road leading into garden of the gods red rocks with snow dusted foothills and clouds in background

Ultimate Guide to Hiking Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods is argueabley the best place to hike in Colorado Springs. Designated a National Natural Landmark, the park is known for its towering red sandstone formations and panoramic views of Pikes Peak. Hiking, Horseback riding, mountain biking, birding, and climbing are among the activities that can be enjoyed here. This guide to the Garden of the Gods features 6 different hiking trail options, spanning from easy to moderate and 1/2 mile to 2.5 mile hikes.
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e've attempted to create the definitive guide to hiking in Garden of the Gods. In this guide, you'll find: Driving directions to Garden of the Gods, Trail Maps, Photography tips, Camping information for the Garden of the Gods area, and other Resources for planning your Colorado Vacation. This guide to Garden of the Gods is extensive, so we have created a table of contents to help you navigate. Have fun exploring!

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Garden of the Gods Guide Contents

1. Trail Snapshot
2. Driving Directions
3. Hiking Trails
4. Central Garden Trail
5. Ridge Trail
6. Siamese Twins Trail
7. Palmer Trail
8. Scotsman & Buckskin Charlie Loops
9. Balanced Rock Trail
10. Photography
11. Hiking with Kids
12. For Out-of-State Hikers
13. Things to Do Nearby
14. History and Geology
15. Protect Garden of the Gods

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Trail Snapshot: Garden of the Gods

Driving Directions to Garden of the Gods

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Take interstate I-25 to Colorado Springs. Exit onto West Fillmore Road and head West. Fillmore will change names to Fontmore Road. Take a right onto North 30th Street, and you'll find the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center just 1.2 miles up on the right/east side of the road. We recommend you stop at the Visitor Center to pick up a free color trail map. The main parking area for hiking is located on the North end of the park. You'll find Gateway Road (the access road into Garden of the Gods) directly across from the Visitor Center. Head west on Gateway road, then right at the intersection with Juniper Way Loop Road. The main parking area is located on the left-hand/South side of the first bend of the Juniper Way Loop. There are restroom facilities available at both the main parking area and at the visitor center.
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Before you park, consider driving around the entire Juniper Way loop to take in the sites and get your bearings. It's one of the most beautiful drives in Colorado, especially during sunrise and sunset. The loop is one way, has a low speed limit, and is frequented by cyclists. So, it also makes for a great bike ride-- the northbound loop is a gradual but demanding climb. Be attentive to hikers and cyclists as you drive in the park.

6 Hiking Trails at Garden of the Gods

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concrete path winding through red rock formations with scrub grasses and juniper trees

Central Garden Trail at Garden of the Gods Steve Walser

Trail Option #1 - The Central Garden Trails

We've put this loop hike first on our list because it takes you right into the heart of the park. It's also paved and wheelchair and stroller accessible. From the parking lot, hikers will head south on the main trail (pictured above). On your right will be the largest of the sandstone Monoliths, North Gateway Rock. The tower on its north end is called the Tower of Babel, and its south end marks the gateway into the famous central valley. But before you enter the valley, be sure to look up at the Kissing Camels formation located at the middle-top of North Gateway Rock.

The loop begins right after you enter through the gateway at the twin spires of Sentinel Rock. Going left will take you on a clockwise circuit around the valley. You'll first pass between the Three Graces and Pulpit Rock before the trail bends to the North. Finally, the trail will bend South and meet back up with the trail that leads back to the main parking lot. There are many other trails that come off of the main loop trail, so bring a map with you if you plan to explore some of the nooks and crannies of the park.

snow covered pikes peak with red sandstone and tree in foreground

View of Pikes Peak from the South End of Garden of the Gods Courtesy of John Kalla

Trail Option #2 - The Ridge Trail at Garden of the Gods

The Ridge Trail is a short, half-mile loop on the southeastern end of the park. From the parking area indicated in the table above, the trail is located across the street to the left by takign a crosswalk. Before you cross, be aware of cars and cyclists (often the cyclists come around the curves of the park much faster and can take you by surprise). The Ridge trail makes it way to the foot of The Sleeping Giant formation before bending back toward the parking area.

