|Eldorado Canyon, Colorado|
|The inner canyon of Eldorado Canyon State Park is a Mecca for climbers, and it is fascinating to watch them scaling the highly technical routes up the vertical cliff faces. But there are also trails here for hikers, offering good views of the canyon and the plains beyond. However, these are very popular at weekends, so a weekday visit or early start is advised.
Initially follow the easy Fowler Trail, which runs above the road and South Boulder Creek, before turning sharp right onto Rattlesnake Gulch after a couple of minutes. This trail follows the old wagon road – known as Crags Boulevard -used by visitors to the now-ruined Crags Hotel. Built in 1908, it survived only four years before it burnt to the ground in 1912 – through accident or arson, no one is sure.
The trail winds up the hillside, dotted with conifers that give welcome moments of shade on a sunny day, with nice views of the canyon rock walls. This is an area inhabited by mountain lions, and on the way up you may see a notice warning of mountain lion activity.
It is a hot climb of 800 ft/244 m over 1.4 miles/2.2 km to the Crags Hotel ruin. Today, the well and remains of the baking oven are pretty much all that is left. From here, turn left for the 0.8 mile/1.3 km Rattlesnake Gulch Loop, which climbs another 400 ft/122 m. It heads outside the Park boundary, close to the railroad tracks, then switchbacks sharp right up to an overlook of the Continental Divide. A short, steep descent completes the loop and returns you to the ruin, from where you retrace your steps down to the trailhead on the floor of Eldorado Canyon.
Although this trail never quite captures the wilderness feeling so important for a really great One Day Hike – there is often the glint of cars or power station in the distance, or the roar of a train on the railroad tracks – it is a pretty hike with some interesting history attached.
Longer hiking options
* Eldorado Canyon-Crescent Meadows Trail. A moderate-difficult climb from the inner canyon visitor center to Crescent Meadows, a separate section of the Park, 5.5 miles/8.8 km one way. Return along the same route, or via South Boulder Creek-Columbine Gulch Trails that loop back to join Eldorado Canyon Trail 3 miles from the visitor center – a total return distance of 14 miles/22.4 km.
* Mesa Trail. Just outside the Park, this hike winds through meadows and pine forest with views of the Flatirons, the rocky hills south of Boulder. To the radio tower and back is about 7 miles/11.2 km and a climb of 800 ft. The Eldorado Canyon entrance station has more information. Trailhead: Hwy 170, around 1.5 miles east of Eldorado Springs.
|Location: The inner canyon section of Eldorado Canyon State Park, south of Boulder in north-central Colorado. Daily fee of $4 per vehicle (annual pass also available).
Directions: From Boulder, take Hwy 93 (Broadway) south for 4 miles, then turn right onto Hwy 170 west for 3 miles through Eldorado Springs to the Park entrance. From Denver, you can reach the 170 via I-25 north and US 36.
Trailhead: Fowler Trail parking area, 0.5 mile beyond the entrance station and 0.3 mile before the visitor center on the dirt road through the canyon.
Length: 3.6 miles / 5.8 km
Trail Type: Out and back
Elevation Change: 1,200 ft / 366 m
Duration: 2.5 hours
Trail Condition: Stony, well-formed track.
Features: Canyon, cliffs, ruin, overlook.
Climate: Year-round trail, although it can be very hot in summer.
Accommodation: Boulder has plenty of lodging. No camping is permitted in the Park.
Trail Notes: Trail maps and booklets (including the history of Crags Hotel) are available at both the entrance station and the visitor center.
Popularity: 40% [?]