Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Golden Gate Canyon State Park is a 12,000 acre Colorado State Park situated only 30 miles from Denver. Within easy reach of the city, you can be hiking through wildflower meadows or autumn color, depending on the season.

Although there are twelve marked hiking trails in the park, some of them are rated "most difficult". Here, I’ll just be telling you about the trails with moderate to difficult ratings.

Before I get to that though, here are the directions to Golden Gate Canyon State Park: from the city of Golden, take Highway 93 north approximately one mile to Golden Gate Canyon Road. Turn left on that road and drive for about 13 miles to the park. You’ll see the visitor/nature center on your right and it’s a good place to start your visit to the park.

Speaking of the visitor center, they have free maps of Golden Gate Canyon State Park, (including hiking trails), so remember to pick one up when you’re there. You will also find hiking-related books and a small-scale nature museum.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park, Panorama Point, Colorado

Golden Gate Canyon State Park is one of the state parks that is dog friendly so do bring your furry friend with you. He/she will thank you for it! But also remember to bring the leash since all dogs must be leashed here.

One of my favorite things about Golden Gate Canyon State Park, (other than they allow dogs), is the aspen trees. You’ll find them all over the park so bring your camera, especially in the fall. The trails on this page all feature plenty of these trees.

Another great thing about Golden Gate Canyon State Park is that it's an excellent park for picnicking. You can pack a lunch of your choosing, and after your hike, sit down at one of the many picnic tables and enjoy it.

Interestingly, all of the trails at Golden Gate Canyon State Park are named after an animal. Also, some of these trails are for hikers only, and some are multiple use; (hiking, mountain biking, and horses.) I’ll let you know which is which, for each trail. So, if you’re ready, here’s the first one:

Buffalo Trail
Multiple use trail
Start: Rifleman Phillips
End: Forgotten Valley
One-way distance: 1.2 miles
Difficulty level: moderate
Approximate round-trip hiking time: 1 hour and 40 minutes
Directions to Rifleman Phillips: from the visitor center, turn right onto Golden Gate Canyon road. Follow this road to Mountain Base road, (just a short distance away), and turn right again. Follow this road to the intersection with Gap road and turn right onto it. Follow Gap road for about 3 miles until you see the small parking area on your right.

As with many trailheads, (including these at Golden Gate Canyon State Park), there isn't much parking here. There is room for maybe seven cars, so plan ahead. Now, here's how to find this trail: from the parking area, walk down the dirt road which leads to the group campground. At one point, there will be a fork in the road and you want to follow the left fork. Shortly after this, you'll come to an old jeep road that is blocked off with a barrier and has a sign saying: No vehicles beyond this point. This is the Buffalo trail and is marked on a small sign that leans against the barrier.

Historical building, Golden Gate Park

This trail starts out in a forested area, and most of it either goes downhill or is on level ground. So your return trip will be mostly uphill. Also, there is a small brook that babbles its way along one side of the trail.

The first portion of this trail is rocky but after a short while, the rocks become less frequent and the walking gets easier. Along the way, you'll pass the remains of an old historical building. (Golden Gate Canyon State Park has several of them.)

Then you'll come out of the forest and into an area filled with meadows and aspen trees.

Buffalo Trail, Golden Gate Park

Keep following the road and eventually, you’ll come to the remains of an old homestead. As you get closer, you’ll see that there’s a sign telling you the history of the place. Read it if you’re interested, then when you’re ready, follow the small trail which leads to and beyond the old building. It eventually meets back up with the jeep road.

Later on, after I had originally hiked the Buffalo trail, I hiked it again in order to take more pictures, and was surprised to see a new development. The "old homestead" that I described in the above paragraph had been restored to its original condition. Here's what it looks like now:

Restored building, Golden Gate Park

Elk Trail
Multiple use trail
Start: Ole’ Barn Knoll
End: Reverend’s Ridge
One-way distance: 1.7 miles
Difficulty level: moderate
Approximate round-trip hiking time: 2 hours and 10 minutes
Directions to Ole’ Barn Knoll: from the visitor center, turn right onto Golden Gate Canyon road. Follow this road a short distance to Mountain Base road and turn right onto it. Then start looking on your right for the sign that says: Ole’ Barn Knoll. Just after this, turn left into the lot and start looking for a parking spot.

This trail starts out going down hill for a short while and at one point, you’ll see the remains of two old buildings. They are the Ole' Barns of Ole' Barn Knoll and there is a new interpretive sign there, if you're interested.

Ole Barn Knoll barns, Golden Gate Park

Shortly after passing these buildings, you’ll cross over a small brook. After that, you start climbing but it’s not a bad climb. The trail winds its way through open meadows with lots of clumps of aspen trees.

