Apex Park

Overview

A mountain biker’s mecca, Apex park has some very popular trails that won’t take you hours to reach. The park is located right outside of Golden near the Heritage Square parking lot. The restroom facilities are top notch and there is ample parking at the Colfax area lot along with extended spaced for those taking their Centaur friends out for a nice day on the trail. While we are on the topic of mystical creatures it’s important to note that you should feel free to bring your dog to the park but please do remember that the “Chocolate Fairy” leaves lots of bags in the area and no one wants to confuse your best friends dinner remnants with a glorious bag of free chocolate. The northern section of the park houses a protected area for butterflies and during the spring and summer you can gather some stunning pictures of butterflies doing butterfly type things. The tree cover in the park is sporadic so high exposure is likely on the trails within this park, plan accordingly and wear something to protect you from the sun.

Road Tolls in Apex Park
Road Tolls in Apex Park

9.6 miles of trails

Park Details

  • Hiking on all trails
  • Mountain biking on all trails (There are specific directions of travel on a few trails for Mountain bikers  on odd numbered days. Make sure you follow the signs.)
  • Centaurs Equestrians
  • There is a protected butterfly area along the Grubstake trail
  • Clean odor free restrooms
  • Dogs allowed but must be leashed
  • Ample parking
  • Park open 1 hour before and after sunset
  • Drinking or drug use in the park is prohibited
  • Weapons are not allowed
  • No overnight camping
  • Trails are well marked
  • No entrance fees

Emergency contacts:

Jefferson County Sheriff’s office @ (303) 277-0211

If the event is life threatening dial 911

Quick Reference Map

Downloadable map of the area can be found at Jefferson County Parks Free GPX files can also assist in planning your next hiking trip.

Argos Trail

Rocky path looking at Green Mountain
Rocky path looking at Green Mountain
Difficulty Rank (1 – 10)5 (Moderate)
Views Rank (1 – 10)6
Distance0.6 miles
Time Needed12 Minutes

Details:

  • Connects with Pick N Sledge, and Apex trail
  • Mountain bikers must follow specific directions of travel on certain days. Signs on the trail will indicate what you need to do.

Trailhead: S – Apex Trail | R – Argos

Trail Highlights:

  • Views of Denver
  • Views of Golden
Green Mountain from Apex Park
Green Mountain from Apex Park

Review:

When you start off in Apex park you are quickly presented with a couple hiking options, following the Apex trail which runs the length of the park, or taking the Argos trail for the first portion of the park. If you are looking to hike the park’s northern trails and looking for less tree cover and views of the Denver and Golden area, Argos will be a more efficient route than taking Apex to Pick n sledge, and up to the trails in the northern section of the park. The trail is moderately steep and nearly entirely exposed on the west side of the mountain. The trail is well marked and easy to follow with only a couple switchbacks.

Apex Trail

Difficulty Rank (1 – 10)5 (Moderate)
Views Rank (1 – 10)6
Distance2.6 miles
Time Needed1 hour

Details:

  • Connects with Argos, Pick N Sledge, Hardscrabble, and Enchanted Forest trails.
  • Mountain bikers must follow specific directions of travel in sections of this trail. Signs on the trail will indicate what you need to do.
  • Most of the hikes in the Apex park connect to this trail.

Trailhead: Starts at the parking lot

Trail Highlights:

  • Runs along Lena Gulch
  • Treed valley with a lot of natural beauty
Apex Trail
Apex Trail

Review:

This trail is moderate with a fair amount of elevation gain in places, but with enough flat hiking to not wear you out too much. Lena Gulch runs the length of the trail offering you ample opportunity to view wildlife partaking in the life giving waters that flow down the valley. Certain times of year will also offer a spectacular display of both wildflower and cactus in bloom. When hiking this trail keep in mind that it is very popular even on the weekdays, due to it being an absolutely beautiful hike and also being very close to Denver. I highly suggest you follow the trail to the end and take the Enchanted forest trail back to its junction with the Apex trail near the halfway point. All of the trails in this park are well marked and you should have no problems with navigation.

Apex Spur Trail

Difficulty Rank (1 – 10)4 (Easy)
Views Rank (1 – 10)5
Distance0.2 Miles
Time Needed5 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting Trails: Apex Trail
  • Short trail that can be used to connect with the Lookout Mountain Nature Center and Preserve

Trailhead: S – Lookout Mountain Road. or S – Apex trail | R – Apex Spur Trail

Trail Highlights:

  • Views of the valley
  • Ability to connect with different parks

Review:

This ohh so short spur trail runs from the junction of Apex trail and Enchanted Forest trail up to Lookout Mountain road, where just a short saunter down Lookout Mountain Road and a left onto Colorow Road will let you jump on the Lookout Mountain Trail. From there you can connect with the trails in the Lookout Mountain Nature Center and Preserve. For those that have to ask YES it is entirely necessary to saunter the entire way to the Nature Preserve. Remember this is a mystical area and I cannot be held responsible for those that deviate from the required gait.

Enchanted Forest

Enchanted Forest trail
Enchanted Forest trail
Difficulty Rank (1 – 10)5 (Moderate)
Views Rank (1 – 10)8
Distance1.4 miles
Time Needed30 Minutes

Details:

  • Connects with Apex and Hardscrabble trails.
  • Mountain bikers must follow specific directions of travel on this entire trail. Signs on the trail will indicate what you need to do.
  • Connects to the Apex trail in two places to form a loop trail.

Trailhead: S – Apex | L – Enchanted Forest

Trail Highlights:

  • Thick beautiful forest
  • Lena Gulch
Tangled roots on trail
Tangled roots on trail

Review:

This trail is very appropriately named, as soon as you start to see the signs you will feel as though you are being transported into another world. There is plenty to see and lots of small forest creatures enjoying the shade and protection of the forest. While there are some rather steep inclines in portions of this trail over all it is not too strenuous, and I have seen many a wee human frollicking under the shady cannopy of the forest. There are a couple of creek crossings that are mild and should be crossable without getting wet.

Hardscrabble

Difficulty Rank (1 – 10)5 (Moderate)
Views Rank (1 – 10)5
Distance0.3 miles
Time Needed7 Minutes

Details:

  • Connects to Sluicebox and Apex trail.
  • Little tree cover

Trailhead: S – Apex | R – Hardscrabble

Trail Highlights:

  • Great aerial views of the valley

Review:

Given the name one would anticipate a real struggle on this trail, but the elevation gain is moderate and not to technical at any given point. The modest tree cover along this trail creates several great spots worthy of a rest and gander upon the valley below, but the trail is in my opinion less difficult than most of the other trails that make up the northern section of the park.

Sluicebox

Difficulty Rank (1 – 10)7 (Moderate)
Views Rank (1 – 10)6
Distance0.7 miles
Time Needed14 Minutes

Details:

  • Connects to Hardscrabble, Pick N Sledge Bonanza, and Grubstake trails.
  • Technical if you are mountain biking
  • Steep
  • Little tree cover

Trailhead: S – Apex | R – Sluicebox

Trail Highlights:

  • Technical rocks for mountain biking
  • Fairly steep

Review:

Several switchbacks make up the core of this trail snaking up the side of the mountain. The elevation change is strong and the tree cover weak, so if it’s a hot day you will be getting your sweat on. The trail is more technical than some of the other trails in the park, but if you are hiking there is nothing too demanding about the trail aside from the elevation gains.

Pick N Sledge

Difficulty Rank (1 – 10)7 (Moderate)
Views Rank (1 – 10)6
Distance1.6 miles
Time Needed36 Minutes

Details:

  • Connects with Argo, Grubstake, and Sluicebox trails

Trailhead: S – Apex | R – Pick N Sledge

Trail Highlights:

  • Views of the remains of Heritage Square

Review:

Some technical sections with a good variety of hill climbs and flats make this a great trail for both hiking and biking. There is a fair amount of tree cover once you near the top of the mountain, but most of the trail is exposed so a hat or sunscreen is a good idea if you are taking this trail.

