Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Located only about 30 miles outside of Denver, Golden Gate Canyon state park consists of over 12,000 acres of varying terrain to go along with 35 miles of hiking trails. With a wide variety of activities to choose from, this is an awesome park to explore no matter what time of year that you choose to visit!

Here are some quick details about my hike there:

Date of Hike: April 14th, 2019      

Miles Hiked: 11.65

Trails Hiked: Horseshoe, Mule Deer and Coyote Trails

Trail Conditions: Snow covered in the morning and quite slushy in the afternoon

After paying the $8 dollar entrance fee, I proceeded to park at the Horseshoe Trailhead. I got there around 7 AM and before long I found myself hiking in complete solitude up the Horseshoe trail in mostly snow and ice.

Trail conditions for most of the journey.

After a short while, I reached Frazer Meadow and took in the view. At this point, I took the Mule Deer trail and started to make my way to the Panorama Point overlook.

An opening through the trees leading to the meadow.
Looking south while standing in the meadow.

During this portion of my hike, the snow on the trail was quite deep. This probably had to do with the fact that most of the trail was shaded, except for several random spots that were few and far in between.

Going up the Mule Deer Trail.

After what seemed like an eternity, I finally made it to the overlook. The view of the mountains along the Continental Divide was absolutely remarkable!

View from Panorama Point!
Another view from Panorama Point.

After spending a considerable amount of time at the overlook, I decided that it was time to continue my hike. So I began my descent from the overlook while remaining on the Mule Deer trail and soon found myself going in and out of Aspen trees again. This part of my hike would end up being the easiest part of the whole day.

The trail with Aspen trees all around.

Once I reached the Bootleg Bottom parking area, I decided to see just how difficult the Coyote trail actually is. On the park map, the trail is listed as being in the most difficult category. And it definitely lived up to that! At first, it was rather mellow with just some normal switchbacks.

The lower part of the Coyote Trail.

Before long, I found myself face to face at an awesome part of the trail that requires you to ascend a rather rocky slope as their is no defined trail. Instead, their are markers that you follow that simply say Trail on them. That part of my hike was by far my favorite.

Coyote Trail at Golden Gate Canyon State Park.
The beginning of the steep portion of the Coyote Trail.
The terrain I encountered.
At the top looking back towards the bottom.

After reaching the top, I then went back onto the Horseshoe trail in order to return to the trailhead that I parked at earlier. As it was afternoon now, more people were beginning to hike. Having been at the park since just after the sun came up, I was simply ready to call it a day.

Until next time!

Staunton State Park

I’ve always found comfort in visiting Staunton State Park. Their is just something about this place I can’t get enough of. The large rock formations, the stunning vistas, coupled with the hiking trails make for a remarkable experience at any time of the year that you visit.

With it being awhile since I’ve been here, I decided to make the trip on a recent early Saturday morning. With it being a mix of sun and occasional snow throughout the day, it turned out to be yet another enjoyable hike.

Here are some more details:

Date of Hike: April 13th, 2019

Miles Hiked: 15.5 Miles

Trail Conditions: Muddy at lower elevations and still snow covered higher up over 9000 feet

To start out, I parked at the Mason Creek trailhead and began my journey into the woods. The night before left a fresh new coating of snow on the trees that made it seem quite welcoming. With very few people around, I spent most of this hike in complete solitude.

Heading up the Mason Creek trail.
Shortly before the end of the Mason Creek trail.

Once you get to the end of this 4.5 mile one way trail, you reach the junction of the Border Line trail as well as the Old Mill trail. In addition to that, some old outbuildings can still be found here today. From this point, I proceeded onto the Border Line trail in order to reach the Staunton Rocks Overlook.

A look at the old bunkhouse.
Some nearby debris.

Once I reached the Staunton Rocks Overlook a mile later, it looked as if some light snow was moving in which significantly limited the visibility. On a clear day though, the view is quite splendid.

View from the Staunton Rocks Overlook.

Once I got done taking a quick break, I continued on with my hike and headed down the rest of the Border Line trail to meet up with the Bugling Elk trail. At this point, I was determined to reach the Elk Falls Overlook no matter what. The sun was also beginning to peek through from time to time through the clouds.

