How many times have you driven Clear Creek Canyon from Golden? Maybe you were going to Centennial Cone, maybe the gambling towns, maybe trying to avoid the I-70 traffic?
Have you ever stopped and hiked the trails near Golden? One Sunday I spotted several cars parked next to a sign that said, “Welcome Clear Creek Canyon Park, Jefferson County Open Space.” A second sign talked about the canyon and trails at Beaver Brook, Windy Saddle, Mount Galbraith and Centennial Cone. There was nothing about the trails at that parking lot, but I saw one. So I went adventuring. This is exploratory hike number one.
The trail starts right behind the big sign. You’ll see a dirt trail that goes up a hill. It’s just a tenth of a mile to the top of the first hill where the trail appears to end at an old rock quarry. This is actually a colorful site. The rocks here are orange and pink-ish and bright. The colors are especially bright on a blue sky day.
Now the question is, which way do you go? I don’t suggest climbing the rock wall. The rock is crumbling and cascading down the hillside. However, I spotted a mine to my right/east. I decided to go exploring.
The mine has a good-sized metal structure around the entrance and it is gated to prevent anyone from going in. The metal looks like it’s been the target of target shooters many times over the years, but it’s still interesting to see.
Just above the mine is a small trail. I decided to follow it. The trail is truly only for the sure-footed, experienced hiker because one wrong step and you may find yourself sliding all the way down to the highway below. The trail is very steep. I’m not sure if this is a hiker’s trail, an animal trail or an access trail for the power lines east of here. Either way, I went exploring, following the trail as it climbed dirt and scree fields.
Just a quarter mile from the parking lot, the trail ended on a ridge, at a series of power poles and one other structure. It was a metal structure, on a pole with power cords. A friend speculated maybe it once held a lighted sign.
The trail ended here. Off-trail hikers could likely keep climbing to the top of the ridge, but this is where my exploration ended. I went back to the parking lot promising to return and explore the trail to the west. (Read about the trail to the top here.)
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Details: The hike from the parking lot, to the mine and to the structure above the canyon was about a half mile total with 225 feet of elevation gain.
Directions: From the intersection of U.S. 6, Highway 93 and Highway 58 in Golden, go west on U.S. 6. Drive just a tenth of a mile or so to the pullout on the right/north side with a sign that says Clear Creek Canyon Park.