two red rock towers rock formation with pikes peak mountain in background

Siamese Twins Rock Formation - Courtesy of Matt Santamarco

Trail Option #3 - The Siamese Twins Trail

To hike to the Siamese Twins formation, take the trail on the north end of the parking lot that leads North. As you hike, you'll observe a very different landscape to the West, desert terrain that stretches out and up to Rampart Range Road. At the Siamese Twins, be sure to grab a photo of Pikes Peak framed by the window in the rock. Be sure to adjust your camera to take it's light reading from the distant mountain rather than the foreground (on your phone, simply press your screen to readjust the reference point for the lighting and focus). The trail heads South and will pass the parking area as it bends around and back up to it.

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View of Central Garden From Palmer Trail - Courtesy of John Fowler

Trail Option #4 - The Palmer Trail (Chambers/Bretag Loop)

This 2.5 mile loop hike is a great way to take in the full spectrum of terrain and rock formations in the park. The route, as describe below is about 2.5 miles, and mileage may vary depending on the side trails you decide to take. From the main parking area/trailhead, the Palmer Trail can be picked up by crossing Juniper Way directly North of the lot. Heading left/West on the Palmer trail, it will wind around South, roughly following the main road through Garden of the Gods.

To make the loop, at about 1.3 miles on the Palmer Trail hikers will cross Juniper Way at the Scotsman Picnic Area and join up with the Scotsman Trail. It will dips South initally, then heads Northeast to meet up with the trails of the Central Valley. This area can be quite a labyrinth and the best way to pick up the Eastern side of the loop will be to keep an eye out for the gateway, the space between North Gateway and South Gateway Rocks. Once through the gateway, hikers will pick up the Garden Trail, head East, and join up with the Susan G. Bretag Trail, by crossing Juniper Way where it intersects with Gateway Road. Heading North on the Bretage Trail, it will eventually come to a fork. Taking the left-hand/West trail (Palmer Trail) will lead back to the parking lotl

Trail Option #5 - The Scotsman and Buckskin Charlie Loops

These are two loops found just South of the Central Valley area. The parking area is small and will likely be full during most days during the Summer months. One alternative is to begin your hike at the main lot, then pick up the Scotsman trail on the South end of the Valley.

The Scotsman Loop is 1.1 mile in its entirety. Picking up the trail from the Scotsman Picnic ground by following social trails East, the Scotsman dips South then winds Northeast before making a sharp turn South and back to the parking area. Bring your trail map, or have it up on your phone to keep oriented.

The Buckskin Charlie Trail can be added to double your hike. Hikers will pick up the Buckskin Charlie Trail on the southern bends of the Scotsman. The trail winds around until it begins again to head North, following the line of the main road, Juniper way, until it joins back up with the Scotsman and returns home to the Scotsman Picnic area.

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Balanced Rock - Courtesy of Chica-Tika

Trail Option #6 - The Balanced Rock Loop Hike

You don't have to hike to Balanced Rock (see driving directions in the table above). In fact, this loop hike is named "the Balanced Rock Trail" only because it is near Balanced Rock, not because it takes you there. For visitors entering through the South end of the park, Balanced Rock will be the first stop, then on to the Trading Post. In fact, the best way to pick up the Balanced Rock Trail is from the Northern end of the Trading Post lot. Hikers will find a connector trail that goes directly from the lot North, crosses the road, and immediately picks up the Balanced Rock Loop trail. Hiking counter-clockwise, the trail follows alongside Garden road, then leads North until it terminates at another section of the road. Hikers can cross the road (watch for cars and cyclists) and pick up the Cabin Canyon Trail across the street. Taking the Cabin Canyon Trail South, it will come to a crosswalk where you can pick the Balanced Rock Trail up again and back to the parking area.

