Eldorado Canyon Trail | Eldorado Canyon State Park
Eldorado Springs, CO | 05/25/19 | 6.93 miles | 1,902′ gain
Eldorado Canyon State Park has been on my list for a while. It’s only an hour and 15 minutes away, but it’s by Boulder. And I can only handle going to Boulder every once in a while. (WAY too many people!) But I only had a few options with the elevation gain I was looking for, and my friend Abigail has been wanting to do this exact hike, so it was an easy decision.
Every week, I’ve been trying to pick hikes that have more and more elevation gain to get myself in better shape. I’m actually surprised at how well I’m doing, and after next weekend’s trip to visit my family in Wisconsin, I’ll be ramping it up even more!
Eldorado Canyon State Park has a number of different trails with great views of the canyon and the Continental Divide. Even though it’s so close, I’d never been up Eldorado Canyon before and I was looking forward to it.
Abigail and I met at a nearby park-n-ride so we didn’t have to pay two entrance fees. (It’s $9 per car to get into the state park.) She brought her dog Sally and I brought Otis. We were surprised to find that the road into the park wasn’t paved, but we enjoyed driving slow and looking up the canyon walls. A few spots on the road were so narrow that only one car could go through at a time! We eventually parked around 7:15 am, an early start to beat most of the crowds. There were only a few other cars in the lot at that time.
The trail started up wooden stairs and crossed the road. It immediately began to climb up out of the canyon. The lower section was all stairs, which was rough on our knees. The trail climbs almost 800′ in the first mile, and then becomes more gradual, undulating up and down until you come to an overlook at the high point of the trail, about 1000′ above the canyon floor.
We were pleasantly surprised at the views, which were present for a good portion of the hike. These helped us to power through the steeper sections and we made much better time than we were expecting!
The canyon overlook is the high point of the trail, at just over 7,000′. Many people turn around at this point but we chose to continue down the trail to see the river. The trail loses about 600′ of elevation within 3/4 of a mile, descending to South Boulder Creek. We knew we were going to have to regain all of that elevation on the way back, but it would be worth it to have a snack by the river!
Shortly before reaching the river, we came to an intersection with the Walker Ranch Trail. (You might remember my post about this trail from a month ago!) To get to South Boulder Creek, we had to follow the Walker Ranch Trail for a very short ways.
After crossing the creek, we clambered over a rocky area of the Walker Ranch Trail to get to a spot I remembered where we could easily get down to the water. The dogs got to wade around for a few minutes and get a drink while we had a quick snack. It was pretty chilly so we didn’t stay long.
Since we’d arrived so early, we hadn’t really seen many people so far, but that would change on the way back. But first, we had to climb the 600′ back to the high point. We had made great time all morning but now we were starting to become much more tired. It felt like it took us forever, but eventually we made it up to the overlook and greatly enjoyed the fact that we would have only gradual or downhill trail left!
Unfortunately, now that it was later in the morning, hoards of people and dogs were out and about. Sally loves other dogs but can be leash aggressive. So every time (like every 2 minutes) someone came up the trail, we’d have to stop and pull off the trail as far as we could to give her her space. It made what would normally be a quick descent, take FOR-EV-ER! (Dangit Sally!)
But eventually we made it back to the car, and the whole thing had only taken 4 hours. Even with the snack break, stopping for people & dogs to pass, and huffing and puffing up the steep sections, we STILL beat our (self) allotted time of 5 hours. Yes! A great success and a gorgeous day.
The parking lot, which was nearly empty at 7:15, was now PACKED at 11:15. People were parking at smaller lots down the road and walking up the road to the trail. And I don’t mean the side of the road, I mean the middle. The middle of the road that isn’t even wide enough for two cars in some spots. (I really hate Boulder.) I think I held my breath the entire drive, crawling along, waiting for people to realize I was behind them and move to the side of the road, hoping that no one stepped out in front of my car. The paved road couldn’t come soon enough and I breathed a sigh of relief as we sped back to the park-n-ride.