Looking back up the Border Line trail.

From the beginning of the Bugling Elk trail, it’s only a short 1.1 mile hike to Elk Falls pond. This portion was all downhill until you reach the pond and was extremely icy.

Ice covered downhill stretch of Bugling Elk trail.
Frozen over Elk Falls Pond with snow quickly approaching.

Upon reaching the pond, I continued onto the Elk Falls Overlook. With every step that I took, the snow was beginning to fall more and more rapidly. With that being said, it was impossible to see the waterfall from the overlook that day. Aside from that, both the views and the solitude were absolutely remarkable.

Elk Falls Overlook area.
Another view from the overlook area.

After a short time, I retraced my steps and made it back to the junction of the Border Line and the Bugling Elk trails. From here, I decided to take the more direct Staunton Ranch trail to eventually get back to my car. But not before admiring the amazing scenery of course.

One of the small switchbacks on the Staunton Ranch trail.
Snow finally stopped!

If you’ve never visited this park, I highly recommend that you do! The scenery does not disappoint and it’s absolutely worth paying the state park fee to visit.

Cheers!

Lory State Park

Located just west of Fort Collins, Colorado, Lory State Park provides its visitors with some spectacular scenery and remarkable views. On January 12th, I arrived around 10:30 to find the trails and mountains snow covered thanks to the snowstorm that came through the previous day.

Upon parking at the Homestead Picnic Area, I briefly planned out my hike which would later turn out to be a little bit over 6 miles round trip. Nonetheless, it was late enough in the morning that the snow was beginning to melt in the open areas revealing a significant layer of mud. Before long, I was on my way up the Well Gulch Nature Trail taking in the views of both the mountains and the reservoir. I wasn’t exactly sure how nice the weather was going to be, but it actually turned out to be a peaceful afternoon with some sun and scattered clouds.

Horsetooth Reservoir is on the other side of the ridge.
Towards the beginning of the Well Gulch Nature Trail.

With the birds starting to chirp more and more, I reached the intersection of the Overlook Trail and began to get some better views of the Horsetooth Reservoir. I enjoyed this part of my hike because it had a mixture of both open spaces and wooded areas that looked like they would have some enjoyable stream crossings during the spring and early summer months.

In addition to that, the elevation was pretty easy going and featured only some small up and down hill sections. Something else to keep in mind is that if you go during the warmer months out of the year is to watch for both mountain bikers and those who are riding horseback as well and to yield accordingly. I didn’t have to worry about that this time around because the trails were only open for hiking due to the muddy conditions.

The intersection of the Well Gulch Nature Trail and the Overlook Trail.
The snow covered Overlook Trail.
The higher up you go the better the views of Horsetooth Reservoir become!

The end of the Overlook Trail leads right into a trail leading you to the summit of Arthur’s Rock. Specifically, you will find yourself embarking on the Arthur’s Rock Trail which seemed surprisingly short to me as being a mere 1.7 miles to the top if you start at the actual trailhead. For me, it was even shorter than that as I came onto the trail about three tenths of a mile in. However, the switchbacks provide you with a great workout and I definitely felt it the next day.

Aside from the beautiful views, this might have easily been the most slippery trail that I’ve hiked in a long time. But the scenery and breathtaking views at the top always make the struggle seem worthwhile. Regarding the most difficult part of this hike, I would have to say that it was the part right before the summit of Arthur’s Rock. It was pretty much like walking up steep and slippery steps with pretty much nothing to grab onto in case you fall. With that being said, it would be wise to have great traction if you plan on doing this hike in the winter months.

Arthur’s Rock coming into view.
Not too far from the summit at this point.

Despite going up less than a thousand feet in total elevation, it feels like you are much higher than the 6,780 foot summit of Arthur’s Rock. The views at the top were truly remarkable because you see both dramatic views of the reservoir as well as snow drifts that are several feet deep as well. For even better views, you can even climb the rocks a little bit higher up. Although I was only up there for several minutes, it was really humbling and reminded me why I love hiking and all of the amazing things you can experience while out exploring nature.