Grubstake

Difficulty Rank (1 – 10)5 (Moderate)
Views Rank (1 – 10)6
Distance1.0 miles
Time Needed32 Minutes

Details:

Connects with Sluicebox, Pick N Sledge, and Bonanza trails

Trail Highlights:

  • Forested on the north west portion of the trail

Review:

Grubsteak is a great trail if you are looking to make a loop trail with some elevation gains. Fortunately this trail has some tree cover towards the middle of the hike, which gives some relief from the sun on those warm summer days. There is a healthy population of Ebert squirrels in the area messing about, and the forest is beautiful at the top of the mountain where this trail runs. The forest is very similar to the Enchanted Forest Trail, but not quite as dense or steep.

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White Ranch Park

White Ranch Park Overview

White Ranch Park has everything you need for a great day and relaxing night complete with free camping near Denver. While most parks covered in these posts do not allow overnight camping this is one of the two exceptions to the rule. As far a hiking goes there are amazing trails all over this park, and enough of them to keep you going for quite some time. The scenery on the trails is great and the views of Denver and North Table Mountain are memorable to say the least.

White Ranch Park Free Camping

If you are looking for some good free semi primitive camping there are two walk in tent only campgrounds within this park that are available to those who have obtained a free permit from the Jefferson county parks office during normal business hours. The park does provide firewood, clean pit toilets (within walking distance of the campsites), non potable water to put out fires, and nice pads for tents, there however is no hammock camping allowed. There are some very reasonable rules and regulations to follow that can all be found on their web site Jefferson County Parks

20.9 miles of Trails

White Ranch Park Details

  • Camping allowed in park with free permit
  • Hiking allowed
  • Mountain Biking allowed
  • Centaur Equestrian use allowed
  • Dogs allowed but must be leashed
  • Ample parking at both lots
  • Park open one hour before and one hour after sunset
  • Drinking or drug use is not permitted in the park
  • No weapons allowed
  • Trails are well marked
  • No entrance fees

Emergency contacts:

Jefferson County Sheriff’s office @ (303) 277-0211

Camping Permit availability (303) 271-5925

If the event is life threatening dial 911

Belcher Hill Trail

Wood foot bridge leading into White Ranch Park
Wood foot bridge
Difficulty Rank7 (Hard)
Views Rank7
Distance Rank4.4 Miles
Time Needed0 Minutes

Details:

  • Connects with Mustang, Whippletree, longhorn, Sawmill and Round Up Loop Trails.
  • Steep at times
  • Decent tree cover

Trailhead: S – East parking lot

Trail Highlights:

  • Views of Denver

Review:

Beginning Beltcher Hill from the lower lot will require crossing through several gates to get to the park. This area is surrounded by private property sporting massive houses, at one point you will need to cross over a driveway to regain the trail. Once you pass a valley with a small stream you are back within the park, and the fence slowly begins to gets farther away from the trail. The first section of the trail is steep, but not overly demanding. Once you round the bend and the lifestyles of the rich and the famous retreat from view, the trail begins to get rocky and steep again. Upon reaching the trail junction with Mustang trail, Belcher trail becomes less strenuous. Continuing on from the three way junction with sawmill trail the path becomes quite steep and the views go from good to great.

Whippletree

Difficulty Rank4 (Easy)
Views Rank7
Distance Rank0.6 Miles
Time Needed13 Minutes

Details:

  • Connects with Belcher Hill, and Longhorn Trails.
  • Fairly flat trail
  • No much for tree cover

Trailhead: East Lot | S – Belcher Hill | R – Whippletree

Trail Highlights:

  • Views of Ralston Reservoir

Review:

After a nice little climb of belcher hill from the east parking lot you have the chance to jump onto the Whipple tree trail and take in some nice views of Ralston reservoir and the view of the Front Range as is stretches out towards Boulder. The trail is not difficult to hike and there is little in the way of tree cover to shade you from the sun or block your view.

Longhorn Trail

Difficulty Rank7 (Hard)
Views Rank7
Distance Rank3.1 Miles
Time Needed0 Minutes

Details:

  • Connects with Shorthorn, Belcher hill, Maverick and Rawhide Trails.
  • Sporadic tree cover
  • Steep most of the way

Trailhead: Belcher Hill Lot | S – West side of the Rawhide Trail | R- Longhorn Trail

Trail Highlights:

  • Fantastic views of Ralston reservoir
  • Canyon rocks views are great

Review:

Lots of jagged rocks and plenty of steep terrain make this a technical trail if you are on a mountain bike. The views like most the rest in the park are great. The trail is steep for most of the climb, but not so steep that you will be using three points of contact or struggling to keep your footing. While there are some trees along the trail there is a fair amount of exposure so sunscreen and an ample supply of water will be much appreciated along this hike.

Shorthorn

Difficulty Rank5 (Moderate)
Views Rank5
Distance Rank1.1 Miles
Time Needed26 Minutes

Details:

  • Connects with Longhorn Trail
  • Mild tree cover
  • Not as rocky as Longhorn
  • Not as steep as Longhorn

Trailhead: Belcher hill parking area | S – Rawhide trail | R – Longhorn trail | R – Shorthorn trail

Trail Highlights:

  • Views of North Table Mountain
  • Views of Denver

Review:

The Shorthorn trail lacks the incline and rockiness that the Longhorn trail has, but the views are similar and you still get a good bit of cardio along the way. There is a fair amount of tree cover along this trail as you weave in and out of the trees to meet back up with the Longhorn trail, but the forest is not so thick that you will be missing the view from the trail.

Mustang Trail

Difficulty Rank 7 (Hard)
Views Rank6
Distance Rank2.5 Miles
Time Needed95 Minutes

Details:

  • Connects with Belcher Hill, and Sawmill Trails
  • Steep in places
  • Good tree cover

Trailhead: West parking area | S – Rawhide (western) | L – Belcher Trail | C – (Strait) Mustang Trail

Trail Highlights:

  • Beautiful forest
  • Seasonal stream

Review:

Mustang is a fantastic trail if you are looking to make a nice forested loop in the park’s lower section. Due to its location and connection to other trails it will surely be mixed in if you are combining trails to make a grand loop hike. The views are great as you travel through the valley and wrap around back to belcher hill trail. The trail is steep but not as rocky strewn as some of the trails in the northeastern portion of the park. There is strong tree cover for most of the trail so exposure is not too much of a problem.

Round Up Loop

Difficulty Rank5 (Moderate)
Views Rank5
Distance Rank0.4 Miles
Time Needed7 Minutes

Details:

  • Connects with Belcher Hill Trail
  • Minor elevation change
  • Mostly treed

Trailhead: East parking area | S – Belcher Hill Trail | R – Round-up Trail

Trail Highlights:

  • Mountain Meadow views
  • Strong tree cover

Review:

This short little u trail will give you a chance to jump off belcher hill relax and slow the pace a little. The views are decent from the trail and the tree cover is not too shabby if I do say so myself. The trail is narrow and some tall grasses flank the trail on both sides below the forest canopy, so if  you happen to encounter someone else on this trail someone will need to step off as there is not enough room for two people to pass shoulder to shoulder.

Sawmill Trail

Difficulty Rank 5 (Moderate)
Views Rank7
Distance Rank1.4 Miles
Time Needed30 Minutes

Details:

  • Connects with Belcher Hill Trail
  • Light tree cover

Trailhead: Belcher Hill parking area | S – Sawmill Trail

Trail Highlights:

  • Camping with permit in designated sites along this trail.
  • Beautiful Meadow views
  • Great views of North Table Mountain and Denver

Review:

Sawmill Trails upper portion is a very easy stroll with some great views of Denver. The path starts as a single track running through a sea of grasses dancing across the horizon with the wind. If there are clouds in the sky they tend to make intriguing shapes over the northern sections of the park that are tucked farther into the mountains, and along Ralston Butte. Upon reaching the trees Sawmill curves to the left and becomes a road, a little farther down the trail as you round the corner, where Belcher Hill trail intersects sawmill trail. The trail sweeps to the south west and stays wide to accommodate parks trucks used to deliver firewood, and water to the free campsites. Once you pass the free campgrounds the trail begins to narrow again and has slight more elevation change until it terminates at the junction with Mustang trail.

