rolling grassland and gamble oaks in castle rock colorado

Ridgeline Open Space Hike

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Ridgeline Open Space is nestled in the Meadows residential area of Castle Rock. This network of over 13 miles of trails winds through elevated grasslands and gamble oak with a backdrop of distant snow-capped peaks of the Front Range. Hike it or bike it for a quick escape from the work week. Explore the full Ridgeline Open Space hike profileRead more


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Hall Ranch Hike Near Lyons, Colorado

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Hall Ranch, just outside of Lyons Colorado, is a hiking, mountain biking, trail running destination that features red sandstone buttes, vast green meadows, and panoramic views of white snowcapped meadows. Tucked into the foothills near the St. Vrain River, the trails at Hall Ranch are a great escape from life in the city. Explore the full Hall Ranch hike profileRead more


Elk Valley Trail in Roxborough State Park

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The Elk Valley Trail in Roxborough State Park climbs to a lesser visited valley in the park. Incredible views of the red rock formations of Roxborough make this a great moderate hike near Denver. The hike to Elk Valley is a 4.8 mile out-and-back journey, but can be turned into one of two more strenuous loop hikes. Explore all the details Read more


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Seven Falls Hike in Colorado Springs

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The hike to Seven Falls in Colorado Springs follows a paved canyon trail 0.8 mile to this famous tiered waterfall. After severe damage by the floods in 2013, the Broadmoor Resort purchased the property and has made significant improvements, including trail and site repairs, as well as creating an on-site restaurant. As in the past, there is an access fee to this Colorado Springs attraction. Explore the full Seven Falls hike profile for 4 different hike options,Read more


South Rim Loop Trail at Roxborough State Park

The South Rim Trail at Roxborough State Park is a moderate loop hike that leads to breathtaking views of the red rock formations that make this Colorado State Park famous. It's a perfect hike for a weekend afternoon, or a great choice for visiting family and friends. We also put this on our list for great hikes to take if you wantRead more


Deer Creek Canyon Loop Hike

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his loop hike in Deer Creek Canyon offers a quick getaway from the city of Denver and its surrounding suburbs. Because Deer Creek Canyon Park is tucked away in the entrance of the canyon, you can completely immerse yourself in the foothills and the valley that lies between Littleton and the park.[/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]
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Deer Creek Canyon Loop Trail Profile

This 2.7 mile loop hike in Deer Creek Canyon is made by combining two trails. The Route: Start on the Meadowlark Trail (1.6 mile trail) until you come to the Plymouth Creek Trail junction. Go left onto the Plymouth Creek Trail for 1.1 miles back to the trailhead.

This hike is relatively easy, characterized by mostly gentle slopes and a very few rock scrambles. It's perfect for kids, and older outdoor enthusiasts. Pathfinder, Joe Q., scouted this hike for Dayhikes Near Denver and went about a week too late to catch the peak of the fall colors; however, as he reported, "Even when I went the array of reds, oranges, and yellows were a great exemplification of Colorado’s fall beauty."

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The Meadowlark Trail is a hiker only trail, however, the Plymouth Creek trail does allow mountain bikes. As you hike, you'll encounter some faint side-trails where people choose to depart from the true trail to see a new vista view or viewpoint. These are pretty clearly not trails and will end within 100 feet. If you are ever questioning whether or not you’re on the true trail, you probably aren’t. The true trail is very well worn, well maintained, and is pretty obvious.
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The Plymouth Creek Trail follows the creek for a while, and gives lots of views to small cliff walls on either side. In the lower portions of Plymouth Creek the trail runs adjacent to private residences, but the trail remains clearly marked.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking Deer Creek Canyon Loop:

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  • Parking at Deer Creek Canyon: There is ample parking, but it's possible that the lot could fill up on holidays and weekends.
  • Getting There: GPS may give you incorrect directions to the trailhead. If you are traveling westbound on Deer Creek Canyon road, turn left on Grizzly; you'll find the Deer Creek Canyon Park Trailhead on your right.
  • Rattlesnakes: There is a higher than usual presence of rattlesnakes in the lower regions of Deer Creek Canyon Park. Rattlesnakes are a normal inhabitant of the foothills and plains along the front range, but some areas--like this on--may have higher concentrations. They tend to sun themselves on rock and the warm gravel of trails--so keep your eyes peeled as you hike.
  • After the Hike: Spur Coffee in Littleton
  • Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Trail Map for Deer Creek Canyon Park: Trail Map Link
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    Thanks goes out to Joe Q. who hiked this loop, and took the trail notes and photos to produce this trail profile.

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Elk Range Trail at Centennial Cone Park

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or those who are looking for a nice hike that incorporates the highland meadows of Colorado and views to snowcapped mountains, then the Elk Range Trail at Centennial Cone Park is the perfect hike. The Elk Range Trail can be hiked as an out-and-back 6.6 mile adventure, starting from one of two different trailheads. We saw a lot of wildlife and few people. Explore the full trail profile below for trail details, Centennial Cone park map, driving directions, and more.[/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]
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Centennial Cone Hike 01Looking East towards Centennial Cone

Elk Range Trail at Centennial Cone Profile

For a high country hike the elevation gains and descents are very gentle, and the inclines are not difficult. Centennial Cone Park is about 10 miles west of Golden, Colorado, and feels like a backcountry trail in many ways.

You have two trailhead options when taking the 6.6 mile Elk Range Trail.The driving directions link above are for the Centennial Cone Road trailhead. A North Centennial Cone Park Trailhead has equestrian trailer parking and can be located at this link. Our trail profile here describes the trail hiking from West to East.

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From the Centennial Cone trailhead, you immediately find yourself surrounded by green open fields. At about half a mile in you'll encounter a fence with a gate. When you walk through the gate, you'll be on private property for a few hundred yards. Jefferson County parks has some sort of easement, so continue your hike but stay on the trail, until you get to the other gate. There are horses and cows that wander about the area without fences, so they may be on the trail when you arrive. Another reason to be sure that the gates close behind you.
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Centennial Cone Hike 02

Hiking along the Elk Range Trail, I couldn't help wondering, "Can you hike up to the top of Centennial Cone?" There is no trail on the map but there appears to be the vestiges of an old road or trail leading up the North end of Centennial Cone. Because I haven't hiked it yet, I can't recommend it, but the old trail can be found just before the trail enters private property. Where the trail bends just before the gate, you can follow a set of what look to be markers for an underground gas line. These lead up to the trail at the base of Centennial Cone. This is as far as I explored, and hope to get back to attempt a hike to the top of the cone.

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It's important to know that on the weekends the trail alternates from hiker-only to biker-only. Here's how to keep track of it: Odd days are hiker only and even days are bikes only.The weekdays are open to both hikers and mountain bikers.The park is closed during certain days for hunting season. You can get the exact closure dates from the Centennial Cone page of Jefferson County's opens space site.

If you've started from the Centennial Cone Road trailhead and would like a pleasant and beautiful drive home, take Highway 6 through Clear Creek canyon, and into Golden.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking the Elk Range Trail:

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  • Mud: The Elk Range Trail can be a bit muddy after a good rain. You'll want to bring appropriate gear if you're planning a hike after a storm for a good day or two, including sturdy shoes.
  • Storms: The Elk Range Trail is at a high enough altitude that you'll want to keep an eye out for thunderstorms. There is very little cover on this trail, so check the weather report before heading out as well.
  • After the Hike: Cafe13 in Golden
  • Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Trail Map for Centennial Cone Park: Trail Map Link
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      elk range trail

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Hiking at Pine Valley Ranch Park