Because I only saw a smaller portion of this park, I do plan to revisit at a later time to potentially camp at one of the backcountry campgrounds and explore some of the other trails.

Other Important Information

The entrance fee for Lory State Park is $8 for a day pass that expires at noon the following day. With 26 miles of trails in the park, you can also find plenty more options for hiking at nearby Horsetooth Mountain Open Space as well as the trails that are located in close proximity to the reservoir itself.

Cheyenne Mountain State Park

To start off 2019, I made an excellent decision to hike to the top of Cheyenne Mountain via the Dixon Trail located within Cheyenne Mountain State Park in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It was quite a physically demanding 17 plus mile hike that lived up to all the warnings that are posted about it.

For being the very beginning of January, the weather was quite warm and for about 90 percent of this hike I didn’t even need to wear a winter coat as it was at least 60 degrees. With that in mind, it pretty much took me over seven hours to complete this hike but I was up to the challenge and was determined to complete it before sunset and to capture some remarkable photos throughout the day.

This Buck crossed the trail within ten feet in front of me!

At the beginning of the trail, you’re encouraged to sign in on a clipboard to let the park staff know what trail or trails that you plan on hiking in the event of an emergency. After briefly filling in that information, I then proceeded onto the Sundance Trail to begin my journey. After only maybe ten or fifteen minutes into the hike, I encountered a huge white tail deer that I definitely did not expect to see up close that morning. It was so close to me I could have reached out and touched. Additionally, I was even close enough to count all ten of the points it had on its antlers. Shortly after that, I came upon two more deer laying down among some trees.

It was definitely a perfect day for an adventure!

After stumbling upon several more deer, I turned onto the Talon Trail. This particular part had a decent amount of ice and snow packed on it. However, most of the snow was in the areas that were shaded and had a significant amount of tree coverage. A little bit later, I took a short side trail to find an overlook area that allows you to get a good glimpse of Cheyenne Mountain more up close.

Cheyenne Mountain from a scenic overlook area.

Upon completing portions of the Talon and North Talon Trails, I came to the junction of the Dixon Trail on a small hill. Although it definitely did not seem like it, I had already hiked 3.3 miles at this point. A big warning sign is posted at the very beginning of this trail warning you about what to expect and to be prepared for the conditions of the trail. Take this stuff seriously because you do not want to be without an adequate supply of water and food because this hike is extremely demanding. Always watch the sky for possible changes in the weather too.

Something that I really liked about the Dixon Trail was that it was well marked and easy to follow. The trail is marked in half mile increments in both directions to let you know how much further that you have to go. The first several miles are primarily switchbacks that were snow covered with several areas that were somewhat rocky. At this point, really notice that you are starting to go up in elevation. Once you reach the 2.5 mile mark of the trail, you will come to a huge turnaround area designed for bikes and people riding horses to turnaround. You will notice yet another warning sign that alerts you to the steepness of the remaining two miles of the Dixon Trail before you finish your ascent and continue onto the Mountain Loop Trail.

Some of the scenery heading up the Dixon Trail.
The warning sign at the 2.5 mile mark.

Continuing on, the trail does get much steeper as previously mentioned by the warning sign. However, this did not seem to phase me at all because the scenery just kept getting more amazing with every step. With it being a clear morning, I could see the large snow capped peaks to the southwest that looked absolutely breathtaking. I was so amazed by the scenery that I simply had to stop and have lunch for about twenty minutes and just take it all in. It’s really difficult to capture just how beautiful places are because sometimes pictures just simply are not enough. You have to be there to experience it all firsthand to truly understand. After lunch, I continued up the trail and started to run into some much deeper snow as well as some wreckage from a small plane crash that happened quite some time ago.

The view of the surrounding mountains.
The snow was starting to get deeper with each step.
The plane wreckage right next to the trail!