Maverick Trail

Difficulty Rank5 (Moderate)
Views Rank7
Distance Rank1 Miles
Time Needed20 Minutes

Details:

  • Connects with Longhorn Trail and Belcher Hill Trails.
  • Low to Moderate tree cover

Trailhead: West parking area | S – Picnic access trail | R – Longhorn Trail | R – Maverick Trail

Trail Highlights:

  • Good views
  • variety of lovely scenery

Review:

One mile of sweet hiking connects the eastern sections of park trails to the western section of park trails. The elevation gains/losses are not as significant as some of the other trails in the park, but there is enough there to keep the heart thumping when you are traveling at a decent pace. The trail is not as rock strewn as some of the trails on the eastern portion of the park, but there are still a couple minor obstacles to negotiate. If you are hiking this trail in the winter there are some portions of the trail tucked into the more northern faces that are likely to accumulate snow early and hold onto it longer becoming a little slick.

Rawhide Trail

Difficulty Rank 7 (Difficult)
Views Rank8
Distance Rank5.4 Miles
Time Needed144 Minutes

Details:

  • Connects with Longhorn, Wranglers Run, and Waterhole Trails.
  • Decent tree cover
  • Trail starts off wide and turns to single track

Trailhead: S – Belcher Hill parking area

Trail Highlights:

  • Several minor water crossings
  • Great views of Ralston reservoir
  • Fantastic views of the rock cliffs near Ralston reservoir

Review:

The Rawhide trail begins as an easy stroll with some epic mountain views from the bowl shaped area between the surrounding mountains. This section of the park must make some interesting air flow higher up, because the clouds here form interesting shapes. The trail is wide, easy to follow, and can easily facilitate travelers bidirectionally. By the time you reach the Waterhole trail the path narrows down and the trail becomes more difficult, but the views get a whole lot better. To the northeast of the trail lays the Ralston butte towering over Ralston reservoir, which comes into view on the more eastern portion of the trail. There are a few areas along the eastern half of the trail , after the second junction with waterhole trail, where if you are riding a mountain bike you may need to get off the bike and walk over a few of the obstacles.

Wranglers Run

Difficulty Rank5 (Moderate)
Views Rank5
Distance Rank0.3 Miles
Time Needed6 Minutes

Details:

  • Connects with Rawhide Trail
  • No tree cover
  • Not very steep

Trailhead: S –  Rawhide trail | R or L Wrangler Run depending on direction of travel

Trail Highlights:

  • Small Creek along south of the path

Review:

If you are not looking to venture into the northern reaches of the park the Wrangler run trail is a great option to loop you back around to the parking area again. The trail is short with no tree cover and rests in a valley feed with a little creek. Near the junction with the east side of the Rawhide trail there is a small thicket that is filled with the songs of birds during the warmer seasons.

Waterhole

Difficulty Rank5 (Moderate)
Views Rank5
Distance Rank0.3 Miles
Time Needed12 Minutes

Details:

  • Connects with Rawhide Trail
  • Decent tree cover

Trailhead: S – Rawhide trail | R or L – depending on direction of travel

Trail Highlights:

  • Camping in designated spots with prior free permit
Picnic table at free campsite close to Golden Colorado.
Picnic table at free campsite

Review:

Mostly used as a connecting trail for the campsites (Number 7 is my favorite). The first section of the trail if you are coming from the farther north reaches of the park, leads down into a little meadow that is quickly overtaken by trees. As you enter the trees there will be a fork in the road/trail, that serves as an access road for the parks department. You will want to veer to the right and follow the trail as it hides in the trees just outside the reaches of the meadow. As you round the turn and rise through the forest you will start to come across the camp sites. If you continue the trail you will come to the second junction with the Rawhide trail and the restrooms. There is also a large map of the park near this junction.

Betasso Ranch

Overview

Betasso Ranch Nature Preserve is a must visit if you are looking for a great place to hike near Boulder. The park has a variety of trails ranging in difficulty, most with a fair amount of tree cover, and one with a lovely mountain stream. For those with an acrobatic flare climbing is a popular activity that is enjoyed within the park. If you are looking for an excellent spot for a nice picnic this nature preserve will be sure to please with several vary large shelters.

8.8 Miles of Trails

Park Details

  • Hiking
  • Mountain Biking on most days (Mountain bikers are not allowed on all trails or in all directions.)
  • Centaurs Equestrians
  • Dogs are allowed on a leash
  • Open Sunrise to Sunset
  • Picnicking
  • Hunting is not permitted
  • Weapons are not allowed
  • Camping is prohibited
  • Drinking or drug use is not permitted
  • No entrance fees

Emergency contacts

Boulder County Ranger District @ (303) 541-2500

Boulder Parks and Open Space @ (303) 678-6200

If the event is life threatening dial 911

Quick Reference Map

Trail maps can be downloaded from Boulder County, and as always our free GPX files are also available for trip planning.

Canyon Loop Trail

Difficulty Rank6 (Moderate)
Views Rank6
Distance Rank3.2 Miles
Time Needed145 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting trails: Bummer Rock and Loop Link Trails
  • Loop Hike
  • Good Distance
  • Good Workout
  • Mountain Bikers need to follow the directional signs

Trailhead: S Lot Link | R or L on Canyon Loop Trail

Trail Highlights:

  • Views are good
  • Beautiful Pine forest and mountain prairies

Review:

Canyon loop trail is a hefty hike with lots to look at. While the views do not reach as far as they do in some of the other nearby parks they are still worth taking in. The trail is not overly strenuous, but will be a good workout. Being over three miles you will want to make sure you have plenty of water especially on warm days, and apply sunscreen before you hit the trail.

Bummer Rock Trail

Dead Tree on top of Bummer Rock in Betasso Preserve
Dead Tree on top of Bummer Rock
Difficulty Rank5 (Moderate)
Views Rank7
Distance Rank0.3 Miles
Time needed to hike7 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting trails: Lot link trail
  • Centaur and Hiker only man’s best friend can come too
  • Climbing

Trailhead: Starts at the parking area

Trail Highlights:

  • Great views of the front range
  • Great views of Boulder

Review:

Bummer rock is no bummer man, this trail while short has a good amount of elevation gain and some stellar 360 degree views from the summit. This is a popular place to climb and there is some hardware already on site, I don’t believe you are allowed to add new hardware here. Other than that the trail is easy to follow and has a good amount of tree cover until you reach the top where there are some really cool boulders to climb around on.

Betasso Link Trail

Difficulty Rank8 (Difficult)
Views Rank6
Distance Rank1.3 Miles
Time Needed30 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting trails: Canyon Loop trail
  • Very steep
  • Strong tree cover
  • Technical ride

Trailhead: starts at the parking area off highway 119 or the last parking area in Betasso park.

Trail Highlights:

  • Great workout

Review:

Looking for a grueling 1.3 mile hike to get you ready for the easy stuff in Betasso park? This trail is very steep with several switchbacks along the way. The forest is tall and provides a fair amount of cover from the sun, while the valley you will be hiking in blocks most of the wind. The lower parking area is small with only enough room for half a dozen well parked cars so stopping here to enter the park might not be an option during peak times.

Benjamin Loop

Difficulty Rank6 (Moderate)
Views Rank6
Distance Rank2.3 Miles
Time Needed70 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting Trails: 4 Mile link trail, and Loop link trail
  • Loop hike
  • Good tree cover most of the trail

Trailhead:Start at one of the parking areas off Fourmile canyon Dr. S – 4 Mile Link | L- Benjamin loop

Trail Highlights:

  • Beautiful forest

Review:

If you are planning on riding this trail you will want to pay close attention to the directional markers and know that there are certain days that you cannot ride in this park. When I do come to hike here I generally tend to pick the direction of travel that will allow me to meet mountain bikers head on. Mostly so I can practice the mad matador skills I picked up while writing my last trail guide. But in all seriousness I find it easier to get out of the way of mountain bikers when I can see them. Not that you will be looking for them per se because the forest on this trail is very beautiful and thick for most of the two and a half miles.

Loop Link Trail

Mountain prairie in Betasso Preserve
Mountain prairie in Betasso Preserve
Difficulty Rank5 (Moderate)
Views Rank6
Distance Rank0.7 Miles
Time Needed11 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting trails: Benjamin Loop and Canyon Loop
  • Short interconnect trail
  • Lite tree cover

Trailhead: Start at the Canyon Loop parking area

Trail Highlights:

  • Connects parking areas

Review:

There is really nothing to say about this trail, it connects two of the parking areas in the park. It is not steep and there is little in the way of tree cover.

