Golden Gate Canyon State Park is one of the 42 Colorado State Parks, and is located in Gilpin and Jefferson counties, around 30 miles west of Denver. This 11,998 acre Front Range Park has 36 miles of hiking trails-- Horses and bicycles are allowed on 22 miles of those trails. It includes facilities such as a visitor center, over 100 campsites, 5 furnished and heated cabins for rent, 2 yurts, and the upscale 4 bedroom Harmsen Guest Ranch, stocked fishing ponds, and over 100 picnic sites. (All photos, and photo collages, in this post will enlarge for easier viewing if clicked on)
The Golden Gate Canyon Visitor Center is open daily, year round. Outside is a placard that tells about wildlife that is in the area and gives hiking tips.
We headed up to the Panoramic Point Scenic Overlook, where we saw a view of 100 miles of the Rocky Mountains Continental Divide in the distance! (Click on to enlarge!)
Some close ups of the mountains we saw along our 100 mile view.
The elevation at Panoramic Point is approximately at 9,400 feet. Here, the picnic table area was under a shady canopy of trees.
This little chipmunk was waiting for us to leave so he could search under the table for crumbs.
After eating our picnic lunch we headed out on the 2.3 mile round trip Raccoon Loop Trail. This trail passes through Golden Gate Canyon's upper-montane and lower subalpine forests. Along the trail we saw lodgepole pine trees, Engelmann spruce, blue spruce, white fir and aspen trees. Do you spot my husband standing next to a giant lodgepole tree on the trail?
Along the trail we had more glorious views of the Rocky Mountains.
We also saw an array of beautiful wildflowers, more chipmunks, and various fungi along the trail.
We also saw moss and lichens growing on some of the boulders along the trail.
We really enjoyed the beautiful views and the cool mountain air while walking on the trail.
I was excited to see the 14,259 foot high Longs Peak, located in Rocky Mountain National Park, in the distance.
When we saw this fresh scat, however, we knew it was time to turn back and head home, as we were not carrying bear spray with us. The black bears have been very active this time of the year along the Front Range, bulking up for their winter hibernation. They need to consume over 20,000 calories a day! Unfortunately, the very rainy spring Colorado had this year, among other weather conditions, caused a decrease in the acorns and berries they like to eat. They are roaming further into civilization, in search of food, including one cub that was recently found roaming on a street in Denver! Click here to read a Denver post story about that. We are careful not to have bird feeders hanging in our backyard this time of the year, and to keep our garbage can inside our closed garage and only leave it curbside the morning of pickup. I've also learned to look up into the trees when I walk on a trail, as it is very possible a bear could be up in a tree! Click here to read my blog post where I learned that lesson!
I feel very fortunate that this beautiful state park is just a half hour drive from my house! It is a place I'll be returning there often in the coming seasons and years. Who knows, I might even buy some snowshoes and hike in winter! Do you participate in winter activities? What is your favorite thing to do?
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