Saturday, September 24, 2011

Eldorado Canyon

Distance: 7 miles round trip to Walker Ranch, 6 miles round trip to plateau before the drop off
Elevation: 5,950 ft - 7,200 ft
Elevation Gain: 1,250 ft (net).  Cumulative is much more if you go down the back side to Walker Ranch
Date Hiked: 22 July 2011
Bathroom at the Trailhead: Yes
Dogs: On leash only, State Park

Views of the foothills from the Eldorado Canyon Trail
The Eldorado Canyon Trail in Eldorado Canyon State Park is a pleasant outing particularly in the the spring and fall.  Since the trail is mostly south facing, it can also remain open when other trails, like Rattlesnake Gulch across the valley are coated in ice. 

The first mile of the route climbs relentlessly
Looking at two of the crenelations that the trail climbs around and over.  The peaks of the Continental Divide are barely visible in the distance.
The route follows the crenelations of a long hillside that heads deep into Eldorado Canyon and eventually intersects with Walker Ranch west of Boulder.  Along the way, the route weaves in and out of Ponerosa and Lodgepole Pines, Douglas Fir, and Mountain Mahogany.  I did this hike in July and Bee Balm dotted the slopes.  I did see occasional spots of Poison Ivy so don't go frolicking in the shrubbery no matter how appealing.

A trail segment that travels over rocks
A trail segment on an open sunny slope
I had planned to go all the way until the trail intersected with the Walker Loop but found that at 3 miles, the trail heads straight down to the valley floor.  I decided not to drop down only to turn around and race back up.   At this point in the route, there is a nice pleateau where one can sit, lounge and admire the views across the valley.

Looking back out the canyon to the eastern plains from my turn around point at 3 miles
The scare on the distant hillside is the train tracks.  I have climbed up to that point from the Rattlesnake Gulch Trail.
 The rocks that make Eldorado Canyon State Park a Mecca for rock climbers are not really visible from this trail but that is not a bad thing.  While there were tons of families at the early part of the trail, once I passed the first half mile they dropped off quickly.  The trail is steep in the beginning and most casual walkers turn around quickly.  This meant that I ran into only one other couple and some mountain bikers on the way. If you like solitude this might be a better option than the crowed Mesa Trail, which is free and therefore attracts more people.  A State Park's Pass will buy you this option year round.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We visited Eldorado Canyon State park last year when we visited; it was fall and we did the Rattlesnake Gulch trail. This one looks great too! We enjoyed seeing so many climbers...I think we were there on a Friday afternoon and there were a lot of people warming up for the weekend!