4 Mile Link Trail

Foot bridge in Betasso Preserve near Boulder Colorado
Bridge in Betasso Preserve
Difficulty Rank7 (Moderate)
Views Rank7
Distance Rank0.8 Miles
Time Needed15 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting trails: Benjamin Loop
  • Short hike
  • Good tree cover
  • Stone Steps on trail

Trailhead: S On Street Parking

Trail Highlights:

  • Short connection trail
  • Creek
  • Stone steps up to road parking

Review:

There is a small parking pull off on the side of 4 mile canyon road, however there is a sign there stating that parking is for emergency and authorized vehicles only. The couple times I have hiked in this park I have seen people parked on the side of the road in other locations farther up and down the road so that may be an option for you. The hike is pleasantly tucked into the forest so sun and wind exposure is minimal. The trail is not very steep and there is a great bench by 4 mile creek where you should stop to take in the sights and sounds.

Heil Ranch

Overview

Heil ranch went through a controlled burn recently and the signs of the work performed are evident. There are  several swaths of trees along the wapiti trail and Ponderosa trail that are standing dead with the traces of licking flames on the trunks. There is a wealth of stacked stone buildings within the park boundary from time past that have fallen under the hands of time. Be on the lookout for wildlife as the area is teeming with creatures both large and small.

For current trail conditions and news visit Boulder County’s


14.6 miles of trails 

Park Details:

  • Hiking
  • Mountain Biking
  • Centaurs Equestrians
  • Dogs are not allowed in this park
  • Picnicking
  • Open Sunrise to Sunset
  • Picnicking
  • Hunting is not allowed
  • Weapons are not permitted
  • Camping is prohibited
  • Drinking or drug use is not allowed
  • No entrance fees

Emergency contacts:

Boulder County Ranger District @ (303) 541-2500

Boulder Parks and Open Space @ (303) 678-6200

If the event is life threatening dial 911

Quick Reference Map

Rocky Overlook in Heil Ranch Park
Rocky Overlook in Heil Ranch Park

Free downloadable maps are available from Boulder County Parks.  You can also use our GPX files to help plan your next adventure.

Wapiti Trail

Difficulty Rank5 (Moderate)
Views Rank4
Distance Rank2.8 Miles
Time Needed65 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting Trails: with Ponderosa Trail
  • Easy trail
  • Little elevation change
  • Mostly exposed hiking

Trailhead: Trail starts at main parking area

Wapiti Trail Highlights:

  • Neat stone houses left as rubble
  • Forest is burned in places
  • Lots of sandstone on the trail
  • Popular centaur trail

Review:

The Wapiti trail along with all the others in the park is not too steep, and only offers hikers some sporadic tree cover. The first section of the trail starts off on an access road that soon veers to the left onto a smaller single track path with great views of the valley below. Near the end of the trail where the Ponderosa trail meets the Wapiti trail there is a very nice stone stacked cabin that has certainly felt the cold embraces of the hands of time. There is no roof on the structure and several of the walls have considerable holes in them (Perhaps from menacing Minotaur hammer smashing bouts).

Ponderosa Trail

Distant Mountains from Heil Ranch Park
Distant Mountains from Heil Ranch Park
Difficulty Rank4 (Easy)
Views Rank7
Distance Rank2.6 Miles
Time Needed146 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting Trails: with Wild Turkey and Wapiti Trails
  • Easy trail
  • Little elevation change
  • Mostly exposed
  • Large burn area

Trailhead: S – Wapiti trail | L Or R Ponderosa Loop

Ponderosa Trail Highlights:

  • Striking views at the scenic overlook where the Wild Turkey Trail meets the Ponderosa Trail for the second time.
  • Stone foundation at first trail junction with Wild Turkey trail

Review:

Ponderosa loop has a fair amount of trees some of which were also part of the recent prescribed burn area, so plan ahead and put on some sunscreen before you head out. The trail has very mild elevation changes and is a good hike for all ages, just bare in mind that the trek in along with this loop will be just shy of 8 miles. If you are visiting the park during the spring and summer the flies may be engaged in an epic battle with the invading nat population for control of the area. While major casualties are unlikely extreme annoyance is highly probable.  

Wild Turkey Trail

Difficulty Rank4 (Easy)
Views Rank5
Distance Rank2.9 Miles
Time Needed70 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting Trails: Ponderosa and Picnic Rock trails
  • Mild elevation change
  • Views of the plains
  • Small amount of trees along the trail

Trail S – Wapiti | R – Ponderoas Loop | L – Wild Turkey trail or

Trail S – Wapiti | R- Ponderosa Loop | C – Ponderosa Loop | R – Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey Trail Highlights:

  • Stone Foundation at the first trail junction with Ponderosa loop
  • Views at the end of the trail are quite good

Review:

Mountain Meadow in Heil Ranch
Mountain Meadow in Heil Ranch

Wild Turkey dances through meadows and dodges in an out of the trees. Shockingly just like those individuals that have consumed too much of the fluid that is sold under the same name. But all Joking aside the trail is quite good there is a fair amount of tree cover and connections with nearly all the trails in the park. The mountain meadow views are great and you can see far out on the plains below as you hike along the trail.

Lichen Loop Trail

Difficulty Rank4 (Easy)
Views Rank5
Distance Rank1.0 Miles
Time needed to hike23 Minutes
Foot Bridge in Heil Ranch
Foot Bridge

Details:

  • Connecting trail: Wapiti trail
  • Hiker only
  • Easy hike
  • Slight elevation change
  • Mostly forested

Trailhead: Parking area

Lichen Loop Trail Highlights:

  • Informative signs along the trail
  • Lush dense forest for most of the trail
  • Close to the main parking lot

Review:

Coming in at a mile, this easy hike has gradual elevation changes and is in close proximity to the main parking area, making this trail a great option for quick visits and those with small children or elderly that want to be in nature without venturing too far.

Picture Rock Trail

Difficulty Rank5 (Moderate)
Views Rank8
Distance Rank5.3 Miles
Time Needed105 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting trails: Wild Turkey trail
  • Gradual Elevation change
  • Mostly exposed hiking

Trailhead:Starts at Picture Rock Parking Area

Picture Rock Trail Highlights:

  • Most Amazing picnic table in Colorado with the most Amazing view.
  • Old abandoned Farm buildings
  • Old Abandoned Cars on trail
  • Remains of Stacked Stone Buildings
Looking over stacked stone wall in Heil Ranch
Stacked Stone Wall

Review:

This is by far my favorite hike in the park, the views of the valley that reach out towards Lyons are amazing. The trail is very popular with runners and mountain bikers so you are likely to have plenty of company along this trail.  About half way through the trail is quite possibly the best picnic area in the state. The large stone picnic table tucked under the trees would be the perfect place to watch the sun come up over the surrounding mountains with a cup of coffee. Farther along the trail there are several old farm buildings in various state of repair and a couple old vehicles that have been used as target practice.

Button Rock Nature Preserve

Overview

Button Rock Nature Preserve is where to hike when you are looking for an area as beautiful as Rocky Mountain National park, without the crowds.  There are a trails from all skill levels, from nice flat wide dirt roads to steep trails with outstanding views. Waterfall seekers will be pleased to know that the preserve has a beautiful waterfall at the end of an easy hike. This is also a great place to do some river fishing, just make sure you have the appropriate licenses. 


5.3 miles of trails

Park Details:

  • Hiking
  • Dogs are allowed but must be leashed
  • There are a couple of marked off leash trails
  • Fishing (In places you will need a state fishing license and a longmont license keep an eye out for the signage to know where you can legally fish)
  • No overnight parking
  • Camping is prohibited
  • Fires are not allowed
  • Hunting is not allowed
  • Bicycles are prohibited
  • No Centaurs Equestrians
  • Boats or floating devices are not allowed
  • No swimming

Emergency contacts:

Boulder County Ranger District @ (303) 541-2500

If the event is life threatening dial 911

Quick Reference Map

Ribbon Waterfall near the North Saint Vrain
Ribbon Waterfall near the North Saint Vrain

Free downloadable maps are available from City of Longmont.  Another good planning resource is the Boulder/Golden #100 Map, along with our free GPX files to help plan your next adventure in the Rocky Mountains. 