Photography: Great Photos in Garden of the Gods

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  • All year round and any time of the day, Garden of the Gods is already photogenic. However, the best times to take photos are during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset when the rock faces are lit up and cast their shadows across the landscape. Going early in the morning will also help you avoid having people in your photos.
  • Snow adds its white contrast during the Winter months and early Spring. If you want a snowcapped Pikes Peak in the background, you'll likely need to get that shot before mid-June.
  • Wildflowers appear most noticeably in April through July.
  • After heavy rains, standing water can form what look like small ponds (but are really giant puddles). These offer the rare opportunity to capture the reflection of the rock formations on water.
  • One classic vantage point is to take your photo from the North End of the Palmer Trail at Sunset. This will give you one of the best photographs of the Central Valley area.
  • For sunrise, a great place to capture Garden of the Gods with Pikes Peak in the background is from the parking area up on Mesa Road that overlooks the park.

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Hiking with Kids at Garden of the Gods

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  • Hydrate: This goes for adults as well, but is even more important with kiddos. Almost all the trails in Garden of the Gods are exposed to the sun. You're also in a High-Plains Desert environment, so you simply need more water. Then add onto that physical exertion. So, bring water and hydrate.
  • Pack Snacks or Bring a Lunch: Even though the hikes are not long in Garden of the Gods, it always helps to have fuel. Plus, nothing beats finding a great view of Pikes Peak and kicking back to rest and enjoy a picnic.
  • Climbing can result in injury: Having hiked often in Garden of the Gods, I've witnessed people--usually young people--who have climbed up into areas and gotten themselves in a tough spot. Children should know that climbing up into an area is a lot easier than getting down.

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Visiting Garden of the Gods From Out-of-State

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  • Download our Hiking Guide for a list of hiking tips, 10 essentials that everyone should pack for their dayhike, and recommended hiking snacks.
  • Free Full-Color Map: Don't get lost. Pick up this freebie at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center information kiosk.
  • Bring Lots of Water: It can be very hot and dry, and there may not be a chance to refill, so bring a full water bottle.
  • Altitude: If you are visiting Colorado from out-of-state, chances ar that it will take you a few days to adjust to teh altitude. The good news about hikes in Garden of the Gods is that they are relatively easy. However, a little exertion at altitude can result in feeling naseauted, winded, and just plain tired. So, don't overdo it if you are not feeling well. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate (because it oxygenates your blood), and get good rest.
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    Camping Near Garden of the Gods

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    Camping is prohibited in Garden of the Gods, and it's important to understand that the Park is located in the town of Colorado Springs--it's not a backcountry experience. Those looking to camp will need to explore campgrounds and tent camping options outside the immediate area. However, there is a nearby campground in Manitou Springs that offers cabins, bunkhouses, and RV spots. It's pet-friendly and even offers bike rentals. You can find current rates and more at Garden of the Gods RV Resort. Most of the tent camping is going to be out near Rampart Range Reservoir or further West past Woodland Park, CO.

    Things to Do and Places to Eat Near Garden of the Gods

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    History and Geology of Colorado’s Garden of the Gods

    Imagine a prehistoric landscape of sand dunes plunged and crushed into the earth by some violent upheaval involving tectonic and hydraulic forces. That's how the red rock fins of Garden of the Gods were formed in the womb of the earth. Then another cataclysm. The Pikes Peak massif gets thrust to the sky along with the surrounding red sedimentary rock. Some at angles and some perpendicular to the land. Then the forces of wind and water began to wear down the loose rock creating the unusual holes and across the surfaces of the rocks. You'll find these types of rock formations stretching from North of Ft. Collins down into Southern Colorado. Some of the most notable are Roxborough State Park and South Valley Park near Littleton and Red Rocks Park in Denver.

    After his death in 1907, the children of railroad tycoon, Charles Elliott Perkins, fulfilled their father's wishes by donating 480 acres of Garden of the Gods to become a permanent park and free to the public. The park has expanded over the years to over 1,300 acres. The park got its name from a German surveyor mapping out the land in 1859.

