|Elevation Gain||725 feet|
|My Time||1 hr 36 min|
Golden Gate Canyon State Park
If Staunton State park is like a first love, then Golden Gate Canyon State Park is like an Ex who is trolling you on social media. I set out for a nice short hike to break in my new Keen Targhee III shoes and ended up huffing and puffing working my way through some steep inclines and rocky trail.
I started on the west trailhead that is located in the Aspen Meadows campground. I had to park on the outside of the campground and take the short walk in to the trailhead. My first clue that I bit off a bit more than I could chew today was when the beginning of the trail is a 300 foot descent in elevation over the first half mile. The trail is also super rocky at the start here so I had to take it pretty slow.
The initial descent does lead down to Dude’s Fishing hole where it flattens out a bit. The fishing hole is a nice little pond where fishing is allowed but swimming is not. There is a nice sandy bank as well. While the views from the pond is nice, you can see below that it is really impacted by the smokey haze that has settled over Colorado due to the wildfires.
After the pond the trail continues to descend but not to the degree that it was at the start. The trail is also more forested here and there is some nice shade and softer ground. There are also some nice young aspen trees at this point.
What Goes Down Must Come Up
After descending for the first half of the relatively short hike it is time to start to climb back up the hill. Now the stats aren’t that bad on this incline, only about 200 feet up in a third of a mile, but there are a couple of factors that make this challenging.
The trail up is very rocky and there are no switchbacks so it is just a straight walk up a rocky hill. The footing is a little sketchy with a lot of loose rock mixed in with the hard rock as well. Here is a look at what the trail looked like for the next mile or so of the hike.
It looks like this trail may have been a river bed or maybe it is where runoff water flows in the winter but it has left it as a bit of a challenge. Even though it didn’t last very long, I can tell you I was sweating pretty good and my legs were burning.
Unfortunately the views were a bit obscured still by the smokey haze but the trail itself is still nice. Their are plenty of aspen and pine trees. The pond also has some nice wildflowers around it. There are also some nice rock formation’s on the trail and access near the start for rock climbing.
Here are the stats for 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 3.58 miles and had a total elevation gain of over 725 feet, which put the high point at just over 9,172 feet but that was where I parked. I was also moving for a total of 1 hours and 36 minutes.
This was entirely more effort than I thought. I was expecting a nice little trail between campgrounds but a couple of steep up and downs made this a lot more challenging. Here is today’s step count from my fitbit.
The hike is mostly on steep loose rock that moves a lot underfoot. There are some sections through the woods that are easier with a dirt trail and some sections of more sand like trail but the difficult sections are all very rocky. I would highly recommend some shoes with good traction.
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 Snowshoe Hare trail is in the Aspen Meadows campground off of Gap Road. I parked just outside the campground. There are some parking spots near the trailhead itself but it fills up quick. There is a pit toilet at the trailhead.
Wow, what a challenging little hike! I really thought that this would be a nice easy Sunday morning walk through the woods but I should have known better at Golden Gate. The rocky terrain really does make for an unnecessarily difficult hike. I found myself slipping a bit on the way up as rocks would roll out from under my feet. I did get a really nice workout in which I wasn’t expecting but the next time I’m trying to break in some shoes I’m looking for an easier spot!
This was a moderate hike fro me because it is only 3 miles. If it was longer it probably would be ranked as a harder hike. If you are at all unsure of your footing this might not be the best hike for you but if you are looking for a challenge that is short but will get your heart going, this may be a perfect hike.
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