Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lubahn Trail

Distance: 2.5 miles round trip (official trail), 3.0 to 3.5 miles round trip with extension depending upon your route
Elevation: 5,676 to 6,319 ft
Elevation Gain: 400 ft (official trail), 643 ft (to Castle Rock)

Fellow hikers atop Castle Rock looking towards Denver, which can be seen in the distance

No one ever hikes the Lubahn Trail by itself. Instead they use it as the primary way to get part way up South Table Mountain in Golden and then use one of the many unofficial trails to the top of Castle Rock (formally known as Table Rock). According to the city, this additional excursion is illegal because it traverses private property. Tell that to the 30 or so people on the trail the day I did it.

View of Castle Rock from the street below

Every time I visit Golden I have wondered what the view would be like from a top Castle Rock, an obvious rocky outcropping on the top of South Table Mountain. There is a lot of history behind that hunk of rock as well.

Starting out to the right

Heading up

The last pitch to the top. The dirt was very loose here.

In 1906, the Castle Rock Resort opened on top of South Table Mountain. Because the locals vehemently opposed a liquor license, it started out as a café. Tourists rode donkeys up the cliff face to sip on cappuccinos.

Past the outcroppings, the trail flattens and spreads out in all directions

By 1913, a railway had replaced the donkeys and for 25 cents a tourist could ride to the top and gamble at a casino.

Approaching Castle Rock

In the early 20’s, it became a segregated dance hall and illicit drinking establishment but business was not good and soon the KKK took over the area for their meetings. In the largest event over 1,000 Klansmen frolicked atop the mountain and a large cross burned on top of Castle Rock. Who knew sleepy Golden had such a torrid past! When the structure at the top finally burned down in 1927, few wept.

Closer now

Old stairs

Today, the journey to the top of South Table Mountain is a pleasant if brief workout. The day I climbed it, I was in quite a rush. I had just finished a Sierra Club meeting and wanted to get a jaunt in before racing home to get the dogs and take them to the dog park for their daily regiment.

View looking northeast. Coors Brewery is down in that valley. Note that Golden does not look like the pristine mountain scenery Coors uses in its advertising.

The trail is typical of Front Range trails. It was dusty, rocky, and poorly maintained in places. The Lubahn portion of the trail is a loop and I started off of Belvedere Street and headed to the right.

View to the north and parts of Golden

As the trail climbs, the views of Golden become more expansive. At the southern extent of the loop, the trail begins to switchback and heads relentlessly up to two rocky outcroppings. The official Lubahn Trail heads back to the left here but the unofficial trail heads straight up. There are no signposts, or obvious distinctions to differentiate the two. For a while Castle Rock itself disappears behind the side of the mountain. The last pitch up between the outcroppings is straight up and filled with loose dirt.

Looking down on the Lubahn Trail. I descended via this route.

Once on the top, the hiker is presented with a series of intersecting trails that head off in all directions. It is easy to find you way, however, just find the nearest trail that heads off to the left. This portion of the trail is on the wide top of South Table Mountain. It is filled with grasses and occasional small shrubs.

Looking back up at Castle Rock from the descent

There is an obvious train of folks heading to Castle Rock, which has a series of short concrete steps leading to the top. These are the remnants of the old dance hall.

Heading down and looking to the south

On the top, Castle Rock just appears to be a large rocky ledge. The views of Golden are very nice and you can look down onto Coors Brewery as well. Some leftover yokels from days gone by have graffitied the place here and there, detracting from the natural ambiance.

I hiked this trail in late March when the weather was warm and the promise of Spring was in the air.

Because I was in a rush, I headed back down and met my friends who were just arriving. They had taken the left route up the Lubahn Trail and taken the most direct social trail to the top. This would be the trail that I would take down. It was precipitous in spots and not suitable for folks with knee problems. At the bottom of this section of the Lubahn there are few interpretive signs that discuss the geology of Golden’s mesas.


Andy in Denver said...

For anyone who wonders what the smoke in the distance is on the first picture, this was the brush fire in Lowery in late winter 2009.

Andy in Denver said...

For anyone who wonders what the smoke in the distance is on the first picture, this was the brush fire in Lowery in late winter 2009.

Linda said...

It might be a quick jaunt for you but it still looks like a fair hike. The history of the hill is varied to say the least. And I did wonder about the smoke - I thought it might be a factory in the city.