Roxborough State Park is defined by it's jutting fins of red rock, historic buildings, canyons, wildlife and even a peak to climb. For hikers, families out for a day in nature, birders and photographers, there is a wide variety of things to do there. Bordering a national forest, a designated state wildlife area and Douglas County Open Space, it is also a gateway to plenty of additional recreational opportunities.
Carpenter Peak, on the park's western edge, is a fun, moderately strenuous climb with great views of the park along the way. The peak's summit is strewn with large boulders that are easy to climb, providing great 360-degree views of the surrounding areas. At just under 6.5 miles round trip and almost 1,240 feet of ascent, it's a decent trek, but if you only go to the summit and back, you are missing out. Tack on a couple miles and you can turn this hike into a really nice loop.
Starting at the Roxborough visitor center, take the Willow Creek Trail for a bit under a half mile, to where it splits. At the "Y," bear right and start on the Carpenter Peak Trail. Follow Carpenter Peak, passing the Elk Valley Trail at about 2 miles, and you'll reach an intersection a bit over 3 miles in which takes out on the short and easy spur trail to the summit of Carpenter Peak.
If this is your first time on Carpenter Peak, it would be silly to miss out on the summit, so head on up and return back to the trail. This trail intersection is the highest point on this hike, so if you've made it this far, know that for the most part, the difficult sections are now behind you. Continue north on the Carpenter Peak Trail for nearly a half mile — about 3.6 miles total — to where it enters the national forest at an intersection with the Powerline Trail. Although all the signs at this intersection point to making a right turn to Waterton Canyon to the north, turn left here. The Powerline Trail is actually an old service road for the — you guessed it — powerlines that cross above or run next to the trail.
At 4.75 miles, the trail turns right (west), where it becomes Indian Creek Trail #800 and meets Douglas County Road 5. Continue straight on CR 5 and at about 5.45 miles, go past the intersection with Elk Valley Trail on the left. A short distance later, CR 5 has a steep quarter-mile climb, but once at the top, it really is all downhill from here. At just under 7 miles, pass a trail on the right that leads into Douglas County Open Space, and then a few hundred feet later, meet the Sharp Trail Ridge Trail.
Bear left and continue down County Road 5 and at about 7.8 miles in, turn right onto Carpenter Peak Trail and follow it back to the visitor center, for a total distance of about 8.5 miles.
Things you should know: Distance was measured by GPS and is approximate. Your mileage may vary. Dogs, horses, bikes and motorized vehicles are not allowed on any trails in Roxborough State Park. Entry fees to the park apply. The climb to the summit of Carpenter Peak is somewhat strenuous. Much of this loop is completely exposed to the sun, so bring plenty of water. A water bottle refill station is available inside the visitor center. Parking is limited and on busy days, you may have to wait at the entrance for a space to become available. Add about .2 miles to this hike if you go to the actual summit of Carpenter Peak. Total ascent to the summit of Carpenter Peak is 1,237 feet, and total ascent for this loop is 1,623 feet. I have created a custom route for this loop in COTREX.
If you want to shorten this hike a bit — although you will miss out on some great views — you can use the Elk Valley Trail as a shortcut, either on the way up to bypass the summit of Carpenter Peak, or to bypass much of County Road 5 on the way down.
To get to Carpenter Peak: From Colorado Springs, take I-25 north to exit 184 (Founders Parkway), turn left and get into the right lane. Once past the outlet stores, turn right onto US 85. Take it north for 11 miles, get off at the Titan Parkway exit and turn left. Follow it for 6.75 miles (it eventually becomes Rampart Range Road) and turn left onto Roxborough Park Road. Then turn right to enter the park.
Be Good. Do Good Things. Leave No Trace.