Sleepy Lion Trail

Difficulty Rank 7 (Moderate)
Views Rank8
Distance Rank2.3 Miles
Time Needed68 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting Trails: Button Creek Dam Trail
  • Dogs do not need to be on a leash
  • Steep in places
  • Good tree cover

Trailhead: S – Button Creek Dam Trail | R – Sleepy Lion Trail

Trail Highlights:

  • Views of the dam are great near the summit
  • Great hike for wildflowers during spring and summer
  • Views of Ralph Pierce Reservoir

Review:

The trail is actually a very large loop that begins off the Button Creek Dam trail and loops around to the rear side of the dam outlet. The trail offers some decent tree cover and there are plenty of wildflowers in the meadows up the hill if you are hiking in the spring or summer. While the east side has a moderate to occasionally steep climb, the western section of the trail is rather steep. At about a mile in you will have the chance to jump on the Button Rock which leads into the Hall ranch area. If you are hiking with a dog, or are a mythical Centaur however you better stick to the Button Rock Nature preserve as neither creature is allowed in the Hall Ranch Park.

Button Creek Dam Trail

Difficulty Rank4 (Easy)
Views Rank8
Distance Rank2.3 Miles
Time Needed55 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting Trails: To North Shore, and Sleepy Lion S Trails
  • Slight elevation gain until you reach the dam
  • High exposure to the elements

Trailhead : Starts at parking lot

Trail Highlights:

  • Follows the Saint Vrain Creek
  • Ralph Pierce Reservoir

Review:

Most of the trail is a dirt road skirting the Saint Vrain river as it leads up to the dam. The first ¾ of the trail is very easy having little elevation change, and sparse tree cover. Once you reach the discharge area for the Ralph Pierce reservoir, and manage to pull yourself away from the very intense water flow gushing out at least 100 yards before hitting the water in the Saint Vrain, you start to climb the dam. The trail becomes very steep  as you follow the switchbacks up the 200 foot climb in about a quarter mile. The views on top of the dam are breathtaking. I would highly recommend hiking the path along the shoreline to the north shore trail back down, as there is a very beautiful veil waterfall about halfway down the trail. There is also a very large steel bridge crosses the river.

Trail To North Shore

Ralph Price Reservoir from the North Shore
Ralph Price Reservoir from the North Shore
Difficulty Rank5 (Moderate)
Views Rank10
Distance Rank0.6 Miles
Time Needed14 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting trails: Button Rock Dam Trail
  • Exposed to the elements the whole way
  • Fairly Steep
  • Wide dirt road

Trailhead: S – Button rock Dam road | R – Trail to North shore

Trail Highlights:

  • Beautiful Waterfall

Review:

Right off of the Button Creek dam trail there is a restroom and a large service style road that leads to the north shore. This trail is very exposed with little to no tree cover, but is a short easy hike that leads to some beautiful waterfalls and a very large steel bridge. Don’t forget the camera as this whole area is very beautiful. The trail continues on up the hill and connects with the Button Creek dam trail again at the top of the dam.

South Table Mountain Park

Overview

South Table Mountain Park is less traveled than its Northern Counterpart, but don’t count it out of your Front Range Hiking experience. The park has a large variety of trails form very steep with amazing views to very flat with stunning views. While the Eastern side of the park will have the less intense hill climbs, both will offer hikers and mountain bikers a good workout. Looking out from the mesa to the east you have Denver and to the West Golden, although you will need to do some hiking to see both as only one will be in view at any given time. Those that are looking for a nice steep hill climb should visit the Western portion, that is technically not part of the park for great views of the Golden area on some very impressive rock features at the end of a couple of steep trails.

9.2 Miles of Trails

Park Details

  • Hiking
  • Mountain Biking
  • Centaurs Equestrians
  • Picnicking
  • Sports field
  • Two actual parking areas
  • There is a small parking area for Golden Summit and Sleeping Elk trail not technically part of this park.
  • Porta-potti at Camp George west
  • Trails are well marked
  • No trees in this park
  • Weapons are prohibited
  • Overnight camping is not allowed
  • No entrance fees

Emergency contacts

Jefferson County Sheriff’s office @ (303) 277-0211

If the event is life threatening dial 911

Quick Reference Map

Free downloadable maps are available from Jefferson County Parks. You can also use the GPX files to help plan your next adventure in the Rocky Mountains. 

Ancient Palms Trail

Difficulty Rank (1 – 10)6 (Moderate)
Views Rank (1 – 10)5
Distance1.0 Miles
Time Needed12 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting Trails: Basalt Cap Loop
  • Little rocky
  • Slightly technical if riding

Trailhead: S – Tertiary | R – Basalt Cap Loop | R – Ancient Psalm trail

Trail Highlights:

  • Views of Coors water retention ponds
  • Copious amounts of butterflies fluttering around
  • Large variety of birds

Review:

There is a small area off of Old Quarry road where this trail can also be accessed, but there is no actual parking area there and the on street parking is very limited. The trail starts off with a good increase in elevation and tapers off a bit in the middle of the trail. There are some good views of the Denver west area as you climb the side of the hill. Don’t take your eyes off the trail for too long however as this trail is rock strewn in parts and a little bit on the technical side if you are new to mountain biking. There is no tree cover in this area of the park, but there are an abundance of shrubs that house a thriving butterfly community, which turns out to be like a whole foods for birds in the area.

Basalt Cap Loop Trail

Difficulty Rank (1 – 10)3 (Easy)
Views Rank (1 – 10)6
Distance2.0 Miles
Time Needed38 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting Trails: Tertiary, Cretaceous, Old Quarry, Ancient Psalms
  • Lots of birds
  • Can be very windy

Trailhead: S- Tertiary trail | R or L on Basalt Cap Loop

Trail Highlights:

  • Great Views of Denver

Review:

While there is a little workout to get to this trail the path itself is a nice easy stroll, just not through the woods as there are no trees on the mesa. The abundance of flat rocks at the top make perfect bowles that collect water and an abundance of birds in the area. If you are hiking the area during the spring, summer or fall there is a good chance you will encounter a rattlesnake sunning itself, remember to be alert and give them space. At certain times of day you may also see police racing around on the training track located at the south west side of the trail.

Cretaceous Trail

Trail leading up the side of South Table Mesa
Trail leading up the side of South Table Mesa
Difficulty Rank (1 – 10)5 (Moderate)
Views Rank (1 – 10)4
Distance0.5 Miles
Time Needed11 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting Trails: Tertiary Trail, Basalt Cap Loop
  • No trees
  • Dirt trail not too rocky

Trailhead: S – Tertiary | L – Cretaceous Trail

Trail Highlights:

  • Lots of birds in the area

Review:

Decent elevation gain but not too steep. There is no reprieve from the sun on this trail, and wind is usually not a concern as the trail runs along the south side of the mesa. The views are not that great on the trail, but the others in the park that this trail leads to extend much better scenery. If you are riding and looking for a less technical climb this is the trail for you.

Note: If you are using the Jefferson county parks map the milage is longer than the trail actually is. My assumption is that the extra mileage from Tertiary trail from the road up to the junction was added to Cretaceous trail rather than Tertiary trail.

Fossil Trail

Difficulty Rank (1 – 10)4 (Easy)
Views Rank (1 – 10)3
Distance0.8 Miles
Time Needed16 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting Trails: Old Quarry
  • Parking area at trailhead

Trailhead: S – Fossil trail

Trail Highlights:

  • Views of Golden

Review:

Easy trail that leads down to a small parking area with tall grasses flanking both sides of the trail. There are a lot of birds all over the area singing in the swaying grass. The views are not great on the trail, and there is no tree cover to speak of like the other trails in the park so plan appropriately when visiting this area.