After a short time, I reached the end of the Dixon Trail. However, I ultimately made the decision to keep going and add on the Mountain Loop Trail because I wanted to see just how deep the snow was at the top of Cheyenne Mountain. And I was not at all disappointed! With no footprints to follow, I pretty much relied on looking for the little trail markers and flags used to mark the trails at the top. I did fall several times due to it being both very slippery and also muddy in certain areas. Before long, I found myself going through snow drifts and areas that had knee high snow. Despite the conditions of the trail, the views of both the surrounding mountains and Colorado Springs down below really made me glad that I completed this long hike.

View from the Mountain Loop Trail looking south.
Beautiful picture of the snow and the drifts atop Cheyenne Mountain.
The Mountain Loop Trail going through the snow and trees.
Looking down towards Colorado Springs.

As the day progressed, it started to get cloudy and so I started to descend back towards the trailhead. When all was said and done, I made it back probably about fifteen minutes before it started to get dark. Overall, I’m very glad that I took advantage of the warm weather for January to get out and hike this trail.

Other Important Information

The cost for a day pass to enter the park is $8 and is valid until noon the following day. You might hear artillery fire on this hike as Fort Carson is located right across the street from the park entrance. On the Mountain Loop Trail, you will also notice various no trespassing signs due to the fact that the land nearby is owned by the United States Government. You can find more interesting information about the Cheyenne Mountain Complex by clicking here.

Roxborough State Park

If you’re looking for a cool and unique hike near Denver, then look no further than Roxborough State Park. I have always enjoyed this park because it is one of those places that is both beautiful year round and also makes you realize just how amazing nature truly is. And the red tilted sandstone formations are just an added bonus too!

Carpenter Peak Trail

One of the first hikes that I can remember doing in this park was the Carpenter Peak trail back in July 2016. Since the park is located at the edge of the foothills, the hike to the summit is relatively moderate with a steady elevation gain. From the parking lot to the summit, the elevation gain is a little over a thousand feet.

View from the parking lot.
Towards the beginning of the trail.
Looking back towards the sandstone rock formations.
View from the summit looking east out over the plains.
From the summit, looking west towards the mountains and the sight of the endless wilderness.
Looking towards Denver.
Heading back through the trees.

And once you get to the summit, the views are quite remarkable. Off to the northeast and the east, you can get a pretty good view of Denver as well as the surrounding plains. Although the summit is only 7,160 feet, it still feels like you are much higher up considering that the skyscrapers in Denver look so tiny and insignificant.

Meanwhile, off to the west you have nothing but an endless view of trees and mountains that is just so comforting to see and it really makes this hike a rewarding one. Something else worth mentioning is that this trail connects to several other trails nearby including the Waterton Canyon trail which is the beginning of the 486 mile Colorado Trail which runs from Denver to Durango.

Although the views are magnificent, there are also several other things to keep in mind. Depending on the time of year, it’s important to keep an eye out for rattlesnakes as I’ve had an encounter with them nearly  every time that I’ve been on this trail. Mountain lion sightings are also somewhat common and their is even a sign on the trail to give you a heads up about them as well. The amount of wildlife is definitely plentiful here as I’ve also seen herds of deer and coyotes too. Aside from the wildlife aspect, the park also has several signs posted in various spots to let you know what time the park will be closing for the day so you can plan your hike accordingly.   

Fountain Valley Trail

Another unique hike is the Fountain Valley Trail. This trail is a relatively easy loop that is family friendly and is just a little over two miles long. It also has the Fountain Valley overlook and the Lyons overlook which are so breathtaking to the point that the state park allows you to have your wedding ceremony held at either one of them for a fee. Both are amazing but I personally liked the Lyons overlook the best because it just kind of comes up out of nowhere and provides you with a spectacular view of the entire valley. 

View from the beginning of the trail.
Looking south from the Fountain Valley Overlook.
Putting in perspective the size of the rock formations!
The view further down the trail.
And yes an old homestead of sorts can be found on this hike too!

Things to Remember

As a part of the state park system in Colorado, a day use fee must be paid prior to entering the park which currently sits at $7 but will soon be raised to $8 beginning in 2019. The best times to go are during the week or early in the mornings on weekends because parking definitely goes fast! Lastly, you always want to make sure that you are properly prepared for the weather conditions and any wildlife that you may encounter.