    How You Can Protect the Garden of the Gods Area

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    • Stay the Trail: The sandstone in the parks is easily eroded, and because this area sees a lot of visitors the impacts of individuals quickly adds up. So keep on established trails during your hikes.
    • Keep Dogs on a 6' Leash: And be sure to bring bags for picking up after your pet.
    • Pack Out All Trash: It should go without saying but be sure to pick up after yourself. In the last few years it seems that litter along trails in Colorado has grown to be a real problem. Do your part to keep the park and our State beautiful. One of our family hiking habits is to pick up trash as we hike.
    • Climbing and Bouldering: Climbing and Bouldering in Garden of the Gods require both the proper equipment and permits. You can pick up permits at the Visitor Center or online at the City of Colorado Springs climbing permit page.
    • Thanks goes out to Joel Tonyan for his great photo of Garden of the Gods and snow-dusted foothills.
    • Care for the Rock: This should also go without saying, but don't carve or deface the rock in any way.
    • Let them sit and grow: Removing rocks, plants, or animals is prohibited.
    • Mountain Biking: Mountain biking is limited to designated trails.

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    Weather

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    Map & Driving Directions

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Roxborough State Park Hiking Trails

5 Hikes in Roxborough State Park

Roxborough State Park is widely considered Denver's Garden of the Gods. Secluded in the foothills south of Littleton, Colorado, Roxborough State Park can feel like stepping into another world, especially when a light fog rest on the tops of the red rocks of Fountain Valley. Roxborough State Park is home to a variety of wildlife and migratory birds find the park an ideal place to stop as they make their way along the Front Range. The park is one of our favorites for visiting friends and family because of its proximity to Denver and easy to moderate demand of the trails. In this page, we provide a short description of the 5 main trails in Roxborough. We have developed more detailed hiking trail profiles for each hike. These can be accessed by clicking through on any of the titles and photos below. It's important to note that Dogs are not allowed and that a fee is required to access the Park.

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Willow Creek Trail in Roxborough

Distance: 1.4 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

Willow Creek Trail is a short loop trail in Roxborough and is a recommended choice for beginners exploring the park. It's just a short walk from the trailhead but it still boasts the ever prominent red rock formations along with over 140 species of birds that flourish within this region. In the late Spring, Western Tanagers, like the one pictured above, can be spotted among the scrub oaks that fill the valley floor.

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Fountain Valley Trail in Roxborough

Distance: 2.3 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

The Fountain Valley Trail features the best part of Roxborough Park - it’s looming and massive red rocks. Ruins of an old estate can be found along the trail with interpretive signs that tell the history of the valley. Because the trail is relativily flat and gradual, this hike may be good fit for those visiting the Denver area from out-of-state. Because it's a loop trail, hikers are able to take in a variety of vantage points and views of the park.

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South Rim Loop Near Littleton, Colorado

Distance: 3 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate

The South Rim Trail at Roxborough State Park is a moderate loop hike offering a more wide-angle perspective of the formations of Fountain Valley and will expose visitors to more of the variety of landscapes in the park. We've found this to be a great family hike with our kids. There are a few benches along the way that offer both shade and great spots to rest your feet.

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Elk Valley Trail Near Littleton, Colorado

Distance: 4.8 Miles Round Trip with Loop options

Difficulty: Moderate

The Elk Valley Trail in Roxborough State Park can be hiked as an out-and-back trail, but can be turned into one of two different loops. See our full trail profile for details. It's a lesser visited area of the park, and at the right time, you may be able to spot elk grazing in the meadows below the trail.

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Carpenter Peak Trail Near Littleton, Colorado

Distance: 6.2 Miles Round Trip

Difficulty: Moderate

The hike up to Carpenter Peak in Roxborough State Park is a strenuous 6.2 mile out-and-back trip. This foothill summit overlooks the red rock formations of Fountain Valley, provides panoramic views to the city of Denver in the Northeast, and the mountains of Pike National Forest in the West.