Old Quarry Trail

Difficulty Rank (1 – 10)4 (Easy)
Views Rank (1 – 10)7
Distance2.4 Miles
Time Needed45 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting Trails:Fossil trail
  • Wide dirt road
  • No trees
  • Mostly flat

Trailhead: S – Fossil | R- Old Quarry trail

Trail Highlights:

  • Views of Denver
  • Views of Golden

Review:

This trail is more like a dirt access road than an actual trail. The path is nice and wide to its easy to pass in both directions of travel. If you continue to follow the trail iw will lead to the cliff overlook and two trails that are not part of the Jefferson County parks department. I highly suggest that if this trail if on your list that you follow it out to the end and the views from the rock precipest are the best in the area. There is private property at the top of the mesa so stay on the trail, besides you don’t want to startly mister rattlesnake in the high grass off the trail looking for lunch no do you.

Camp George Parking to Trail System

Difficulty Rank (1 – 10)2 (Easy)
Views Rank (1 – 10)3
Distance0.5 Miles
Time Needed7 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting Trails: Tertiary Trail
  • Flat trail
  • Skirts sports field
  • Runs along Denver West Parkway

Trailhead: S – Camp George west parking

Trail Highlights:

  • Camp George West sports fields

Review:

This trail starts at one of the two designated parking area for the park. The trail is very flat and skirts a sports field before running along Denver West parkway. There is not much to look at along the way and it can be a bit loud with the traffic, but the parking lot offers plenty of parking spaces and an outhouse restroom to take care of business before hitting the trail.

Tertiary Trail

Difficulty Rank (1 – 10)6 (Moderate)
Views Rank (1 – 10)5
Distance0.7 Miles
Time Needed16 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting Trails:

Trailhead: S | Camp George Parking Lot trail to Park | C – Tertiary Trail

Trail Highlights:

  • Views of Denver
  • Decent hill climb

Review:

Tertiary is the more technical of the trails that lead to the summit of the mesa, and while there are a few trees here and there, most of the trail is exposed along the southeast side of the mesa. There are a good many rocks along the trail and some steep climbs in places, but overall the trail is rideable if you are of moderate skill on a mountain bike and in decent shape.

Golden Summit Trail

Difficulty Rank (1-10)7 (Hard)
Views Rank (1-10)6
Distance0.7 Miles
Time Needed30 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting Trails: South Table Top Mesa Trail, Sleeping Elk Trail
  • Steep trail

Trailhead:S – Small 2 car parking area of Belvedere Street and 19th St.

Trail Highlights:

  • Great view of the rock ledges
  • Great workout

Review:

Golden summit trail starts at a large steel gate on Belvedere St. The switchbacks are well traveled and easy to follow, however, there are no trees shading this trek, and high winds are likely. Once you reach the top you will travel through a opening in the top of the mesa and be offered several different trail options. Some lead out to the cliff ledges, while a couple trails lead to radio towers and private property. If you head left and follow the labyrinth of small trails you will gain the foot of the largest rock outcropping on the mesa in the northwestern area of the park. There is a set of concrete steps that have seen some weather over the years leading up to some of the best views in the area. The South Table Top Mesa trail is unmarked here but leads into the actual park.

Flat top of the South Table Mesa looking down on Golden Colorado
Flat top of the South Table Mesa

Sleeping  Elk Trail

View of South Table Mesa
View of South Table Mesa
Difficulty Rank (1-10)7 (Hard)
Views Rank (1-10)6
Distance0.6 Miles
Time Needed26 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting Trails: Golden Summit Trail

Trailhead: S – Small break between houses off of Belvedere St. on the Northeast side of the road.

Trail Highlights:

  • Great views of the mesa
  • Great workout

Review:

Much like the Golden Summit trail the Sleeping elk trail is devoid of trees, but thick with bushes. Both trails rank about the same for steepness and most people hiking the area will take one trail up and the other down. One thing to note on this trail is that near the summit of the mesa there is an area where you will need the use of your hands to scamper over a rock ledge that is about 4 feet tall, nothing too serious, but if you have mobility or stability issues I would avoid this trail.

Free Campgrounds on your GPS

Over 1100 Free Campgrounds on your GPS

In this post we will share how to easily import over 1100 great free campgrounds, free campsites, and free dispersed camping area onto your cars GPS. There are several great tools out in the wilderness of the internet that help you plan your next camping trip. There are even a few websites featuring information on free campsites, but they all require internet to access, or leave you manually entering coordinates into your GPS. The files and methods presented in this article will have you easily browsing over 1100 free campsites in the Western United States and Florida from your GPS anytime regardless of internet availability.

Map and Keys used  for navigation
Map and Keys

GPS Device Selection

Many of the GPS devices on the market will allow you to import several different file types. The steps may be different for your device check your manufactures owners guide or forums for assistance. No matter which device you choose extra storage space is a huge plus. If you have not purchased a GPS yet, or are upgrading look for a device that supports micro SD cards. For your reference the file size of our 1100 plus free campsites files is 892 KB. The Garmin Drive 5 was my top choice for several reasons. First I have had excellent user experiences in the past with their products. The ability to import file containing custom points of interest. Extra storage capabilities, easily adjustable routes and a very reasonable price all helped narrow down the options. Garmin’s free tool Base Camp has also been extremely helpful so a compatible device was a must. Note that I am in no way associated with Garmin, and I am not being paid to promote their products.

Car GPS Device used for navigation
GPS Device

Preinstall Checklist

  • Sufficient Storage Space. (892 KB)
  • Computer running Windows 10 (Other operating systems will work, but the steps may be slightly different.)
  • Format Micro SD Card if additional space is needed.
  • Download Free Camping files in the format that works best on your device.
  • Install POI Loader from Garmin to your computer.


Check the storage space on your GPS device

  1. Plug your device into your computer with the provided cable.
  2. Open File Explorer.
  3. Navigate to “This PC” in the left panel on Windows 10.
  4. Select your GPS and view free space available.

Format Micro SD Card for use in Garmin Drive 5 LM

  1. Insert the micro SD card into the larger SD card, or a compatible reader
  2. Open File Explorer.
  3. Select your Micro SD card
  4. Right Click | Format
  5. On the format screen name the volume so it is easy to identify later
  6. Ensure that FAT32 is selected
  7. Change allocation unit size to “Default allocation size”
  8. Leave all other fields at the default setting and click start.
  9. Use windows to safely remove the device when formating is complete
  10. Install the SD card in your device.

Download Free Camping Files

  1. Go to Free Camping Files
  2. Download the file type you will be importing to your device to your computer. (We will be using the files in the Sub 50 GPX Alpha)

Importing .GPX files into a Garmin Drive

  1. Attach your garmin device to your computer.
  2. Open the POI loader tool
  3. Select Garmin Device | Click Next
  4. The POI loader should find your device | Click Next
  5. Select install new custom POI’s on your device. | Click Next
  6. Browse to the location on your computer where you saved the Free Camping Files.
  7. Name the newly Created Custom POI file. (This is not required.) | Click Next
  8. The POI files will install. | Click Finish.

There are several different file types available in the download folder for the POI’s as different devices will support different file types and sizes. You are free to use, alter and share these files for non commercial use. The best program for making changes is Base Camp by Garmin.

Purchase of the guides on this website are a great way to help support the creation of more adventure oriented content. I hope you have a great time enjoying nature.

Thank you!

Bald Mountain

Overview

Bald Mountain is a fitting name for this little park perched on the top of a mountain, as the peak is nearly bare of trees. The winding drive up the mountain side makes for a great drive and the trail offers the perfect place to stretch your legs. After hiking the one trail in this park the best thing to do is enjoy a picnic on one of the lovely picnic areas. This park is very close to Boulder, however you should not find it to be overly crowded. 

1 Mile of Trail

Park Details:

  • Hiking
  • Mountain Biking 
  • Centaurs Equestrians
  • Dogs are allowed on a leash
  • Open Sunrise to Sunset
  • Picnicking
  • Hunting is not allowed
  • Weapons are not forbidden
  • Camping is not permitted
  • Drinking or drug use is not allowed
  • No entrance fees

Emergency contacts:

Boulder County Ranger District @ (303) 541-2500

Boulder Parks and Open Space @ (303) 678-6200

If the event is life threatening dial 911

Quick Reference Map:

Free downloadable maps are available from Boulder County Parks. You can also use the GPX files to help plan your next adventure in the Rocky Mountains. 