The trail itself, tends to be narrow, so watch you step. Soon, you’ll be leaving the open meadows and entering a pine forest which on this day, smelled really good. Also good about the forest is that the trail widens, making your hike much easier.

Mountain scenery, Golden Gate Park

If you like birds, we saw and heard many of them along the way. Some examples are: mountain bluebird, chickadees, red-winged blackbirds, woodpeckers, and of course, lots of hummingbirds. Anyway, the trail soon reaches a point where it parallels the road and then you’ll be close to Reverend’s Ridge and the end of this particular trail. From here, you can either go on to other trails, or go back the way you came.

But before you reach the end of this Golden Gate Canyon State Park trail, you'll get a treat. Towards the end of the trail, there's an opening in the trees on your left, and what you'll see is in the above picture. Enjoy!

Fall colors, Golden Gate Park

Horseshoe Trail
Hikers only trail
Start: Frazer Meadow trailhead
End: Frazer Meadow
One-way distance: 1.8 miles
Difficulty level: moderate
Approximate round-trip hiking time: 2 hours and 10 minutes;
Directions to Frazer Meadow trailhead: from the visitor center, turn immediately right onto Crawford Gulch Rd. (Not Golden Gate Canyon Road.) Proceed for a short ways until you see the sign for Frazer Meadow and turn left into the small parking area.

The Horseshoe trail follows along a stream and is a fairly good climb for maybe ¾ of the length of the trail until it levels out near Frazer Meadow. As with many trails at Golden Gate Canyon State Park, there are lots of aspen trees along the way, so it’s great for fall color hiking.

Once you reach Frazer Meadow, you’ll see what remains of an old homestead cabin. It’s a good place to stop for a picnic and you’ll probably be serenaded by chickadees and hummingbirds. When you’re ready, just go back the way you came.

Autumn color, Golden Gate Park

Raccoon Trail
Multiple use trail
Start: Reverend’s Ridge
End: Reverend’s Ridge (via Panorama Point);
Distance: 2.5 mile loop
Difficulty level: moderate
Approximate round-trip hiking time: 1 hour and 55 minutes;
Directions to Reverend’s Ridge: from the visitor center, turn right onto Golden Gate Canyon Road. Follow this road for a short distance to Mountain Base road and turn right onto it. Follow Mountain Base road all the way to Reverend’s Ridge Campground.

The Raccoon trail, (in my opinion anyway), is probably one of the most scenic hikes in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, especially since it includes a stop along the way at Panorama Point. Panorama Point is a beautiful spot where you can see the whole range of the mountains. A viewing area has been set up there, along with a chart telling you the names of the various mountain peaks.

Fall color, Golden Gate Park

The trail itself starts out very easily on level ground through a pine forest and even goes downhill in some parts. Then it flattens out again for a short while before you begin your uphill climb.

As you start your climb, you’ll see aspen trees everywhere so this is yet another great trail in Golden Gate Canyon State Park for fall color viewing.

The uphill climb is relatively steep but I think that the scenery definitely makes it worth the effort. The climb brings you to Panorama Point and after that, it’s mostly an easy downhill hike back to your car, except for a short uphill trek towards the end of the trail.

Snowshoe Hare Trail, Golden Gate Park

Snowshoe Hare Trail
Multiple use trail
Start: Aspen Meadow Campground (Rimrock Trailhead);
End: Aspen Meadow Campground
Distance: 3.0 mile loop
Difficulty level: difficult
Approximate round-trip hiking time: 2 hours
Directions to Aspen Meadow Campground: from the visitor center, turn right onto Golden Gate Canyon Road and follow it to Mountain Base Road. Turn right onto Mountain Base Road and after a short drive, turn right again onto Gap Road. Go beyond Panorama Point and turn right at the sign for Aspen Meadow Campground. Follow the road until you see the sign for Rimrock Trailhead on your left. The parking area is just a little further down the road.

We saw three deer along this trail and were surprised since we usually don’t see any deer anywhere in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. Anyway, the trail starts out relatively level before heading downhill. After going downhill for a little while, the trail then levels out again. I’m not sure why the park rates this trail as being “difficult”. I consider it to be moderate so don’t let the difficult rating deter you from enjoying this trail.

Towards the end of the trail, you’ll pass by the “Dude’s Fishing Hole”, and from here on out, is actually the hardest part of the whole hike. That’s because it’s an uphill climb most of the way back to your car. Make sure you bring water!

I’ll be adding more hiking trails to this Golden Gate Canyon State Park page at some point, so do check back from time to time.

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This site was last updated on September 21, 2017.


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