Clear Creek Canyon is more than a road to the gambling towns, it also has several parks with hiking trails. Just a short distance from the turnoff in Golden is an unmarked trail that is becoming more popular.
The trail starts in a small, paved parking lot at the sign that says “Welcome Clear Creek Canyon Park, Jefferson County Open Space.” (directions below) While a sign in the parking lot lists trails at Beaver Brook, Windy Saddle, Mount Galbraith and Centennial Cone, there’s nothing about the trails at that parking lot, but there is one. It’s right behind the sign. There’s 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 and a trail to my right/east. However, it doesn’t go far and it’s on the side of a hill and felt unsafe.
Most hikers go left at the quarry. The trail starts flat, but then begins to climb a bit as it heads west. Soon the trail turns north. If you hear voices in this area, look across the highway. There’s a popular rock climbing area to the south.
The dirt trail you’re hiking is pretty easy to follow, but it’s a bit overgrown so you’ll want to wear pants.
About a half mile or so from the parking lot, the trail crosses a creek/waterfall, depending on how much water there is. Just after you cross the creek, the trail turns up and gets very steep. My hiking partner said I should recommend poles here, especially for the trek back down.
The dirt trail winds through the scrub brush and some trees, but the path is mostly sunny so it dries out before other area trails. You don’t want to be here on a bright, sunny, warm summer day because it will be quite hot.
When you lose the trail, and it may happen a few times, stop and look around. The trail may have turned a different direction. We managed to follow the trail for about a mile or so before we couldn’t find it anymore. I assume there’s a trail because I saw several people on the hillside above us.
At this point you can turn around or you can hike off-trail, heading for the summits above you.
Get more information about the park, including closures, on the Jefferson County Open Space website. Find more Golden hiking trails, Jefferson County Open Space hikes and Colorado hiking trails here. Don’t miss any of my hiking trip reports, click the “subscribe” button to be notified when I publish a new article.
Details: The trail is about a mile or so, depending on if you do a better job than I did following the worn path.
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.