View from Bald Mountain near Boulder Colorado
View from Bald Mountain

Pines to Peak Loop

Difficulty Rank5 (Moderate)
Views Rank7
Distance Rank1 Mile
Time Needed25 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting trails: This is the only trail in the park
  • Moderately steep
  • Can be very windy

Trailhead:Starts at the parking lot

Trail Highlights:

  • Views of the mountains all around
  • Views of Boulder

Review:

Being only one mile and somewhat of a drive to get to you may be tempted to skip this little trail and wee park. I would caution you not to miss out on this trail, perhaps you can bring along a lunch and have a lovely little hike and a picnic at one of the many table very near the parking lot. The trail is not too difficult at any spot on the trail, but does have a decent climb in a few spots. A large portion of the park and surrounding area was burnt in a fire. The remaining house on the mountains adjacent to the park stand out. From the top you can see for miles into the distant peaks and valleys, and right down on Boulder below to the east. It is truly worth the time it takes to drive up here.

Hall Ranch

All along the Front Range you will find amazing parks to hike, picnic, mountain bike and horse ride in, and Hall Ranch is no exception. The 11.8 miles of trails are demanding at times, but suitable for most skill and endurance levels. The views from the trail will inspire you to adventure further into the mountains and experience the wonders of the Rocky Mountains.  The main parking area of the park is large, with several restrooms and great covered picnic areas, but keep in mind this park can easily fill up in the summer months. 

Wildflowers and Rocky Mountains
Wildflowers and Rocky Mountains

11.8 miles of trails on this guide

Park Details:

  • Hiking
  • Mountain Biking on some trails
  • Centaurs Equestrians on most trails
  • Dogs are not allowed in this park
  • Open Sunrise to Sunset
  • Picnicking
  • Hunting is not permitted
  • Weapons are prohibited
  • Camping is not allowed
  • Drinking or drug use are not allowed
  • No entrance fees

Emergency contacts:

Boulder County Ranger District @ (303) 541-2500

Boulder Parks and Open Spaces @ (303) 678-6200

If the event is life threatening dial 911

Quick Reference Map

Free downloadable maps are available from Boulder County  .You can also use the GPX files to help plan your next adventure in the Rocky Mountains. 

Nighthawk Trail:

Difficulty Rank6 (Moderate)
Views Rank8
Distance Rank4.7 Miles
Time Needed180 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting trails: Bitterbrush trail, Button Rock trail, Nelson loop
  • Mostly exposed hiking
  • Centaur Equestrian and Hiker only

Trailhead: Starts at the parking area

Trail Highlights:

  • Grand views of the northern Front Range
  • Great views of red rock mesa near the parking area
  • Very beautiful area

Review:

The views all along this trail seem to go from great to outstanding the further along this trail you hike. The trail starts out relatively flat and begins a steady 1200 plus foot climb as you walk past endless natural beauty. There is not a lot in the way of tree cover along the trail so come prepared for the sun. It is worth keeping in mind that if combined with bitterbrush trail you are looking at a solid eight and a half plus mile hike, and if you run this trail out and back you are looking at a good nine plus miles of pure hiking enjoyment..

Nelson Loop Trail

Rocky Mountain Farm house in Hall Ranch
Rocky Mountain Farm house
Difficulty Rank4 (Easy)
Views Rank7
Distance Rank2.4 Miles
Time Needed1 Hour

Details:

  • Connecting Trails:Nighthawk and Bitterbrush trails
  • Fairly flat hike
  • Partially treed

Trailhead:S-Nighthawk or Bitterbrush trail | R or L – Nelson Loop

Trail Highlights:

  • Old farm buildings
  • Very nice wooden bridge

Review:

There is a very cool old farm house along the trail abandoned by the habitation of man for some time now. The trail has little in the way of elevation change and little tree cover. From the looks of the trail combined with my ability to look into the nether, I would say that a band of fairies have been collecting the dead fall from the trees and gathering them up to build their homes from. This is most likely reason for the areas intense beauty and continual sense of euphoria while hiking in the area.  

Bitterbrush Trail

Difficulty Rank6 (Moderate)
Views Rank5
Distance Rank3.7 Miles
Time Needed80 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting trails: Antelope trail, Nelson Loop, and Nighthawk trail
  • Mostly exposed hiking
  • Steep in places
  • Very rocky in places
  • Would be a technical ride

Trailhead: Starts at the parking area

Trail Highlights:

  • Great views

Review:

While there are some great views along the trail, the first portion of the trail is slightly easier on the eyes. The trail starts from the very nice parking and picnicking area and swings out around the towering mesa to the north. When you reach the junction with Antelope trail there is a nice bike station that should help you take care of any bike related issues you may have developed along the trail. The hike is steep in places, but the trail is easy to follow and is well marked.

Antelope Trail

Beautiful Mountain View on Antelope Canyon Trail in Hall Ranch
Beautiful Mountain View on Antelope Canyon Trail
Difficulty Rank5 (Moderate)
Views Rank7
Distance Rank1.0 Miles
Time Needed22 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting trail: Bitterbrush trail
  • Mostly exposed hike

Trailhead: Starts at parking area of Antelope Dr.

Trail Highlights:

  • Great Mountain and valley views

Review:

This trail is best hiked in from the small parking area off of Antelope Dr. The trail is short and exposed almost the entire way, but if you are hiking in the earlier part of the day the large mesa to the south of the trail will likely diffuse most of the sunlight. There is a rather nice bike station at the trail junction with bitterbrush trail and a bench to take a rest before you start the rest of your trek into the park. This trail is a great option if you are looking to jump on Nelson Loop and see the old farmhouse, but don’t have the time to take one of the longer hikes in.

Mount Falcon Park

Overview

Mount Falcon is a staple hiking area for my family, and its close proximity to Denver makes it a popular place to hike when you find yourself shambling through the south west metro area. Being so close to Denver means this park is very busy, so if you are hiking or mountain biking on the weekend here there is a strong possibility there will be no where to park.

Stone walls of Castle in Mount Falcon
Stone walls of Castle in Mount Falcon

Mount Falcon area is home to the walker family house ruins along with the ruins that were to one day be a summer retreat for the president of the United States. There are ample parking spaces at both lots, and the west lot houses several picnic areas great for family outings. You will be pleasantly surprised when you use the restroom facilities at this park as they are pit toilets but there is not even the slightest hint of odor, and are very clean. There are many trails within the park with something suitable for all skill levels. Castle trail and Parmalee trails are by far the most popular with mountain bikers.

12.2 Miles of Trails

Park Details:

  • Dogs are allowed but must be leashed.
  • Hiking
  • Mountain Biking
  • Centaurs Equestrians
  • There are ample picnic areas at the west parking lot.
  • There is only 1 picnic table at the East parking lot.
  • There are clean restrooms at both parking lots that emit zero odor.
  • Upper trails can easily be accessed from the west entrance for shorter hikes.
  • The dirt roads leading to the smaller trails are well grated.
  • All of the trails are well marked and easy to follow.
  • Park hours are one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset
  • Camping is not allowed in the park
  • Hunting or firearms are not allowed
  • No Entrance fees

Emergency contacts:

Jefferson County Sheriff’s office @ (303) 277-0211

Quick Reference Map

A static version of the map can be downloaded to your phone from Jefferson County Parks

You can also use the free GPX files to help plan your next trip.

Castle Trail

Difficulty Rank (1 – 10)7 (Moderate)
Views Rank (1 – 10)8
Distance 3.8 miles
Time NeededAbout 1 Hour 45 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting trails: Turkey Trot trail, Meadows trail, Walkers Dream, Two Dogs trail, Tower trail, and Parmalee trails
  • Bring plenty of water and protection from the sun.
  • Strong elevation change
  • Limited tree cover
  • Closest parking area: Either parking area

Trailhead directions: Starts at both parking areas

Trail Highlights:

  • There are many chances for epic photos with Denver on the horizon.
  • Expansive views of the Front Range
  • Walker mansion ruins

Review:

The castle trail is a steep point to point trail that is heavily trafficked by both hikers and mountain bikers, and occasionally by centaurs… equestrians. With great views of the Denver metro area, Red Rocks Park and the Front Range. Combine all this with its close proximity to Denver it’s no surprise this is a very popular trail. A majority of the trail is exposed with little tree cover so the use of sunscreen and a hat is advised. The trail is commonly started from the East parking lot heading west bound to the castle ruins at the summit. This is particularly true of mountain bikers looking for a great downhill ride after a brisk workout. Once you reach the upper park loop there are several other shorter hikes available that could easily be combined to turn this hike into a daylong adventure.

