In the early and mid-summer, a series of small meltwater cascades make their way down along the western mountainside into the lake. Be sure to stay the trail as you will be in a fragile alpine ecosystem.
Herman Gulch in the Winter
Herman Gulch is also a popular snowshoeing and cross-country skiing destination. December to March offer the best snowpack for these activities. It’s a very different experience when snow has piled up in Herman Gulch and it’s even more critical that those venturing into this area have packed their 10 essentials and are dressed appropriately. There are two avalanche chutes on the right-hand side of the trail about 1 mile into the hike that hikers should keep in mind (see ORIC winter map). During this season, do not go above treeline into the higher reaches as these are very much prone to avalanches. It’s also important to bear in mind that snowstorms can come up very quickly, even in Spring and Fall, reducing and even eliminating visibility. So be aware and be prepared. Snowshoeing travel speeds are about 1 mile per hour, depending on the person, which is half of hiking speeds. Adjust your travel times accordingly and for early darkness of winter.