Golden Gate Canyon State Park: Mule Deer

Distance11.29 mi
Elevation Gain1,690 ft
My Time4 hr 42 min
DifficultyModerate
Closest TownGolden
Food NearbyAli Baba

Golden Gate Canyon – Mule Deer Trail

Golden Gate Canyon – Mule Deer Trail quickly became my favorite trail in the park. I haven’t been too kind to Golden Gate Canyon in the past but Mule Deer is going to make me eat my words.

Mule Deer takes you past a couple of meadows as well as Panorama Point. What really sold me on it today was it was covered in snow. The snow made the park almost glow and I really enjoyed it.

Blue Grouse Trail

I was trying to park on Mountain Pass road to access Mule Dear but it was closed for the season. I ended up parking in the Kriley Overlook lot and taking Blue Grouse to connect. It added about a mile and a half to the hike but it was enjoyable.

Blue Grouse starts off with a pretty good elevation gain with some grades at 20%. It is a good entrance into the park and has some nice views.

Blue Grouse trail with a tree lined hill in the background.

Blue Grouse connect with Mule Deer just over 2/3 of a mile in. You have a choice of going clockwise or counter clockwise at the junction. I went counter clockwise but that leaves a stiff incline to finish your hike.

Mule Dear to Fraser Meadow

Going counter clockwise on Mule Deer will take you to Fraser Meadow. The meadow is about one and half miles away from the junction. The trail to get there has some rocks to step over but is mostly in good shape.

The meadow is nice and there is a historic ruin of an old cabin with a nice info placard about John Fraser who lived there.

Fraser Meadow with an open view of the surrounding hills.

While the meadow is nice there really isn’t much you can do there. After reading the placard and admiring the view you can continue on. After the cabin you will continue on Mule Deer past a few back country camp sights. The trail will turn to the north and you will head up the east side portion of the trail.

The East Side

Shortly after the meadow you will climb your first of two hills. This first hill is 300 feet of elevation gain over a mile so not too bad. What really sold me on this section was that it was mostly in forest and covered in snow.

The forest and snow made for a nice setting on the clear blue sky. After the first hill the trail will flatten out for a mile before the second hill. The second hill has an elevation gain of about 300 feet in half a mile. A little steeper than the first but still not too bad. After the second hill you will make a turn to the west. You will be on the northern section of the trail and on your way to Panorama Point.

Panorama Point

Panorama Point is located on the northern part of the trail. There is a parking lot and restroom facilities as well. The Point actually has a covered deck with some picnic tables and benches. You have some amazing views of the peaks to the north:

A snow covered mountain range to the north of panorama point

And to the west.

The snow capped peaks to the west of Panorama Point

Leaving the point got a little confusing to get back on Mule Deer. You actually have to go below the decking and hike on Raccoon trail. It will run concurrently with Mule Deer. This trail will start to descend below the point. Then there will be one more incline as you start to head south down the western portion.

The West Side

The west side of the park takes you out of the trees and into the open. The open space caused most of the snow to have melted away under the warm sun. That melt turned the trail into a muddy mess. However, the west side might be my favorite place in the park.

The west side trail was a really enjoyable four miles. As I said the views were amazing and the sun was warm. As you get closer to connect with Blue Grouse you will have one more steep section. Then you will reconnect and head to the parking lot.

Elevation and Distance

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 11.29 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 1,690 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 9,514 feet. I was also moving for a total of 4 hours and 42 minutes.

Effort

This was a very long hike but the elevation gains were spread out. The biggest problem I ran into was the terrain. It was mostly snow covered which wasn’t too bad but the mud is what really was a challenge. A Long hike means a big step count. Here are the step totals from my Fitbit.

Today's step count was 28,592 steps according to my Fitbit.

Terrain

The terrain was a bit different today as it was a winter hike with plenty of snow. Typically this would have been a mostly dirt and rock trail. There were some large embedded rocks in the dirt as well. The trail is defined and easy to follow.

Because of the snow it was a bit different. There was a nice hard pack of 2-4 inches of snow on the northern and eastern sections of the trail. You should be able to see some of that in the pictures below. The western section of the trail were in the sun. They were a mix of ice, melting ice and mud. The mud was pretty thick in places. It was either sink or skate in the mud with each step.

Access

Golden Gate Canyon State Park 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. Restrooms are located throughout the park and are labeled on the map.

There are several spots to park for access to the Mule Deer trail. The one I was trying to park at needed Mountain Pass road. Unfortunately, Mountain Pass road was closed for the winter. I ended up parking at the Kriley Pond overlook lot. This has access to Blue Grouse trail that connected to Mule Deer.

Wrap up

Mule Deer was by far my most enjoyable hike in Golden Gate State Park. It wasn’t as challenging as some of the other trails with space between moderate elevation gains. It also gave all sorts of views. You got peaks at Panorama Point. Meadows on the east and west sides and forest in between.

If you do the whole loop it is a long hike of at least 10 miles depending on where you can park. I think it is worth it if you have the time and energy. The changes in settings almost make it three hikes in one. I really enjoyed it and hope you do to.

I have added this hike and all of my hikes to my interactive map section you can find here. If you have any questions or comments feel free to email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com. You can also follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

1 thought on “Golden Gate Canyon State Park: Mule Deer”

  1. Pingback: Ali Baba Grill - Golden - Fat Man Little Trail

Leave a Reply