Explore Colorado

Castle Ruins in Colorado: A Great Hike in Morrison

I set out on a hiking adventure with my cousin Elizabeth and her two grandsons in Morrison, Colorado. It’s a great small town in the Foothills and only about 20-25 minutes from downtown Denver. I thought we were heading out on a 3-4 mile hike. Little did I know we were hiking to castle ruins on a close to 7-mile hike. Even as much as I’ve done in Colorado, this “castle” was new to me. We walked from her house to the hike up Turkey Trot Trail. It wasn’t long before we got great views of Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

Somewhere during the climb, Elizabeth suggested hiking on to the castle. “Let’s do it!” I said. She knows I love hikes that take you to either beautiful spots like alpine lakes or to something rich with history like this one. As we hiked, she filled me in a little on the history of John Brisben Walker. He was a magazine publisher and entrepreneur. He even tried to build a mansion not far from his on Mount Falcon that was to be a summer White House for presidents.

We climbed and traversed Mount Falcon until we connected to the Castle Trail. From there it was a pretty straight shot to the historic ruins. As the castle in the pines came in to view, I got excited to learn more about it. Thankfully there’s a sign with background on the mansion and John Brisben Walker. The self-made millionaire developed “Riverfront Park” in downtown Denver, invested in Stanley Steamer steam-powered automobilies and owned and edited Cosmopolotan magazine. He purchases more than four thousand acres of land in the area, including what is now Mount Falcon Park. Construction on the home started in 1909. His wife Ethel died in 1916 then lightning struck the home and burned it down in 1918 forcing John Walker to leave the area. The monstrous craftsman-style chalet had ten bedrooms, a music room, observation deck, eight fireplaces, a library and servants quarters.

As we stood in what would have been the courtyard then wandered around the sides of the mansion, we had fun counting the fireplaces, imagining what room was what and admiring the construction including the curved stone columns at one end of the mansion, with one housing two fireplaces.

If you don’t want to do a long hike like we did, you can park at the west trailhead of Castle Trail. It’s less than a mile from there to the castle ruins. On the way down back heading east into Morrison, we stayed on Castle Trail to take a different route. Like Turkey Trot, it has great views of Red Rocks.