[North Table Mountain in Golden, CO. Photo: BeerAndLoathing] If you enjoy being outside, taking in those scenic views as you get your work out in, and live in the Denver Metropolitan Area, then you should really check out the Old West town of Golden, Colorado. The local hiking trails will leave you feeling spoilt for choice with all the stunning, beautiful day treks.
It is always delightful to hike in Golden at any time of the year. The exuberant greenery exposes the overflowing sunshine and wildflowers in the summer. During autumn, the aspen leaves dancing in the breeze are reminiscent of peaceful childhood memories that will elevate your energies to take on the hiking challenge.
When it’s just about the winter season, the massive 12,000 acres of open space will leave you with a sense of solitude. Undoubtedly, Golden offers some of the most stunning hiking trails that suit all magnitudes of expertise. There are all levels of difficulty that give everyone the chance to be outdoors and get their bodies moving.
The top hiking trails in Golden, CO, in no particular order, include:
Trails in Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Less than a one-hour drive from Denver and Boulder, Golden Gate Canyon State Park is quite an unimaginable spectacle to behold. It’s located about about 28 miles from Downtown Denver. The state park offers more than 30 miles of hiking trails with some of the most reachable backcountry camping breaks near Denver.
Full of seasonal creeks and wildflowers, Golden Gate offers some of the most picturesque views from the headlands that expose the snow-capped and lead-blue rocks of the Rocky Mountains. Fortunately for you, the park is open all year round with snow covering the trails from as early as October through May.
Golden Gate Canyon State Park is one of the treasures of Colorado’s vast park network. Located right into the northwest foothills of Golden, the park is easily accessible from the plains and the Peak to Peak Highway, which provides nothing but great hiking, mountain biking, camping, snowshoeing, and wildlife viewing. Interestingly, the park’s 11 trails are named from animals native to this area and have been assigned the creature’s footprints.
Raccoon Loop Trail in Golden Gate Canyon State Park
The Raccoon Trail is a short loop that starts by the brick outhouse just beside the parking area at the popular Panorama Point. It’s a relatively easy hike at only 3.5 mile roundtrip.
Getting There: To get there in detail, from Golden, follow Colorado 93 north for about 7 miles up to the junction with Coral Creek Canyon Road (CO 72). From there, turn left/west and follow the winding road for 7 miles up to the intersection with Twin Spruce Road.
Turn left again onto Twin Spruce and go for another 2.7 miles to a junction with Gap Road. Turn left to follow Gap Road for miles until you arrive at the state park self-pay fee station. You won’t miss it because the road turns to dirt. After paying up, go west on Gap Road for 3 miles to the parking area for Panorama Point. For convenience, ensure that you carry exact change at the fee station and be prepared to pay $8 per vehicle, per day.
Trail Route: The trail, which is considered fairly moderate, commences with some beautiful views of the snow-capped Indian Peaks extended across the western sky. Then you will see views of Thorodin Mountain and Starr peak taking over the landscape as the trail winds to the east and crosses a seasonal brook. Raccoon trail gently descends into aspen groves and green meadows covered by wildflowers.
The trail gradually goes into a more mature stand of aspens where a steep descent begins. Hikers will have to watch their footing on the loose gravel and rock surface on the trail. Just after this short descent, the trail passes another brook over a small footbridge where one climbs a bit further west before having a sharp turn to the south.
Just after the brook, you’ll encounter the closure approximately 0.5 miles of the trail. Luckily, these closures are announced at the front page of Golden Gate Canyon State Park’s website.
Be extra cautious when you’re walking the road and avoid cars. There are sharp turns that you can pick up on when going down the trail until the road reaches a stop sign. The detour will be about 1 mile from the original hike, making it a 3.5 mile loop hike.
The last section is fairly moderate in difficulty as it as a slight elevation to it. This hike is great for friends, family with a dog-friendly policy as long as the dog is on a leash.
Trails in Jefferson County Open Space Parks
The front range towns of Golden, Morrison and Evergreen are lucky enough to share access to the 28 parks within the Jefferson County Open Space. The impressive park system is one of the Metro’s best, showcasing over 52,000 acres of Rocky Mountain wilderness and 210 trails.
Visitors are welcome year round to enjoy the park’s multi-use trails, which depending on the specific trail, could be open to hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians. Winter brings cross country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities.
White Ranch Sunset Loop in Jefferson County Open Space
45 minutes away from Downtown Denver, this loop hike in White Ranch Park is a spectacular place to watch the sunset in the west as you view the beautiful glow of the twilight. The trail commences at the foothills where one journeys through a peaceful meadow surrounded by ponderosa pine and decorated with spring and early summer wildflowers.
If you’re looking to walk your dog, take your family for a hike or mountain biking, White Ranch Park offers a variety of trails to suit everyone. There are two parking lots that are 0.3 miles apart with the second one having more capacity. The Ralston Buttes cover a majority of the landscape in the distant northeast region of the park.
Trail Route: You’ll find great views of the Buttes at various points of the loop hike. As you start your adventure at the second parking lot at Rawhide Trail, prepare to walk 4.5 miles long. You have to walk just a segment before joining the Longhorn Trail so as to form the loop. The Rawhide trail is the first one to the east at the trailhead if you face the trailhead sign.