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Roxborough State Park Parking and Trailhead Information

Roxborough State Park is located south of Littleton, Colorado, at the base of the foothills near Pike National Forest. The last two miles of the road into Roxborough State Park is a maintained dirt road, and this segment can become washboarded and can be tough on the car--but it is accessible for 2WD vehicles. The park can fill up during the busy weekend hours. If that's the case, you can wait in line at the gatehouse until vehicles exit and the ranger at the gatehouse gives you the signal to drive in. My guess is that the peak times are around 10AM-2PM, and weekends are about 5x busier than weekdays. If the line of cars looks long, you can always turn around and head over to nearby Waterton Canyon or to South Valley Park--both are great options.
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Tips & Resources for Hiking Roxborough State Park Trails

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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


Carpenter Peak Hike in Roxborough State Park

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The hike up Carpenter Peak in Roxborough State Park is a strenuous 3.1 mile journey (one-way) to a foothill summit that overlooks the red rock formations of Fountain Valley. You'll also gain 360 degree panoramic views of Denver, east to the plains, and west to distant snow-capped peaks. In this Colorado trail profile, you'll find driving directions, trail map, and 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


Trading Post Trail at Red Rocks Park

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eady for a hike around Colorado's Red Rocks Park and famous amphitheater? The Trading Post trail at Red Rocks takes you around 10 of the parks giant red rock formations. It's a short loop hike near Denver, accessible off of 470. Check out our full hiking trail profile below for all the details.
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If you are looking for a family adventure that's quick to get to, this hiking trail at Red Rocks is a great option. The Trading Post trail weaves through some of Colorado's most majestic red rock formations, into meadows, and great views of Red Rocks park. Because the trail is narrow and has some steep areas, keep a good eye on the kiddos.

We hiked the Trading Post Trail on a sunny Saturday in February with our children, ages 7 and 4. They loved it, but were definitely tired at the end. However, after we finished the 1.4 mile loop, it was their idea to hike up to the amphitheater, then all the way to the top.

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We started at the trading post, and hiked the loop counter-clockwise. I'd recommend hiking it this way because it gives you the move favorable views, and offers a bit of shade about 3/4 of the way through the hike--right when you need it the most. The sand and grave on the rock surface of the trail can cause your feet to slip, but as long as you are aware and take your time, it makes for a perfect leisurely hike.

You can bring your dog on this hike, however we haven't added this trail to our list of best trails for hiking with your dog near Denver because the trail can be narrow and can be high traffic. So, if you are bringing fido, we recommend going early in the morning, or take the Red Rocks trail, which is more open and has fewer people on it.

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I get a lot of emails from people who are only in Denver for a few days, limited when it comes to their transportation, and want to experience the outdoors. This is the hike I send them to. Why?
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  • The Trading Post is gorgeous year round.
  • Red Rocks is super close to Denver, and while it's still expensive, you could take a Lyft or Uber there from downtown. Get a group of friends to share the cost and you're golden.
  • Elevation is less of an issue for out-of-towners, and it's a relatively easy hike. It's short, but long still long enough to get a workout.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking the Trading Post Trail at Red Rocks :

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  • Sunscreen: There's not much shade on this hike, so bring the sunscreen
  • Rattlesnakes: There are rattlesnakes in Red Rocks, as there are in many parks along the front range. Like us, they love to sunbathe, but on rocks and other warm areas. Don't let their presence deter you from enjoying this hike, but keep an eye out for the varmints.
  • Climbing: Rock Climbing is Prohibited at Red Rocks
  • View of Denver: After your hike around the Trading Post loop, walk up into the Red Rocks Amphitheater. It's worth climbing all the stairs to the top for a great view of Denver.
  • Hours: The hiking trails at Red Rocks open one hour before sunrise and close one hour after sunset
  • After the Hike: Ice Cream @ The Blue Cow
  • Trail Map for Red Rocks Park: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions

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Weather

 
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Red Rocks Trail at Red Rocks Park

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The Red Rocks Trail at Red Rocks park gives you a chance to wander through the meadows just east of the imposing red monoliths that this Denver Mountain Park is named after. Close to Denver, the Red Rocks Trail is great for a sunrise hike, an inspiring trail run or a challenging bike ride. There's more: a cave carved into the sandstone a great geological overlook.Read more