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ine Valley Ranch Park has become one of our family's favorite parks near Denver. Pine Valley Ranch Park boasts several hikes, a beautiful lake, a lot of history, a small island with a gazebo, and the best picnic area on the Front Range of Colorado. If that's not enough, the North Fork of the Platte River runs through the park, lined with enormous spruce trees and granite cliffs. Explore the trail profile below for hiking options, trail map, driving directions and more.
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Hiking Options at Pine Valley Ranch Park

#1 - Park View Out-and-Back Hike - Approx. 2 Miles Round Trip
The Park View trail can be located on the other side of Pine Lake (not the far side). Take the narrow gauge trail across the bridge and you'll locate the trailhead just on the other side of a shelter that sits along Pine lake. The trail is moderate to strenuous and will take you up to some great views of the surrounding Pike National forest and the Platte River. You'll get views of the extensive Hayman Burn, the burn scars left from the 2000 fire.

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#2 - Full Park View Loop - Approx. 2.5 Miles
If you would like to take a longer loop hike, take the Park view trail (.8 mile) up to the strawberry jack trail (.5), which will connect you to the Buck Gulch trail (.4) which will take you back down to Pine Lake. The Strawberry Jack trail will take you out into Pike National Forest. Be sure to have a map you--which you can pick up at the park--because a wrong turn onto the Buck Gulch Trail can take you far out of the way.
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#3 - Pine Lake Loop Hike - Approx. .7 mile
You can take a leisurely hike around Pine Lake at Pine Valley Ranch. Go early (before 7:30AM) to catch site of the birds and wildlife around the lake.
#4 - Narrow Gauge Trail Hike - .5 to 3.8 miles
pine-valley-ranch-park-north-platte-riverThis is the hike that our kids most enjoy. We like to hike the southeast segment that takes you along the North Fork of the South Platte River. There are willows to pass through, and probably some good trout fishing along the banks. The Narrow Gauge trail stretches about half a mile in this direction and is surrounded by granite cliffs, pine, and spruce.

If you hike the Narrow Gauge trail to the West, you'll follow the river past Pine lake for about 1.5 miles, then can hike it back.

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Pine Lake at Pine Valley Ranch Park

Pine Lake packs out with fisherman on the weekend but can be a great quiet escape on the weekdays, especially in the mornings and evenings. The lake has a fishing pier and a great shelter. In the winter months, there is ice fishing and skating. The shoreside shelter at Pine Lake has several picnic tables and a fireplace.

The Best Picnic Area Near Denver

pine valley ranch picnic area
As our family explores hikes and parks near Denver, we get to see a lot of picnic areas. See our Seven Great Picnic Areas Near Denver post. The picnic area at Pine Valley Ranch Park is hands down our favorite. A few reasons why: 1) It's along a river, 2) it's surrounded and shaded by enormous spruce trees, 3) has great facilities: two large covered shelters, and 4) there are a lot of activity options for families.
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Tips & Resources for Hiking the Pine Valley Ranch Park:

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    • Gazebo: There are some hidden treasures at Pine Valley Ranch. One you can't miss is the gazebo. Behind the large picnic shelters you'll find a small trail that leads to a bridge. The bridge leads to an small island in the Platte River and a beautiful old gazebo. The island is man-made and was created to contain the domesticated goats that used to roam the ranch.
    • River's edge: The Platte river can swell and be quite dangerous, especially in the Spring and after heavy rains, so keep a close eye on children along the river's edge.
    • Eagles: Keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles and osprey
    • Use sunscreen: Though there are a lot of trees, like most Colorado hikes, most areas are exposed to the sun, so hike early and use sunscreen.
    • Handicap accessibility: This would be a great place for family with physical limitations or who are wheelchair bound. I should point out that the park is not built around handicap accessibility, but we saw several people fishing from wheelchairs along the lake, and there is a lot of beauty to take in without having to go far or negotiate obstacles.
    • Historical significance: Pine Valley Ranch is replete with historical significance. The best place to start is to take a tour of Baehrden Lodge, a 27 room estate perched over the top of Pine Valley Ranch Park that is now in the care of Jefferson County Parks.
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    • Carved initials: Look for initials carved into trees a long the paths of Pine Valley Ranch. These go back many decades to when Pine Valley Ranch was a resort and folks would take the train from Denver to escape into the mountains.
    • Dr. Robert Dudley: We want to express our gratitude to Dr. Robert Dudley, who in the 1970's kept the park from being parceled out to the highest bidder, and to the Jefferson County Parks staff for the care they give to keep Pine Valley Ranch Park available to the public.
    • After the Hike: Aspen Perk Cafe
    • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
    • Trail Map for Pine Valley Ranch Park: Trail Map Link
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Horseshoe Trail at Golden Gate Canyon Park

