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Eldorado Canyon State Park offers a variety of trails for outdoor lovers 

click to enlarge The view to the west from the Continental Divide Overlook - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • The view to the west from the Continental Divide Overlook
Located between Boulder and Golden, at the west side of the funky and historic Eldorado Springs,  Eldorado Canyon State Park is a narrow canyon with steep, towering rock walls rising above South Boulder Creek. These features make the park one of the premier climbing locations on the Front Range. In the 1900s, local daredevil Ivy Baldwin would tight rope walk from one side of the canyon to the other, more than 500-feet above the South Boulder Creek, to the delight of on-lookers below. Daredevils no longer tightrope across the canyon, but it remains a haven for modern day daredevils, the rock climbers.

In fact, there are more rock climbing routes in the park than there are hiking trails. Don’t let that dissuade you from checking it out for hiking, the trails in Eldorado Canyon are great — including one handicapped accessible route and links to the adjoining Boulder County parks system.

The park entrance — fees do apply — is located where the canyon narrows dramatically. Parking is limited and scattered due to the narrow terrain and the South Boulder Creek. Some of the biggest lots are just inside the park entrance, another before a creek crossing, and another at the visitors center at the far west end of the park road (about mile from the entrance) — smaller lots can be found along the road.

Trail wise, the Fowler Trail, about one-third of the way into the park, is paved and handicapped accessible for about the first half of its .7 of a mile length (one way). It also has interpretive signs and serves as a route to Boulder County open space, as well as trails bordering the park to the east. Rising up the south side of the canyon, above the entrance road and the creek, Fowler Trail offers views across the canyon where you can watch rock climbers.

The Rattlesnake Gulch Trail, about 4-miles round trip, is a moderate to strenuous loop hike with stops at the remnants of the Crags Hotel and the Continental Divide overlook. The trail starts about .13 of a mile from the start of the Fowler Trail  — measured from the Fowler Trail information kiosk — where it turns to the right off of the Fowler trail. From there, the Rattlesnake Gulch continues up about .25 of a mile to a foot bridge over an intermittent creek. The trail gets steeper on the other side of the creek, with a couple of long switchbacks before arriving at the beginning of the loop part of the trail. There is an informational sign about the Crags Hotel that once stood nearby to the right, including a map of various buildings that were once there. Visitors can stroll around the site, where remnants of the hotel foundations and a fireplace still exist. From the trail intersection, you can take the loop clockwise or counter-clockwise, returning to the Crags Hotel site before taking the trail back to the Fowler Trail. On my visit, I went clockwise on the loop.

After a steep half-mile or so, near some railroad tracks, Rattlesnake Gulch hairpins to the right and continues uphill for a little more than a third of a mile before starting back downhill. After another third of a mile or so, the trail comes to the Continental Divide Overlook, about 200-feet off of the main trail. The overlook is oriented to the east, with views through the narrow gap at the east end of the park towards Denver — rugged, snow capped 14ers can be seen to the west, and El Dorado Canyon Trial is visible to the north, across the canyon.

click to enlarge The Rattlesnake Gulch Trail, including a section of the Fowler Trail - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • The Rattlesnake Gulch Trail, including a section of the Fowler Trail

From the Continental Divide Overlook, continue downhill past the Crags Hotel ruins. When you cross the footbridge, look to the right at a concrete "bunker" about 200-feet to the south. The  bunker contains a huge water conduit, bringing water from the mountains to Denver. Continue downhill on the Rattlesnake Gulch Trail to the Fowler Trail — you can turn left to go back to your starting point, or turn right to continue on the Fowler Trail and eventually to Boulder County Open Space property.
click to enlarge The view east down Eldorado Canyon from the Rattlesnake Gulch Trail - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • The view east down Eldorado Canyon from the Rattlesnake Gulch Trail
The Eldorado Canyon Trail starts next to the visitors center at the end of the park road. The trail gains more than 1,000-feet in elevation via a series of long switchbacks. The views from the trail get better as you continue uphill to the crest of the trail. From there, the trail drops down a steep trail to the Walker Ranch Trail loop, a scenic but long hike. My suggestion is to go counter-clockwise here to turn the steeper sections of the trail into downhills. From the visitors center, around the Walker Ranch loop and back is a 14-mile trip — start early, especially with limited daylight in the winter.

click to enlarge The Eldorado Canyon Trail/Walker Ranch loop hike.  At 15 miles and with some steep uphill sections, this is a hike that will test your mettle. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • The Eldorado Canyon Trail/Walker Ranch loop hike. At 15 miles and with some steep uphill sections, this is a hike that will test your mettle.


Eldorado Canyon gets snow early and keeps it well into the spring, so equip yourself accordingly. The snow also makes Eldorado Canyon ideal for snowshoeing and cross country skiing.

There are some trail use limitations in the park: The Rattlesnake Gulch Trail is open to hiking and cycling, but not to horses. The Eldorado Canyon Trail is open to hikers and equestrians, but not to cyclists. The park does allow dogs but they must be on a leash that is no longer than 6-feet long at all times inside the park.

Happy trails!


Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for more than 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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