You will be able to see some old ranch buildings and farm machinery at a distance. To top it all, White Ranch Park is home to wildlife such as deer, mountain lions, bears, elks, turkey and bobcats.
When you reach the Longhorn trail intersection, turn right and get to the second part of the hike. You’ll see a very clean and well-kept trail where you can walk the easy inclines for 1 mile and stop to enjoy the view before turning right and taking the Maverick trail.
The 0.9 miles Maverick Trail is great for riders and hikers of all skills. After some great views of Denver and the horizon in the East, you’ll reach the end of the trail and meet an intersection with Belcher Hill trail. Turn right on the split and take the short path to the next intersection. There will be three roads that will take you back to the parking lot where you started out. Take the Sawmill trail (0.5 miles) to complete the Sunset Loop Hike.
Trails in Table Mountain Park
Just 12 miles from the skyscrapers in Downtown Denver, this park is accessible via Highway 93 north of Pine Ridge Road (4758 Highway 93). It’s roughly a mile from where 93 and Clear Creek Canyon (US 6) meet in Golden. As the sun rises over the North Table Mountain, you’ll see the mesa rising above the town of Golden. An expansive network of trails is ready for hikers, mountain bikers and photographers to come and explore.
Located a 25 minutes drive from the capital, North Table Mountain showcases the perfect hike when you have limited time but you still want to unwind with some fresh air. Even though the trails are accessible all year round, the best time to hike the Table Mountain is during spring and early summer when the wildflowers are blooming.
North Table Mountain has several points of access with parking areas being the most of them. There are 6 different areas you can park with free parking and bathroom facilities.
Dog lovers can breathe a sigh of relief as the park allows dogs to be taken for a leashed walk. There are also mountain bikers who use the trails, however, it’s important to note that during summer, North Table Mountain gets very hot and there are no sources of drinking water on the trek.
North Table Mountain Park offers great views of Denver on the east side and into Golden on the west and south sides. When hiking to the north side of the park, there are splendid views of Boulder’s Flatiron Mountains in sight. The park is a habitat for a few deer families, which are pretty used to seeing humans around. Photographers will love it here, especially during the sunrise and sunset moments.
The North Table Loop Trail
Considered the shortest route, the loop trail starts with a wide path and a stretched out ramp all the way to the top of the mesa. It can be difficult getting up there but once you get to the top, the path levels off and it becomes much easier to hike.
Trail Route:: As you leave the parking lot, go south of the North Table Loop trail for 0.7 miles until you arrive at a trail intersection. Turn left onto the Tilting Mesa trail. Follow the Tilting Mesa Trail and hike on it until it intersects with the North Table Loop trail once more. Turn left and take the North Table Loop trail as it skirts the sides of North Table Mountain and takes you all the way back to the trailhead.
The North Table Loop Routes
Covering about 6-8 miles, the loop routes combine a tour of the top of Table Mountain and a hike around the perimeter. For those looking for more of a challenge over the above hike, consider this one.
Trail Route: The starting point is the same as the loop trail where you can start by taking the North Loop for 0.7 miles until you reach the Tilting Mesa Trail. Follow this trail until you reach the first unmarked intersection and then turn right.
On the next intersection, turn right again onto the Mesa and in about 0.6 miles, you will come towards a trail intersection with the Rim Rock Trail, which is usually closed seasonally from March 1st through July 31st. Continue with the 6 mile Mesa Top Trail until it intersects with the North Table Loop Trail that takes you all the way back to the west side of the mountain and to the parking area.
The Golden Cliffs Trail
Golden Cliffs Preserve is an access point to North Table Mountain Park located north of Hwy 58 and the Coors Brewery.
Getting There: From Downtown, take I-70 west to Hwy 58 west and exit at Boyd Street. From there, follow Boyd Street to the right up to Mesa. At Boyd, make another sharp right turn and get to Plateau Parkway. Here, turn left onto Peery Parkway and follow Peery as it veers right and leads to the end of the road and the trailhead. You’ll see a large parking area when you get there.
If you’re a climber or just looking for a shorter hike, take North Table Mountain trail up to the Golden Cliffs Trail. This area is actually a rock climber’s dream. Access Fund, a non-profit dedicated to ensuring access for rock climbing, purchased the site of the preserve for rock climbing purposes.
Trail Route: From the trailhead and huge parking area, the trail switches back up to the North Table Mountain into some steep spots. One gets to have an up-close experience with the unique geology at the base of the cliffs. There are some areas where you can climb up past the cliffs to reach the top of the mesa. Breathtaking views are what you will see as you look down on Golden, the Coors Brewery and out towards South Table Mountain and Lakewood’s Green Mountain.
After 1 mile of following the base of the cliffs, the trail directs you up to the top of the mesa. From here, you can turn back the same way you came or make a loop out of the hike. For the loop turn right on the North Table Loop or Golden Cliffs Trail to climb down through the cliffs and meet up with the Preserve Trail.
From boosting fitness to improving mental wellbeing, hiking in Golden will always leave you looking forward to the weekend. The amazing landscape and native environment will make anyone yearn to strap on their finest boots, grab some walking poles and head out on a trek. You’ll be surprised how much this Jefferson County town has to offer.
A stroll with your dog in the wild trails of Golden will kill that boredom off and keep him/her mentally and physically stimulated. Whether you’re in it for a serious hike or a calm experience, the trails at Golden, Colorado has everything for every type of person.