Devil’s Elbow Trail

Difficulty Rank (1 – 10)4 (Easy)
Views Rank (1 – 10)8
Distance 1.1 miles
Time NeededAbout 21 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting trail: Old Ute trail.
  • Minimal elevation change over the course of the hike
  • Partially treed
  • Closest parking area: West lot

Trailhead directions: S-Castle trail | R-Meadow Trail | R-Old Ute Trail | Devil’s Elbow Trail

Trail Highlights:

  • Great views of Denver
  • Very green even in winter
  • Not as crowded as the other hikes in the park
  • OneSunChasers favorite trail in this park

Review:

Devil’s Elbow is a loop with a great view just off the Old Ute Trail. The beginning of the trail is a descent which levels out and leads you back to some of the more secluded areas of the park. Near the easternmost side of the loop you will have many great photo opportunities as well as within the dense forest hike on the north side back toward the connection to the Old Ute Trail. There is not a lot in the way of elevation change on this trail, but there are some decent ups and downs

Old Ute Trail

Difficulty Rank ( 1 – 10)3 (Easy)
Views Rank (1 – 10)2
Distance 0.5 miles
Time NeededAbout 11 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting trails: Meadows trail, and Devil’s Elbow trail
  • Minimal elevation change
  • Mostly treed
  • Closest parking area: West lot

Trailhead directions: S-Castle trail | R-Meadow Trail | Old Ute Trail

Trail Highlights:

  • Can easily be incorporated into longer looping trails.

Review:

This trail offers a good mix of up and down hill walking and mountain biking that is suitable to all skill levels. Views pale in comparison to the surrounding trails which all seem to offer a unique view of different mountain and flat land scenery. This trail connects to several others in the area and is essential to reaching some of the more scenic views the park has to offer.

Meadow Trail

Difficulty Rank (1 – 10)2 (Easy)
Views Rank (1 – 10)3
Distance 0.8 miles
Time NeededAbout 16 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting trails: Castle trail, Old Ute trail Tower trail and Parmalee trails
  • Gradual elevations changes
  • Partially treed
  • Closest parking area: West lot

Trailhead directions: S-Castle Trail | R-Meadow Trail

Trail Highlights:

  • View of mountain meadows.
  • Abundance of birds
Mountain Prairie in Mount Falcon Park
Mountain Prairie

Review:

The Meadows trail is a very easy and popular as it connects several of the other trails with the help of the Castle trail. The terrain is flat with little elevation change and is suitable for all skill levels. This trail is mostly exposed with tree covering on only a small portion of the loop. Reaching the trail is a breeze. If you are starting at the west parking lot, begin the hike down the castle trail until you reach a meadow trail. Take the tower trail south until you reach the trees and the Meadows trail will be the east trail as the trees begin to populate both sides of the trail. Signage within the park is very good so you should have no problem finding the trail.

Parmalee Trail

Difficulty Rank (1 – 10)5 (Moderate)
Views Rank (1 – 10)4
Distance 2.3 miles
Time NeededAbout 1 Hour 13 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting trails: Meadows trail, Tower trail and Castle trails
  • Moderate and occasionally steep elevation change
  • Partially treed
  • Closest parking area: West lot

Trailhead directions: S-Castle Trail | R-Parmalee Trail

Trail Highlights:

  • Abundance of wildlife
  • Excellent views of US 285

Review:

The Parmalee loop is a very popular hike in the Mount Falcon area, boasting moderate elevation change and diverse scenery. Excellent bird’s eye views of the 285 canyon make this a must hike trail for most skill levels. The trailheads are located near the restrooms at the west parking lot and about the middle of the Meadows trail. A majority of the wildlife tends to congregates in the western portion of the trail, where you are likely to come across entire herds of deer that seem to not to be concerned with the presence of people. There is a fair amount of tree cover throughout the hike so sun exposure is not a big issue, but if you are hiking in colder times of the year there may be snow and ice present long after the last snow fall, depending on temperatures.

Tower Trail

Difficulty Rank (1 – 10) 2 (Easy)
Views Rank (1 – 10)4
Distance 0.7 miles
Time NeededAbout 15 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting trails: Meadows trail, Castle trail, and Parmalee trails
  • Nominal elevation change
  • Partially treed
  • Closest parking area: West lot

Trailhead directions: S-Castle Trail | R-Meadow Trail | L-Tower Trail

Trail Highlights:

  • Watch tower that allows for 360 degree views of the surrounding area.

Review:

This is a short easy hike that brings you to a small watch tower at the top of a hill that will afford great views of the surrounding mountains. Aside from the watch tower there are not a lot of points on this trail that will stick in the mind, however, peering out into the distant mountain ranges is quite nice from the extra height of the tower. If you happen to be in the park near sunset this is a great place to take in the amazing display of colors as the clouds turns crimson in the setting sun.

Turkey Trot Trail

View of Red Rocks Amphitheater from the Turkey Trot Trail in Mount Falcon Park.
Red Rocks Amphitheater from Turkey Trot Trail.
Difficulty Rank (1 – 10)5 (Moderate)
Views Rank (1 – 10)5
Distance 1.7 miles
Time NeededAbout 37 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting trail: Castle trail
  • This is a hiker only trail.
  • Decent elevation change at time but well spread out
  • Partially treed
  • Closest parking area: East lot

Trailhead directions: S-Castle Trail | R-Turkey Trot Trail

Trail Highlights:

  • Great views of Denver
  • Great views of Red Rocks

Review:

Turkey Trot trail is accessible from the east parking lot shortly after you start Castle trail. You can either choose to follow the Castle Trail up the mountain side for some spectacular views of the Red Rocks area and out on to Denver, or you can jump right on the Turkey Trot trail near the beginning of the Castle Trail. While neither side makes for an especially steep hike, jumping on the Turkey Trot trail and taking the Castle Trail down would definitely be a lighter workout. There is less than 1000 feet in elevation gain for the entire loop.

Two Dogs Trail

Difficulty Rank (1 – 10)4 (Easy)
Views Rank (1 – 10)7
Distance0.3 miles
Time NeededAbout 6 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting trail: Castle trail
  • Minimal elevation change
  • Partially treed
  • Closest parking area: West lot

Trailhead directions: S-Castle Trail | C-Castle trail | R-Two Dogs Trail

Trail Highlights:

  • Grand views of the Denver area

Review:

There is not much to this hike but there is a lot to the views. Don’t overlook this gem if you are spending the day hiking in the Mount Falcon area. The trail starts off of the Castle trail once you make the summit if you are coming from the east parking lot, or right before the main decent if you are coming from the west parking lot (top). While there is a decent uphill climb on the trail it is very short and should be easy to navigate for most hikers. Bring a camera along as the views of Denver and the surrounding area make this little trail worth the extra effort.

Walker’s Dream Trail

Memorial and ruins of the house that was to be a gift to the president of the United States of America
Ruins at Mount Falcon
Difficulty Rank (1 – 10)3 (Easy)
Views Rank (1 – 10)9
Distance0.4 miles
Time NeededAbout 7 Minutes

Details:

  • Connecting trail: Castle trail
  • Minor elevation change
  • Light tree cover
  • Closest parking area: West lot

Trailhead directions: Castle Trail | C-Castle Trail | L-Walkers Dream Trail

Trail Highlights:

  • Grand views of the Denver area
  • Grand views of the Front Range
  • A look at the ruins of what was to be a presidential retreat

Review:

Easy access to this short trail is gained just off of Castle trail before you start the main descent to the east parking lot. Panoramic beauty surrounds you as you look off at the distant skyline of Denver to the east. But to the west it’s hard not to let the awe inspiring natural beauty of the foothills steal the thunder from the ruins that are left of what was to one day be a summer retreat for the president.

All the information listed in this post is also available in an E-book which can be purchased from Amazon. Please consider purchasing a copy, or one of the other outdoor guides we have available!

Front Range Hikes

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