I hiked 5 miles RT. Distances range from 2 miles to 5+ miles Elevation Gain:
1,118 feet, according to my GPS Location:
Golden (directions and trail map below) Dog rules:
allowed, but must be leashed. Advice:
Expect tons of company on this trail, even at 7 p.m. If hiking during the day, wear sunscreen. There is not much tree cover.
The summer solstice is Friday, the longest day of the year. Late sunsets are a good excuse to get in a hike after work.
Last year, I hiked Apex Park
in Golden the week of the summer solstice. This year I decided to try Chimney Gulch
Chimney Gulch is a valley of sorts. The city of Golden's Web site
said "the gulch gets its name from fast moving wildfires that have occurred on the site."
The trail starts on U.S. 6 between 19th Street and Highway 93. If you've driven in the area, you've probably seen the trailhead without realizing it. It's the spot with the windsocks where paragliders flying down Lookout Mountain land.
I left Channel 7 in downtown Denver at 5:45 p.m. Even with a traffic jam on 6th Avenue, I drove to the trailhead in 20 minutes. Even in the evening, this trailhead was packed with cars. More than 20 parked at the trailhead and along the side of the highway. I found a spot, quickly packed up my water bottle and camera and headed up. Dam crossing on Chimney Gulch Trail
The trail is easy to spot from the center of the parking lot. It winds through the grass to a grove of trees.
Just 0.15 of a mile from the trailhead, I came to a dam of sorts and a trail split. I had no idea which way to go. Suddenly I saw bikers coming from behind me and my left; they all converged at this small dam. They jumped off their bikes and carried them over. I figured that must be the way to go. It is.
From here, get ready to start the hike up. This is a trail with some decent elevation gain and occasional flat spots. When you hit a flat spot, catch your breath. You'll need it again quickly.
This is also a very busy trail. I was passed by so many bikers in the first quarter mile, I lost count. I not only saw bikers going up and down, I saw trail runners, a few hikers and even a dog. Technically bikers are suppose to give way to hikers, but it's a lot easier for me to step off the trail and let them by, then it is for them to stop and let me by. Be kind, I found most of the bikers to be very polite and appreciative that I was willing to give way.
As this trail winds up the "gulch" I occasionally spotted Lookout Mountain Road. The trail actually crosses Lookout Mountain Road twice. So when you see the road above you, you know you'll be climbing that high and possibly even higher.Switchbacks on the Chimney Gulch Trail
At about 0.7 mile, there is a series of tough switchbacks. Steep enough that many bikers jumped off their bikes and pushed them up. At the top of this section, the trail turns on to a flat dirt road that gives you a break from the climbing. It's a very short walk on the road back to the next section of trail, but take a moment to look back at where you've come from. Especially look at those switchbacks. I was pretty proud of myself.
Then it's time to continue on. At the 1 mile mark, you'll cross Lookout Mountain Road for the first time. This is a busy road with drivers and bikers, so make sure you take mom's advice and "look both ways before crossing."
You may notice two trails here. One in the middle of the parking area and one on the right side of the parking lot that has a sign saying "Chimney Gulch." Take the trail on the right; the one in the middle is a dead end.
And yes, there's more climbing ahead. This portion of the trail is 1.5 miles and it gains about 700 feet in elevation. I liked this section of the trail. Possibly because I was almost halfway up. Possibly because there were some bridges that crossed a small creek, some hiking in the trees and a lot more wildflowers. I was still getting passed by bikers and occasionally a hiker, but I wasn't in a hurry. My goal was to make it to the top and back down by 8:30 p.m. - 8:45 p.m. That gave me about two and half hours.
As I came out of the last section of trees on this part of the trail, I spotted Lookout Mountain Road again and people on the trail ahead of me. I could tell there was some more climbing to do, but I also knew I was almost there.
At about the 2.5 mile mark, I crossed Lookout Mountain Road to a small parking lot. The sign here says "Windy Saddle." The sign is right, it is pretty windy here. But the best part is the view. Don't just turn around at the road and go back down. Cross the road, go through the parking lot and take in the view. It was impressive and a treat I wasn't expecting. The view from Windy Saddle
There's also a sign in the parking lot that talks about "Windy Saddle" and shows the trails in the area. This is a good spot to take a time check and decide if you want to go further. The trail continues to climb linking up with the trails on Lookout Mountain and the Beaver Brook Trail. I decided it was time to turn around and head back for the car.
As you can imagine, the trip down went pretty fast. I saw fewer bikers, possibly because some of them take Lookout Mountain Road back down. One bicyclist told me he actually rides over to Apex Park and takes those trails back down. Much of the view on the way down isn't very scenic, it's mainly the Coors Brewing plant and South Table Mountain, but I was so pleased to have hiked after work, that I didn't mind the only semi-scenic view.
I made it back to my Jeep about 8:15 p.m. I was glad to get in an after work hike and I felt like I had had a treat.
I'd love to hear your questions, comments and your hiking trail suggestions, e-mail me: email@example.com
Directions: From U.S. 6 and Colfax in Golden, take U.S. 6 west 3 miles to the parking lot on the west side of the road. It's about a half mile past 19th Street/Lookout Mountain Road. You'll know it's the right place because you'll see the windsocks used by paragliders. The parking lot was full on a Wednesday night at 6:15 p.m., drivers were even parked along the side of the road. The parking area is a half mile east of the light for U.S. 6, Highway 93 and Highway 58.
Previous hiking reports:(lower elevation hikes have a star)
, Mallory Cave*
, Marshall Mesa
,Heil Valley Ranch*
, South Boulder Peak*
, The Boulder Flatirons*
, Walker Ranch*
, Bear Peak*
, Rabbit Mountain*
, Bald Mountain*
, Betasso Preserve*
, Wonderland Lake*
, Apex Park*
, Elk Meadow*
, Chicago Lakes
, Chief Mountain
Rocky Mountain National Park:
, Twin Sisters
, Bierstadt Lake
, Chasm Lake
, Lulu City & Little Yellowstone
, The Loch, Andrew's Glacier
, Sandbeach Lake
Indian Peaks/James Peak Wilderness:
King, Bob & Betty Lakes
, Forest Lakes
, Arapaho Lakes
, Mitchell & Blue Lakes
, James Peak Area
, Heart Lake
, Devil's Backbone*
, Lake Agnes
Summit & Eagle Counties:
, Missouri Lakes
, Mohawk Lakes & Continental Falls
St Louis Lake
, Waterfall At Snow Mountain Ranch
, Granby Ranch
Exploring Fulford Cave
, Our Favorite Hikes
, Our Favorite Bike Rides
Trail map for Chimney Gulch from Trails Illustrated.
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