Hellooooo and welcome back! As the vision for my blog comes to life I ask myself the important question, why am I doing this? The answer: because I feel like I have valuable information to share with the world. I get asked a lot of questions about food, gear, and trail so I decided to add a “gear review” tab, where… you guessed it, I will be reviewing gear AND I decided to divide “adventure” into three categories. One category will cover activities outside the state of Colorado. One category will cover adventures in Colorado but over an hour and a half away from my apartment in Golden. One category (potentially my favorite) will cover my local trails.
After I bought my first pair of trail runners I began exploring the Jefferson County Open Space parks. These trails and mountains have a very special place in my heart. They are my home. They are my sunshine on a cloudy day, even if the cloud is shooting out quarter size hail. There are so many glorious routes to be found within a stone throw from Golden and perhaps a baseball hit from Denver.
I want to share my link ups, my secret mountain summits, and the trails only a few know about with you, my fellow outdoor enthusiast. My goal is to have a place to direct those who ask my advice on the best trails near Denver. Whatever your poison (trail running, mountain biking, hiking, meandering, frolicking), this section of my blog will be sure to satiate. These routes also serve as excellent acclimation hikes for those coming from sea level who are looking to push altitude in the high country. Beef up those red blood cells!
Please remember to respect our planet. Jeffco open spaces did an incredible job building an amazing network of trails, stay on them. Walk through mud, puddles, slush, and ice, not around. Trail widening is not cool. Do not harass wildlife. Do not throw trash on the ground. In fact, leave a little room in your pack and pick up the trash of those who do. DO NOT leave bags of dog shit on the side of the trail. There is simply no excuse. In other words, don’t blow it, good planets are hard to find.
Without further ado, the Mount Galbraith Loop, with bonus summit (7,169’).
Distance: 4.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,005 feet
Difficulty: Moderate (some extra rocky sections)
Time: Running~ 35-70 minutes (unless you are super human), Hiking~ 90-120 minutes, Meandering~ should not take longer then 3.5 hours
The Draw: This loop provides views in all directions. There are beautiful wildflowers in the spring (my favorite season). I always see deer gangs grazing and cold mountain streams run through the route. It’s a beautiful loop on the shorter side right outside of Golden. This route can be done year round but be warned it is rather difficult with substantial snowfall. I caused a mini avalanche on the east slopes during a mid January day. In the summer it is hot, go early in the morning or later in the evening. The parking lot is small and fills up quickly on nice weekend days. There are bathrooms (hole in the ground, no running water) at the trailhead.
What You Need: When I run this loop I do not carry anything (unless it is high noon in July and then water is a must). At most you will need a small pack with water, a snack, and maybe a light rain coat (storms can sneak up). Have a good trail shoe and poles if that is your thing. Have something to take photos with, because how else will facebook and/or instagram know that you did something with yourself?
Trail Head: This is a hiker only park (no bikes). From highway 93 (runs through Golden) take Golden Gate Canyon Road west for approximately 1.5 miles. The dirt parking lot and trailhead will be on the left hand side of the road. (39.77379N 105.25420W) If you are a nerd like me, you love coordinates.
Start by heading south on Cedar Gulch Trail. Cross a small foot bridge and walk along a nice creek for a few minutes until the trail turns left up some rock steps and begins to aggressively climb.
In the spring the trails come to life.
I absolutely love this burned tree.
After about 1.3 miles and a 525 foot climb the Cedar Gulch trail intersects with the Mount Galbraith Loop (39.76493N 105.25233W). You are faced with a choice, go right (counter clockwise) or go left (clockwise) around the 1.6 mile loop. I prefer to go clockwise, although going counter clockwise will make rockier sections of the trail easier to navigate as you will be going up them instead of down.
If opting for a clockwise loop, Nightbird Gulch trail will intersect from the left. This is a neighborhood access trail, continue straight along the Mount Galbraith Loop. After a bit more climbing some nice views of Golden and Denver open up.
There is a nice lookout as the trail turns southwest (39.76162N 105.25028W).
The Mount Galbraith Loop is exactly as it sounds, a loop that circumnavigates the summit of Mount Galbraith. But I like actual summits, so one day I found my way to the top. There are a few social trails along the loop but they can be confusing. The easiest way I found is to head northeast around (39.76315N 105.25627W) or wherever your spidey skills tell you. Just be aware the terrain is not all rainbows and sunshine. The summit is easy to spot (look for the highest rock outcropping). There is also a register. I love summit registers! If going for the summit, tread lightly as there is no established trail.
Whether or not you go for the summit keep an eye out for a tricky section of trail on the return. I always miss this rocky left/down turn. I built a cairn to remind myself (39.76295N 105.25730W).
In March of 2011 the Indian Gulch Fire burned 1,600 acres on Mount Galbraith. That will be the answer to your question, why are all these trees black?
The remainder of the loop will weave in and out of the forest. There are steep rocky sections where the trail can be easily lost.
With a bit of care you can stop yourself from rolling down the mountain side.
The loop and your adventure will come to an end as you take Cedar Gulch trail back to the parking lot.
If you have any questions feel free to ask in a comment and/or let me know if you do this route.
“The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man”