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he Horseshoe Trail in Golden Gate Canyon State Park is a wonderful hike for older kids, experienced and non-experienced hikers. It's a great trail for spotting wildlife, from birds to deer, viewing fall colors and wildflowers, and taking in the beautiful scenic view along the trail. Several of the backcountry campsites areas are also accessible from the Horseshoe trail. We'll detail those locations, provide links to a trail map, driving directions and more in the trail profile on this Colorado hike.
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horseshoe trail golden gate canyon state park

Golden Gate Canyon's Horseshoe Trail is a 3.6 mile out-and-back hike (1.8 miles one-way). We've rated it as moderate in difficulty because of the 900+ feet of elevation gain. The Horseshoe Trail is popular because it follows the beds of several small streams, winds through groves of aspen trees, and leads to beautiful meadows, as well as three of Golden Gate Canyon State Park's backcountry camping areas.

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To get to the trailhead (first,use our driving directions). Once in the park, exit to the right out of the Visitors Center--you'll want to stop here first to pick up a map. You'll find the Frazer Meadows parking area and trailhead for the Horseshoe Trail on the left-hand side of the road. Keep in mind that parking is limited, so it would be best to arrive early. There are also restrooms at the Horseshoe trail trailhead and we found them to be kept up and clean.
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peak along horseshoe trail in golden gate canyon state park

One of the highlights of this trail are the streams that run along it. You'll find that there are several small bridges to cross as you make your way up the trail. Seasonal streams also mean that sections of the Horseshoe trail will get muddy on after rains and during the Spring melt-water runoff. But water also means wildflowers, and this trail comes alive with them in late Spring through the Summer.

The Horseshoe Trail also leads you to access trails for three of the five Golden Gate Canyon backcountry camping areas. Use this link to the backcountry camping brochure to get details on cost per night and how to make campsite reservations in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. The first campsite access trail is at 1.1 miles and will take you to Greenfield Meadows, which has 4 campsites. Continuing on the same spur, you can hike further in to the Frazer Meadow campsite which has 4 campsites and one backcountry shelter. If you continue on the Horseshoe trail, you'll come upon the access trail for Rim Meadow campsite at 1.3 miles. Rim Meadow also has 4 campsites.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking the Horseshoe Trail:

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    • Park Pass: A Colorado State Park Pass is required to enter Golden Gate Canyon State Park. Check the Golden Gate Canyon Fees page for details on park passes. Some trails offer passes at self-serve dispensers.
    • Printed map: The trail forks to the left, make sure to have a printed map on hand which you can pick up at the Visitors Center.
    • Bug spray: for hot summer days not a bad idea.
    • Sun protection: The trail is often shaded--a rare thing for Front Range hikes--but be sure to bring sun protection because it is almost 4 miles round trip and there are areas exposed to the sun.
    • No cell phone: There is no cell phone coverage at Golden Gate Canyon State Park.
    • Download our Dayhikes Hiking Guide for a day hike packing checklist
    • After the Hike: Windy Saddle Cafe in Golden
    • Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
    • Trail Map for Golden Gate Canyon State Park: Trail Map Link
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        A big thanks goes out to Lisa Palmer, a member of our Dayhikes Pathfinder Team, who hiked this trail with her family, gathered the information for the trail profile, and took the photos for this post.

