Mount Galbraith (7,260′) | Jefferson County Open Space
via Nightbird Gulch Trail | Golden, CO | 11/12/19 | 5.99 miles | 1,333′ gain | Class 2
It’d been too long since I’d gotten out so I was thrilled when I was able to link up with my friend Tori for a Tuesday hike. On the agenda was Mount Galbraith just outside of Golden, CO. There are a couple of ways to access Mount Galbraith, but we chose Nightbird Gulch since it was a little longer and had a little more elevation gain than the standard Cedar Gulch Trail. Our “trailhead” was really just a roadside access point within a neighborhood. A little different than some other trailheads I’ve been to lately!
The Nightbird Gulch Trail first ascends a short staircase and then gradually switchbacks up a hillside, eventually working its way over to its namesake, Nightbird Gulch. As the trail enters the gulch, it transitions from a nice dirt trail to a rocky one, and we often found ourselves climbing over small boulders.
The vegetation so far had been an open grassland/shrubland, and as we climbed higher, we could see the entire city of Golden and its surrounding landmarks.
At the top of the gulch, we reached a small saddle. Continuing upwards, we soon reached the intersection with the Mount Galbraith Loop Trail and the Cedar Gulch Trail. We intended to follow the loop around Mount Galbraith and then cut off on a side trail to the summit. We ended up going in a counter-clockwise direction, though it seems many others went the opposite way.
We didn’t see a single person coming up the little used Nightbird Gulch Trail, but now that we were on the main loop, we passed people often. It seemed like everyone was in a bad mood today, Tuesdays in Golden must be stressful!
Now that we’d climbed higher on Mount Galbraith, the open spaces gave way to forest. The shaded forest protected the recent snow from the sun, and we had to be careful not to slip on the icy rocks. There was a relatively steep drop off along the trail that I would prefer not to slide down!
We’d been slowly climbing all morning, hardly feeling the elevation gain since it was so perfectly spread out, but we were getting close to the summit!
The views opened up one more time when we walked through a burn area, and then we were on the final summit push! We located the unmarked side trail and followed it to the summit where we had a quick snack break. There were trees on the summit preventing me from getting photos of the views, but we enjoyed peeking through the branches regardless!
After a short break, we started our descent. We continued along the side trail which led us back to the Mount Galbraith Loop. We descended quickly through here, speeding up now that we were going downhill.
Otis decided that he wanted to be in front, so Tori moved aside and he slowly walked down the trail. I guess we were just going too fast for him! He was getting pretty tired, but faithfully continued on.
At one particularly rocky spot on the Nightbird Gulch Trail, we met a hiker coming up. Normally uphill has the right of way, so I hurried to get myself and Otis safely off the boulders and out of the hiker’s way. We had just gotten off the boulders when the hiker stepped up directly in Tori’s way, forcing her to step down into a more precarious position. Throughout this whole interaction, he hadn’t said a word, just expecting that we move out of his way regardless of if it was safe or not. I understand uphill has the right of way and I truly respect that, but if someone going downhill is on a section that they can’t easily pull over, it’s best to wait a few seconds for them to move to a safe section of trail before passing. It’s just common courtesy! The people here are the crankiest I think I’ve ever seen! Thankfully we didn’t have any more human encounters.
Once we were in sight of the car, Otis picked up the pace, excited to get to lay down on his comfy dog bed and relax the whole way home.