We’ve been really slacking with documenting our time in Colorado. I don’t know if it’s a result of all the traveling we’ve been doing, wedding planning, burn out, general ambivalence towards our time here, or a combination of all of the above. Let’s remedy that, shall we?
Table Mountain, located in Golden, was one of our very first hikes in Colorado. We wanted something a little easier since we hadn’t acclimated to the altitude yet and this was a great option. There are a couple of trails that wind up to the “table”/mesa but we got a bit lost since they weren’t very well marked. This was extremely climber-friendly and we saw more than a few people scaling the sides of the cliffs.
When we finally scrambled to the top the views were amazing. You could see all of Golden Denver in the distance, and mountains galore to the west. It’s one of the closer hikes we’ve done and relatively easy; perfect for a quick day trip.
Golden Gate Canyon State Park
The park so nice, we went twice. Golden Gate Canyon State Park is an easy 45 minute drive west of Denver, slightly northwest of Golden. It’s a large park covered in trails and feels like an outdoorsman’s playground. Despite it’s close proximity to Denver and Golden, the trails we hiked were relatively untraveled.
Our first trip here we hiked the Burro Trail up to Windy Peak for a total of 6-7 miles. All of the hiking here is uphill so even a moderate trail can feel quite strenuous. The top of the trail was still a bit snow-covered but not too bad that we couldn’t navigate. As we reached the top, a storm rolled in (not uncommon for Colorado afternoons), so we snapped a few quick pictures and quickly made our way back to the tree cover. We were welcomed by a crazy hail storm that left us soaking and Snickers more than a little worried. It passed quickly and we took the east loop back to the parking lot.
Matt and Snickers came back for another round while Beth was on vacation. They did the Beaver Trail to Slough Pond and really enjoyed it.
Staunton State Park
Staunton State Park is located southwest of Denver; the drive takes you through Red Rocks and winds into the foothills. This is Colorado’s newest state park – it opened in 2013. The terrain was quite a bit different than other trails we’ve experienced. We hiked the Mason Creek Trail (4.5 miles) to the Old Mill Trail (0.9 miles) and finished on the Staunton Ranch Trail (2.5 miles).
The trail climbs gradually, but enough to get your heart rate up since it’s at 8,000-9,000 ft elevation. It would be great for trail running if you’re acclimated to the altitude. It goes through meadows, rocky outcroppings, and forested areas giving a nice variety of scenery. At the intersection of Mason Creek and Old Mill there’s (as the name would suggest) an old mill; it’s falling down but it’s neat to see and is also a good spot to rest for a minute.
The Mason Creek Trail was not very crowded, even on a weekend, but the Staunton Ranch Trail had a lot of foot traffic; it’s the main trail running through the middle of the park. Overall, it wasn’t an overly strenuous hike but was very enjoyable. Any hike that wears out Snickers gets four paws up.
Eldorado Canyon State Park
Beth and Snickers headed up here on a hot Sunday while Matt was enjoying his bachelor party in Canada. This is a large, busy park just south of Boulder. A word of advice: if you’re going here, go early! We went around 10:30 and were the last car they allowed into the park; you can still get in but you’ll have to park down the road and come in by foot.
We did the Eldorado Canyon Trail, which is a 3.5 mile out and back trail for a total of 7 miles. The first mile was very crowded, but it thinned out pretty quickly and we didn’t pass a single person on the last mile out or back. Colorado trails are all pretty rocky and don’t offer much shade; the sun is hot so we made sure to drink lots of water and lather up with sunscreen (Beth not Snickers). The first 2 miles of the trail climb up to a peak overlooking the valley below. This is totally worth the hike and most people turn around here, but if you’ve got it in you, I highly recommend finishing the entire thing.
After you reach the summit, the trail winds down for the remaining 1.5 miles – we almost backed out since I knew that going down meant we also had to go back up. This is on the backside of the mountain and offers a little more shade. Once it gets to bottom, you can hear the waters of South Boulder Creek. Go about 1/8 mile to the left and you’ll come to a bridge over the rushing water and see the creek cutting through the mountains. This made the extra distance totally worth it. Snickers cooled off in a side stream before we did the 3.5 miles in reverse.