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.

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Scouting Report – (CO-2): Camp Rock

Free Camping close to Denver

When you are talking about free camping close to Denver it is natural to assume there are plenty of available sites. After all the homes are well spaced and certainly fewer in number than in the city. All this combined with the presence of pay campsites on National Forest land would lead you to believe there is free camping with fewer amenities close by. While this theory is certainly more accurate of the back country, it does not always apply near big cities. Certainly there is an abundance of great places to camp near Denver, but keep in mind that most of them are going to require a $10 – $30 fee per night. We hope that with the guidebooks on this site along with these posts you can easily find more affordable options.

Camp Rock Campground:

Camp Rock Campground Information

Phone Number: (303) 567-4382

Elevation: 9,000

Lat/Long: 39.613655, -105.534348

Nearby Town: Evergreen, Co. @ 15 miles

Details:

  • Free Camping
  • No water
  • No trash
  • Vault toilets

Mount Evans State Wildlife Area

A mandatory free self issuing permit required when hiking into the Mount Evans Wilderness Area.

Date of Report:

06/2018

Road Conditions:

Good

The road leading to the campsite is well maintained packed dirt with gravel, Mount Evans State wildlife area camping location is located at the beginning of this road which is a little steep in places. Fortunately this road can easily be traveled by normal passenger car providing there are no extreme weather events that would normally impact driving conditions.  

Note: It is always the operators responsibility to gauge current road conditions and the vehicle’s ability to handle the current terrain and conditions. The author of this content cannot and will not take responsibility for the users actions. The presented content is a guide only the user assumes all responsibility for their actions.

Check local forecasts prior to your visit.

General Site Information:

If you are looking for Free Camping close to Denver, this is one of the best sites. There are about ½ a dozen sites available clustered near the parking lot at this campground, which is fairly flat on the campground side with a slight incline on the trail parking side. All of the campsites are within sight of the parking area, and are situated under a thick pine and aspen canopy that offers good shade, with a lush green forest undergrowth.  There are several trails that start from this parking area so there is generally a lot of traffic in and out of the area during the day time. Due to the close proximity to Denver this is a very popular spot overall. That being said there is a high possibility that all campsites may be taken during peak times. Finally there is one handicap accessible site available at the beginning of the campground.  

In the event this campground is full you may find a free campsite at the Mount Evans State Wildlife area which is located at the beginning of the road that leads to the Camp Rock campground. A couple sites are also positioned along the road leading down to Camp Rock. Be mindful of the signs on the road side that will let you know if camping is allowed at each pull off along the way. 

Nearby Activities or Attractions:

  • Evergreen
  • Evergreen Lake
  • Hiking at nearby:
  • Alderfer/Three Sisters Park
  • Elk Meadows Park
  • Dedisse Park
  • Bergen Peak Wildlife Area

 Great hiking trails wander into the Mount Evans Wilderness area from the campground but a free permit required. There is a self issuing permit station in the parking lot of the campground. The Mount Evans Wilderness area is a very beautiful area to hike that is close to the Denver area, and yet still isolated from modern convinces. Because of this there are often times when cellular service will not be available. As always when you are hiking in the back country it is wise to hike with a partner and or let someone else know where you are hiking and when you plan to return from your trip.

Available Hikes:

  • Beaver Meadows Trail #44 – (10.8 miles)
  • Bear Tracks Trail

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