As far as I’m concerned, fall is a pretty wonderful season for a few reasons: 1) college football season (Go State!); 2) runs are much more enjoyable when they’re not so sweaty; 3) pumpkin everything + fantastic hauls at the farmers market, 4) the spectacular colors. Thankfully, living in Colorado we get to enjoy all of this!
One of the best ways to enjoy fall in Colorado is to go for a hike. We recently explored Golden Gate Canyon State Park – 16 miles west of Golden, Colorado, the 12,000 acre park boasts 11 trails covering nearly 35 miles. Less than an hours drive from our house, I was caught off guard when I got out of the car at the visitors center to pay $7.00 for our day pass, and it was probably 20 degrees colder than when we left our house. I should have been prepared for this, being as the park ranges in elevation 7,600 feet to 10,400 feet. I still find it amazing how close we live to the mountains!
At the advice of a very helpful park ranger, we chose to start on the Black Bear trail (rated “most difficult”) and then loop back to the trailhead on the Horseshoe trail (“moderate”) for a total just over 5 miles. If we had more time, we would have gone a bit father as it was an absolutely beautiful park – I’d dare to say my favorite so far. Again, I’m thankful we got up there early as we were the first car in the parking lot that was overflowing when we returned, and we only saw 3 other people and one dog on the Black Bear trail but a ton of people as we were getting towards the end of our hike.
One reason why I loved this park was the variety of terrain – rocky climbs, packed gravel, sandy paths, pines and aspen groves. It was not a boring park at all, and we only saw a very small part of it! With so much to explore, the park has two campgrounds and several cabins, yurts, and a guest house, as well as back country camping.
Woody obviously was loving the hike too. Turned out once we got out of the valley and started hiking in the sun, the temperatures warmed up pretty fast! And that’s a good thing too, because all I was not dressed for the cold! Starting at about 8,200 feet with an elevation gain of 1,120, the Black Bear trail definitely gets the heart pumping!
There are many mixed use trails through the park, but the ones we took were hiking only, which was perfect. It was nice not having to jump to the side as mountain bikers whizzed by.
You may not believe me from these pictures, but this park does get pretty packed. The proximity to Denver and other towns, number and range of trails, camping options and beauty, makes it a perfect destination for all types of people and groups. While it was great when we had the trail to ourselves, it was also pretty awesome to see all the parents on the trail with their young kids. I love that they start them hiking so early!
We took this hike on Saturday, September 27, I’m sure the colors are even brighter now, but like everything good, they don’t last long so it’s important not to wait too long in the fall to get out there.
Where is your favorite place to hike?