Genesee Mountain Loop | Genesee Park
Golden, CO | 10/01/20 | 6.26 miles | 752′ gain
After a few hours of work, I set out for the mountains to check out a new (to me) park. Genesee is a Native American word for “shining valley”, and Genesee Park does feature a valley as well as a mountain (Genesee Mountain) and a herd of bison. The park is right off I-70 so if you’ve ever driven west of Denver, you may have spotted the bison. I started from the Genesee Mountain Trailhead and was on the Genesee Mountain Trail at 12:30.
The Genesee Mountain Trail encircles Genesee Mountain and the middle bison pasture. I went counter-clockwise around the loop, first descending towards the highway. The first point of interest was the bison overlook, which overlooks the enclosure and offers interpretive signs about the bison. I couldn’t see any bison from the overlook but was hoping to find them later.
An estimated 40-60 million American bison once roamed the Great Plains but by 1890, overharvesting and settlement drove the population down to only 500. The City of Denver began a bison herd in 1905 at the Denver Zoo, and in 1914 they moved the bison to Genesee Park.
Past the overlook, the trail turned and paralleled the Interstate. I didn’t particularly like the noisiness of this section but I soon found myself near the bison barns, where I found the bison.
There is another parking lot here as well as a bathroom and interpretive signs. I cut off the Genesee Mountain Trail to follow the short Chief Hosa Loop. This trail heads to the Chief Hosa Campground and Chief Hosa Lodge (pictured below). The lodge is now used for special events but once provided hot meals for campers at the nearby campground.
The Chief Hosa Trail heads up a low ridge and offers nice views before descending back down to the parking lot.
Once back at the parking lot, I continued along the Genesee Mountain Trail, now heading up Genesee Mountain. The Patrick House (pictured below) is another historic site along the loop. It is a private residence long used by the bison herd caretaker, and one of the oldest houses in Jefferson County. The house was part of an 1860 stage stop run by the Patrick family, and is rumored to be haunted. I wasn’t allowed to get close enough to find out.
I passed the bison again and connected with a service road, which users are meant to follow between the middle and south bison pastures. Unfortunately, the signage was often lacking and I accidentally took an unmarked trail, thinking I wasn’t supposed to be on the road. The trail did eventually drop me back off along the road, however, and I soon found the correct (and signed) trail.
I decided to skip the Genesee Summit Trail since I wanted to get down early enough to avoid Denver’s rush-hour traffic. I looped around Genesee Mountain and back down to the car. This was a nice and easy hike, and a good way to spend a fall afternoon.