Red Rocks Trail at Settlers Park in Boulder

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giant underground sandstone formation runs from Ft. Collins all the way through Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. Here at Red Rocks Trail in Boulder, the rock juts out of the ground to transform the landscape. It makes for an inspiring short hike. Explore the hike snapshot and detailed trail profile below to get a feel for this great hike near Boulder.
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The trails of Red Rocks at Settlers Park in Boulder interconnect to form more of a labyrinth than a straightforward hike. But there is a way around all that---literally. Pull up the Boulder Open Space & Parks Map and follow the outer perimeter trail to form an approximately 1 mile loop around the sandstone red rock formations that jut out of the ground in the center of the park.
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You can add an additional .8 mile to your hike by taking the Anemone trail to the west, rising another 400ft where it tops out on a hill to give you views of the City of Boulder, the Red Rocks Park, and the Colorado Front Range. Even with the Anemone trail spur, it's a short hike, so you might want to add one of the Mt. Sanitas hiking trail options to your adventure. The Mt. Sanitas trail is just North of the Centennial Trailhead.
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Tips & Resources for Hiking the Red Rocks Trail at Settlers Park :

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Willow Creek Trail at Roxborough State Park

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ntering Roxborough State Park is like walking into another world. The red rock and wildlife--and if you are lucky--the low lying cloud cover, conspire to make for a great escape just south of Denver. This short hike in Roxborough is a perfect way to begin exploring the park. Scroll down to get all the information you need for this trail: driving directions to the trailhead, trail map links, and more details.
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A birdwatcher's paradise. Roxborough State Park is Denver's twin sister of Garden of the God's in Colorado Springs. The park has cataloged over 140 species of birds that have been viewed in the park. On our first hike in the park, we encountered several Western Tanager's among the scrub oak.
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On our first visit, we brought our dog and had to turn the car around. Roxborough State Park has quite a bit of wildlife and sensitive plant life, so pets are not allowed. Mountain biking and camping are also not permitted.

This would be in our top 5 for visiting family and friends because this Douglas County hike stays at a lower elevation, is easy, and offers awe inspiring views. This is one of our favorite places to visit in the mornings.
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Tips & Resources for Hiking Willow Creek Trail at Roxborough State Park :

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Weather

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Map & Driving Directions


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Fountain Valley Trail at Roxborough State Park

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he Fountain Valley trail in Colorado's Roxborough State Park is the Garden of the God's of Denver. It's more secluded than Red Rocks park, and features several trails that take you beyond the park boundaries and into the foothills. The Fountain Valley Trail is a perfect place to start because it features the best part of the park, it's towering slabs of red rock. Explore the hiking profile below for all the trail details, trail map link, and driving directions to the trailhead for this easy Colorado hike.
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Roxborough State Park is Denver's twin sister of Garden of the God's in Colorado Springs. The beautiful Lyons and Fountain formations climb from the valley floor and create a wonderful space for a quiet hike, birdwatching, and viewing wildlife.
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The trail is a loop. You can start on the valley floor, then work your way up to the high trail that looks down and across the fountain formation (photo above was taken from around the midpoint of the high trail). On our visit we encountered several whitetail deer and a variety of birds flitting about in the scrub oak that grows in the valley. The initial part of the trail are handicap accessible, but the trail soon becomes a more narrow dirt trail.

There are some ruins of an old estate along the trail and interpretive signs telling about the history of the valley. We would recommend this trail for families with small children and especially for folks visiting Denver and looking for something fun to do. The low elevation is great for out of towners who may not have the time or capacity to get up into the mountains. Dogs are not permitted, so be sure to leave fido at home. Because this trail is in Roxborough State Park, a fee or Colorado state parks pass is required. See the Roxborough State Park Fees page for details.
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Tips & Resources for Hiking Fountain Valley Trail at Roxborough State Park :

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Weather

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Map & Driving Directions


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