Golden Gate Canyon SP: Burro, Windy Peak, Mountain Lion

Distance6.97 mi
Elevation Gain1732 feet
My Time3 hr 3 min
DifficultyHard
Closest TownGolden
Food NearbyGolden Diner

In my second trip to Golden Gate Canyon I have found that the trails are a lot like eating a ghost pepper. Its going to hurt now, its going to hurt later, but in between there is a sense of accomplishment.

The First Bite

Both the Black Bear and the Burro trailhead are located on Crawford Gulch road and also have in common that they start with a very quick jump in elevation. Pretty much from the get go you are walking up on these trails and on Burro it is on a trail with large rocks. The incline lasts about a third of a mile before leveling off to a less steep grade. Once it levels off there are some amazing views of the surrounding hillsides.

Two large hills, completely covered with pine trees underneath a bright blue sky.

Burro Trail

After another half mile you will come up to a chance to take either Burro or Mountain Lion and I really have to suggest staying on Burro. Pretty quick after the junction you will actually descend about 200 feet of elevation but with up to a 35 degree grade. This is not what you want to be doing towards the end of the hike while you are tired.

So by taking Burro to start the loop you will descend down into a wooded area that has some nice aspen trees. Once you level off at the bottom the trail is decent but it is about to get rough so take this time to catch your breath a bit.

What comes next is the hardest part of this loop. There will be a 700 foot incline on a switchback trail that works its way up the side of a hill covering about a mile. Not gonna lie, this is pretty rough. Making matters worse is that you are pretty much totally exposed to the sun. The trip up the side of the hill is pretty consistently between a 15-25% grade and the trail itself is very sandy. I would advise taking a few breaks because the views here are pretty nice as well.

A wall of rock that towers above the trail.

At the top of the hill you will get back into the woods and have less sun and less elevation to deal with. The walk through the woods is actually pretty nice. Row after row of lodge pole pines provide a nice cover. The trail gets narrow and a little hard to see going through this part but eventually you will come to another junction.

Windy Peak

This is basically the second bite of the ghost pepper. You think you have made it up the big hill and should be in good shape but nope, cue the elevation. I should mention that if you don’t have another hill in you, you can follow the Burro loop back down at this point.

If you are going to try Windy Peak, it is going to be another 500 feet of elevation gain in about a half mile at this point. The good news is that you are in the shade of the pine trees for this part of the hike and don’t have to worry about the sun beating down on you too bad. The trail is also in pretty good shape for this. It is rocky and has a lot of roots but most of the ground is solid and not full of loose soil or rocks. This section is pretty rough too it just doesn’t last as long.

You will come to another junction where Burro meets Mountain Lion and this time you want to stay on Burro to get to the peak. The top of Windy Peak gives you some nice views and it makes the hike almost worth it.

The view from windy peak.  The view is of a valley between two rows of hills leading up to some taller mountains in the background.

There is a pretty good amount of space on the top to be able to sit down for a while and refuel and take in the views. Coming down the Burro trail is pretty steep and the footing is a little loose but you just made it up so you will know what you are in for. When you get back to the junction you can either go back the way you came to complete the Burro loop or take Mountain Lion.

Mountain Lion

If the Burro section was eating the ghost pepper, the beginning of the Mountain Lion trail is the piece that gets stuck in your teeth and continues to burn your mouth. The intense hike of Burro left my legs a touch wobbly and the first stretch on Mountain Lion is a mixture of loose rock and sand that is extremely slippery and hard to get good footing. Even with hiking shoes and a hiking pole I was still struggling not to slide. To add to the fun there is up to a 31% grade that you have to negotiate while trying to stay on your feet. The only good part is that the trail is wide and you aren’t in danger of falling off the side or anything like that.

This steep section lasts for about a half of a mile but once you get clear of it the trail gets a lot easier. There will be some switchbacking with a sandy trail and then a much gentler path to get down the hill. After the switchback you will walk on what seems to be a service road and is basically just a dirt road. The side of the dirt road has a lot of wildflowers and I think I was able to take one of my favorite pictures here.

Two butterflies landing on seperate flower buds with their wings spread to show a black and orange pattern in contrast to the purple flowers.

Next on the trail is a bit of history. There is a small pond and an old homestead from the original residents of the area. It is a house that was passed down through 4 generations and it seemed to still be in really good shape. Some of the out buildings had fallen down though. There are some nice information placards on the trail so you can get some history on the hike.

The back of the old homestead that is part of the trail.

After the homestead it is really just a matter of connecting back to the original junction between Mountain Lion and Burro to make your way back. There is a small spur that takes you to the “City Lights Ridge” that I started to take but it was more elevation and I was done for this trip. Here are some stats from the hike.

Distance and Elevation

If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 6.97 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 1,732 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 9,139 feet. I was also moving for a total of 3 hours and 3 minutes.

Effort

Wow, pretty challenging hike for what it was. While it doesn’t blow any of the distance or elevation stats away this one really took it out of me. Here are the stats from today’s hike on my fitbit.

Breakdown of steps from the hike from my fitbit.  18,339 steps on this hike.

Terrain

While some of this hike is through some forest with soft dirt paths a great majority is on sandy or rocky trails. There are also a lot of loose rock that can get slick and hard to keep footing steady. The main hill climb is also on a completely exposed hillside so the sun can make it a real bear. I would strongly recommend hiking shoes and poles.

Access

Golden Gate Canyon is part of the state park system and there is a $9 daily fee per vehicle with annual passes starting at $80. You can see more info on the fee’s here. The park can be accessed off of Golden Gate Canyon Road near Golden, Colorado. There are several smaller parking area’s near trailheads instead of one large one. The parking area for the Burro trail is just past the private property on Crawford Gulch Road.

Wrap up

This hike was really more challenging than it should be. The elevation gains are real and steep and the worst part is being out in the sun the whole time. I tried this hike in the fall when I was just trying out hiking and I struggled so much I couldn’t finish and had to turn back. It was nice to finish it. I will say that I like the Black Bear views and hike a little more as this was a really nice work out but lacked some great views.

I also met some really cool people on the hike. I would like to apologize to Julia for slowing her and her friend down as they let me set the pace on the way to the peak. It was nice to meet you all though! Overall a decent hike but I think the workout was better than the views. I am going to rank it as hard. After the hike I had on of my favorites, Corned Beef Hash, at the Golden Diner.

I have placed this hike and all the hikes I have taken on my interactive map that you can find here. If you would like to suggest a hike or have any comments, feel free to email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com or you can follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

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