Exploring Golden's great outdoors
It’s easy to find outdoor recreation in Golden, Colorado whether it’s climbing the popular Golden Cliffs on North Table Mountain to having a picnic in Lions Park adjacent to Clear Creek in downtown.
The city is nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and boasts 253 acres of parks, 24 miles of trails and 402 acres of open space. In addition to outdoor space maintained by the city, Jefferson County Open Space maintains 56,000 acres, 252 trail miles and 27 parks in and around Golden.
Visitors don’t have to go far from downtown to get their adventures started. The popular Clear Creek Trail is accessible from several spots in downtown. The easy, two-mile loop runs along 10th Street from Ford Street to 6th Avenue bridge and connects with the 6th Avenue Trail and the Greater Clear Creek Trail. The wide, paved path allows a great option for a baby stroller. Bikes, roller blades and skateboards are also allowed along the trail.
But the trail isn’t the only outing to be had along Clear Creek. The creek itself also serves as a tubing destination throughout the metro area. In the summer, the Clear Creek Whitewater Park fills with canoes, kayakers and tubers of all ages. If you don’t have a tube of your own, there are a variety of rental places in town to grab one. Fly fishing is also a beloved activity on the creek.
Visitors can make a day of their time along the creek with a picnic in Lions Park, which is equipped with picnic tables, green space and a fully ADA accessible playground.
Looking for another kid-friendly hike? Head to Triceratops Trail. The 1.5-mile gravel hiking trail takes a look at Golden’s prehistoric history. There are several stops along trail that feature dinosaur, bird, mammal, insect and invertebrate tracks and traces.
A visit to Golden wouldn’t be complete without a trip up Lookout Mountain, a 7,377-foot peak 1.7 miles west of downtown Golden. The drive up Lookout offers some of the best views of Golden and the Front Range. Parking pull-offs along the route allow for a safe place to stop and take in the scene as the sun rises over town. But drivers should be careful as they wind up and down the mountain as they aren’t the only ones there. The road is also a hot-spot for cyclists and long boarders.
On the North side of town, North Table Mountain offers the most variety of activities. The mesa offers panoramic views, abundant wildlife, 15-plus miles of trails and is home to the popular mountain climbing area, The Golden Cliffs. Hiking trails range from beginner to intermediate and the Lichen Peak Trail allows hikers to ascend to the park’s highest peak. The Golden Cliffs Trail provides climbers with access to routes on southern cliff walls in the park and Golden Cliffs Preserve. Permitted uses on the mesa include biking, hiking, climbing and horseback riding.
Continuing northwest of town, Golden Gate Canyon State Park offers 35 miles of hiking trials — some of which are also permitted for mountain bikes and horses. In the fall, the park is the perfect place to spot some fall foliage. Sparkling gold aspen groves can be seen throughout the park beginning in mid-to late-September and running through October. There’s no need to hike a distance to take in the colorful Colorado leaves. They can be seen from the road and the many picnic spots throughout the park. The aspen-lined Panorama Point also offers an expansive view of the nearby snow-covered Indian Peaks. This park highlight can be accessed by trail or by car.
Want to spend the night outdoors? Golden Gate also offers over 100 camping sites plus backcountry camping permits. White Ranch Park, which sits between North Table Mountain Park and Golden Gate Canyon, also offers camping. The semi-primitive, tent-only, walk-in camp spots are in designated sites and available by permit from Jeffco Open Space.
The 20.6 miles of trails at White Ranch also makes for an excellent day of summer wildflower hiking. The terrain crosses forests, meadows and drainages which make for a display of many species. A ranger favorite is hiking the Rawhide Trail to Wranglers Run.
Didn’t bring camping or hiking gear? Mountain Side Gear Rental on South Golden Road has you covered. The locally owned and run shop offers gear rentals as well as gently used gear for sale. Their mission is to make it easy for people to get outside — and that’s what they’ve been doing for the past decade in Golden.