Explore Colorado / Explore The Outdoors

Hiking a Geological Gem in Roxborough State Park

Roxborough State Park is a gigantic geology jigsaw puzzle.  It’s like the world-famous Red Rocks, which are just up the road, only without the crowds.  I’ve hiked it several times, but on the first hike, I couldn’t help but think I’d stumbled upon a geological gem.  Roxborough State Park is where the prairie meets the mountains in a unique setting of beauty, ecological diversity, and serenity.

It’s only about a 40-minute drive from downtown Denver.  On the day I went the weather was cool and cloudy, and greening up nicely as is typical in May.  Roxborough State Park is a hiking only park.  The trails range from the mellow Willow Creek Trail to the strenuous Carpenter Peak Trail which gains 1000 feet in elevation.  At the entrance, I asked the ranger which trail I should hike.  He immediately said South Rim Trail was his favorite and I quickly found out why.

I started from the visitor center sitting at 6,200 feet.  The first part of the trail meandered through the scrub oak trees.

It suddenly opened up to a lush grassy meadow with a stunning view of millions-year-old sandstone monoliths jutting dramatically skyward.  Wildflowers are already popping up along the trail.  Seemed a little early, but it is wonderful to see yellow and even a few purple splotches against the lush green and rocky landscape.

Along the trail there are benches perfect if you need a break, just want to soak in the view, or enjoy a picnic.  I saw one under a tree in the meadow then shortly after I crossed a footbridge and started climbing up the hill.  Take a moment to breathe like I did and enjoy the stunning views of the green valley, rolling hills, and striking sandstone spires and monoliths.

The trail continues to gradually wind up the rocky outcrops of the Dakota Hogback.  From the ridge, you get amazing views of the Fountain, Lyons, and Dakota formations.

The red-rock formations are the focal point of Roxborough State Park.  The Fountain Formation is the most striking feature in the park.  The tilted sandstone began over 300 million ago as the Ancestral Rocky Mountains began to erode.  As the result of millions of years of uplift and erosion, today the red sandstones stand at a sixty-degree angle.  Even the views looking east as the rolling terrain turns flat are incredible.

From the ridge, the trail quickly winds down into a valley.  You still get to enjoy great views as you wind your way down for the final stretch of the 3 mile loop hike.

Near the end of the trail, there was a small red bridge over a creek.  Couldn’t help but wonder where the trail will take me next!



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