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Golden Gate Sate Park Blue Grouse Trail Landscape

Blue Grouse Trail at Golden Gate Canyon Park

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The Blue Grouse Trail is a short, 1.6-mile hike on the western edges of Golden Gate Canyon State Park. A pleasant trail with little gain in elevation and mellow terrain makes this a great escape from the city. The Blue Grouse Trail is a perfect hiking trail for spotting wildlife, from birds to deer, viewing fall colors and wildflowers, and taking in the beautiful scenic view along the trail. Explore the full hiking trail profile below for hike details, trail map, and links to similar trails near Denver.
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Before you start this hike there are some things you should know - a Colorado State Park Pass is required to enter Golden Gate Canyon State Park. A day pass can be purchased at the Visitors Center upon entrance into the park. Some trails offer passes at self-serve dispensers, but the Blue Grouse Trail does not.

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To get to the Blue Grouse trailhead, pass Kriley Pond and take the first right at Mountain Base Road. The trailhead parking area is to the right at the fork in the road. At the trailhead you’ll find picnic tables. There is a porta-let at Kriley Pond and there are restroom facilities at the Visitors Center. Below you'll find more details on the trail, Kriley pond, and some information on camping at Golden Gate Canyon State Park.
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Hiking the Blue Grouse Trail

You'll make your way along a nice dirt path with a few rocky sections. The elevation gain is slight, and this short hike can be turned into a longer one by joining up with the Mule Deer Trail where the Blue Grouse trail terminates at .7 mile. Mule Deer Trail is a 7.4 mile loop, and there is a Golden Gate Park map at the trail intersection.
Blue Grouse Trailhead Golden Gate Colorado

The Blue Grouse Trail is a popular trail for mountain bikers who use it to access the longer trails in Golden Gate. Mountain bikers in Colorado are typically very considerate of hikers, but just be aware that you'll be sharing the trail with others. After the initial rise, the trail is more gentle as it ascends the hillside. You'll be drawn to the rock outcroppings ahead and a beautiful grove of aspens.

Blue Grouse Trail

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Tips & Resources for Hiking the Blue Grouse Trail:

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    • Trail options: View the Golden Gate Canyon Park map to see the various other trail options you have after hiking the .7 mile in on Blue Grouse.
    • Rim Meadows: a great destination if you would like to continue on the Mule Deer Trail but are not wanting to hike the entire Mule Deer trail loop.
    • Picnic: Because Golden Gate Canyon State Park is an hour drive, make a half-day or full-day out of your trip. Bring a picnic, and sling up a hammock for a nap in the shade.
    • Download our Dayhikes Hiking Guide for a day hike packing checklist
    • Sun protection: The trail is only partly shaded, so be sure to bring sun protection for the parts not covered.
    • After the Hike: Buffalo Moon Coffee
    • Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
    • Trail Map for Blue Grouse Trail: Trail Map Link
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        Kriley Pond at Golden Gate Canyon State Park

        Kriley Pond is a popular fishing spot in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. In the fall, the hillsides are peppered with the golden glow of Aspens.The early morning hours are the best time to visit if you want to soak in the songs of Colorado songbirds before families and fisherman arrive. Fishing in Kriley Pond requires a Colorado Fishing License. There are several other ponds to visit at Golden Gate Canyon, including: Ranch Ponds, Slough Ponds, Dude's Fishing Hole, and the pond at Forgotten Valley.
        kriley pond at Golden Gate Canyon State Park

        Camping in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

        There are several camping options at Golden Gate. However, because this State Park is less than an hour from Denver, the sites can fill up fast in the busy summer months. There is a car camping area at Reverends Ridge, a tents only site at Aspen Meadows, 20 backcountry shelters, and a limited number of cabins and yurts that can be reserved. All sites require fees which are posted at the Golden Gate Canyon Camping page.

        We want to thank Lisa Palmer, a member of our Dayhikes Pathfinder Team, who hiked this trail with her family, gathered the information for the trail profile, and took the photos for this post.

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