Let’s face it: everyone likes to hike, and in Denver it is hard to avoid the beautiful scenary, great trails and myriad of options. Looking for a close hike to take your family that is visiting you once a year, or trying to impress that girl/boy by getting outdoors into a awesome area? Then we are here to help. Below is a list of a few areas that will get outdoors with the least amount of hassle.
Overview of the Trails
- Matthew Winter s Park
- Three Sisters/Alderfer Park
- Golden Gate State Park
Matthew Winters Park
Benefits: Closest mountain park to DU (20 min drive). Selection of a few trails. Free Entry.
Description: Matthew Winters is one of those parks that is surprisingly unknown to the general Denver population. Nestled between Red Rocks Amphitheater (to the south) and I-70 (on the north), this park is approx 400 acres of open-space within minutes of DU.
The best aspect of the park is it’s sweeping views of the Denver Skyline. Several trails take you along landscape where the prairie meeting the mountains. Deer, coyotes, and other wildlife frequent the area and are not uncommon to see.The park also is relatively exposed so you may want to avoid hot days and days where the weather may move-in quickly, and always be prepared for major changes in weather as is typical in Colorado weather.
Trails: We recommend taking the Red Rock Trail which is ideal for an quick afternoon hike as the trail makes a loop and combines a good mixture of several switchbacks and long, easier traverses. When approaching from the Red Rocks entrance, follow the trail up and at the fork head left (up) to the top of the vista; that section follows switch-backs and while you may be gasping for breath it is very manageable for the majority of people. From here the trail mellows out as you continue to follow the flat ridgeline with beautiful views of Denver, red-rocks amphitheater and the surrounding landscape. Continue on this trail and at the next fork head right back towards the car. Round trip is approx 2.5-3 miles and should take 1-2.5 hours depending on your pace. Also a great place to trail run.
Directions from DU: Take Evans Ave west towards Santa Fe Blvd. Go South (left) on Santa Fe Blvd to Hampden Ave. Go West (right) on Hampden Ave until C-470. Head north (right) on C-470 and exit at the Morrison Exit. Follow Morrison Rd West into town and right before town, immediately take the Mt. Vernon Rd/County Hwy 93 North (right) towards the main entrances at red rocks. Go to the Red Rocks Entrance #1, head-up the hill (like you are going to a concert) and at the first junction with another road (Red Rocks Trail Rd.) park at the junction. Locate the trail heading up the hill. Have fun. Note: this is the back entrance, the official main entrance is located past the red rocks entrance, right near I-70. Driving Time: 20-25 minutes.
Alderfer/Three Sisters Park
Benefits: Mountain scenery (pine trees, aspen forests, rock-formations) with very minimal views of civilization. Huge selection of trails that are all easy to moderate in difficulty. Free Entry.
Description: Alderfer/Three Sisters Park is an amazing little park that provides great mountain scenery, excellent hikes, beautiful vistas, low-traffic, and a multitude of options. This park is not only known for it’s hiking, but high quality mountain bike trails and bouldering/rock-climbing areas are highlights of this park.
Located just outside the town of Evergreen, this park is part of Jefferson County Open Space. Situated in a well covered pine forest, it is home to a lot of wildlife and Elk herds are a frequent visitor of the park. The main feature of the park is several large rock formations dubbed “The Sisters”; these large formations provide unparalleled views of the surrounding regions and add a unique backdrop to many of the hikes.
Trails: It is helpful to pick-up a map at the trailheads as the area is overrun with numerous trails and can be confusing if not paying close attention. We suggest parking in the first parking lot and take the Sisters Trail towards the rock formations. Once on the top be sure to scramble around on the rocks and take in the views. By following the trail over the sisters you can eventually loop back around to the parking lot without much elevation change. Trail loops range from .5 miles to 3-4 miles depending on the trail mix that you take.
Directions from DU: Take Evans Ave west towards Santa Fe Blvd. Go South (left) on Santa Fe Blvd to Hampden Ave. Go West (right) on Hampden Ave until C-470. Head north (right) on C-470 and exit at the Morrison Exit. Follow Morrison Rd West (CO Highway 74) until the city of Evergreen. Once you reach the downtown district in Evergreen look for a stoplight at the end of the shopping strip and take a slight left onto CO Highway 73. Take CO Hwy 73 for a little less then a half-mile then take a right at another stoplight at Buffalo Park Road, take this (heading more west) onto the weird turnoff. Follow this road pass a school and you will come across the Park. The first parking lot on the right accesses several areas, other lots might as well. Drive time is 20-25 minutes from Morrison. Driving Time from DU: 30-40 minutes.
- Parks website: http://www.jeffco.us/openspace/openspace_T56_R5.htm
- Parks map: http://www.jeffco.us/jeffco/openspace_uploads/alderfer_3sis_>>>>>
Golden Gate State Park
Benefits: High elevation park near the front range. Amazing vista views. 12,000 acres of dense forest, rocky peaks, and aspen-rimmed meadows.
Description: Camping, Backpacking, Hiking, Mountain biking, Traditional Climbing, and amazing sight-seeing is all part of this 12,000 acre monstrosity of a park. Located just outside of Golden, this park is more of a wilderness destination then any other natural area near Denver.
Hiking and sightseeing are the two great parts of this park. At the Panoramic Point one can see hundreds of miles of Colorado wilderness with views of several 14′ers and prominent peaks. Definitely a place that one should spend more time then a quick afternoon.
This is a State Park and a small entrance fee of $6/car is required but well worth it.
Trails: Pick-up a park map from the main visitor center as there are many trails and roads to leave you confused. A great trail that is more challenging then most is the “Snowshoe Hare” trail. Begin at the Aspen Meadow Campground and head towards Dude’s Fishing Hole. Follow this trail over it’s three miles and eventually loop back to the cars (starting in reverse of this way makes for an grueling uphill start to the loop). Numerous other trails are throughout the area. Make sure to visit the Panoramic Point on your way in or out to witness some incredible views.
Directions from DU: Take I-25 North to Highway 6. Head West on HWY 6 to the city of Golden (pass the I-76 interchange). Continue through the main light in Golden where HWY 6 heads-up Clear Creek Canyon and instead head towards Boulder along HWY 93. About 1 mile past this intersection head West (left) onto HWY 46/Golden Gate Road. Follow this for 13 miles to the Visitor Center. Driving Time from DU: Approx 50 mins.
- Park Website: http://parks.state.co.us/Parks/goldengatecanyon