Wednesday, April 13, 2016

South Table Mountain...Quaker Rd Approach

Distance: 5 miles round trip
Elevation: 5,890 ft - 6,343 ft
Elevation Gain: 453 ft (net), 700 ft (cumulative)
Bathroom at Trailhead: No
Dogs: Off leash (until Jefferson County takes over)
Date Hiked: April 8, 2012
Tags: #Golden, #JeffersonCountyOpenSpace, #travel, #hiking

Castle Rock comes into view on South Table Mountain
Terrain map of South Table Mountain showing the location of the Colorado State Forestry building where you can park on weekends.
For those who travel to Golden, Colorado there is nothing better than spending an afternoon strolling across the sun drenched expanses of South Table Mountain (or North Table Mountain for that matter).  This post describes the jaunt across South Table Mountain to Castle Rock from the south starting at the intersection of Quaker Street and Golden Hills Road.  I have also hiked to the top from the east up the "Laubahn Trail".  The route in this post is longer and more gradual while the Laubahn route is straight up the side for shorter, heart-pumping experience.

Starting out the trail that parallels Quaker Street
Initial meadow where they plan to build a parking lot.  Two trails head up to the top of the mesa.
There is one thing you should know before heading out to South Table Mountain.  The area is crisscrossed with social trails, none of them marked.  If wandering about and possibly taking the wrong route is something that fills you will joy, then this trail is for you.  On the other hand if uncertainty fills you with dread, choose North Table Mountain, its trails are well marked. 

The route will head towards the power line tower in the upper left and then turn right following the power lines northwards.
Spring brings flowers to the shrubs
Parking in Golden is always a challenge, but for this route, on the weekend at least, you can park in the parking lot of the Colorado State Department of Forestry at 1504 Quaker Street.  During the week you will have to fight to find street parking.  The area is residential and the locals don't appreciate their driveways being blocked by visitors.

Passing the trail at 1.3 miles leading off the mesa to the Rim Rock neighborhood.  Don't take this left.
Prickly Pear Cactus dominates some of the drier patches.
From the parking lot the route heads up Quaker Street, which after crossing Golden Hills Road, turns to dirt and continues cross the mesa.  There is a foot path that parallels the road just to the west.  We decided to take this since it is more natural.   This path quickly dumps into a small depression with several trails crossing it.  Jefferson County has purchased South Table Mountain and plans to turn it into a formalized Open Space.  The county plans to put the parking lot in this depression since it is convenient to city streets and relatively flat.  This is unfortunate, since this small meadow is rather attractive.

At 1.8 miles Castle Rock can now be seen in the distance.
Approaching Castle Rock
The route across South Table Mountain is relatively flat with a few mild ups and downs.  It traverses open grassland spotted with shrubbery, Prickly Pear Cactus, and power lines.  The views are urban, with most of Golden being visible from above.  To get to Castle Rock, which once held a casino and illegal drinking establishment, we just kept take the trail to the left particularly at the major intersections at 0.6 miles 0.9 miles.  This is not a perfect recipe but this rule combined with a little common sense will get you to the flat rock that was also once a meeting place for the KKK.  These hooded locals were known to dance across the rock and burn crosses for all to see.  For some reason Coors Beer has not made that part of their advertising campaign! Take care around 1.3 miles.  A trail heads sharply left down off the mesa to the Rim Rock neighborhood.  Instead, head toward the power lines and follow the trail as it turns northward.  You'll finally see Castle Rock in the distance at around 1.8 miles.

The view of North Table Mountain from Castle Rock
Looking down on the Lubahn Trail from Castle Rock
In summer South Table Mountain will be a frying pan, so take to this trail in the spring when the grasses start to green and Mule Deer can be seen grazing in the distance.  If you are starved for a place to let your dogs roam free like I am, visit South Table Mountain sooner rather than later.  Once it is formally controlled by Jefferson County, the trails will be marked, but dogs will have to be on leash.   I may be moving to Idaho soon, to find a place where dogs can still be dogs.

Looking southwest into Golden from Castle Rock
Abby likes the freedom of South Table Mountain


gumo said...

Yet another hike I have on my to-do list while on vacation in Colorado. Your site is a valuable resource for us wannabe campers and hikers to your beautiful state. Thanks for publishing such a helpful resource!

KT said...

Abby is a beautiful pup! My husband and I were just talking tonight do we move to Colorado?!