Get Outside! Hiking Apex Park

Taking An Afterwork Hike At Open Space Park In Golden

The basics: Apex Park, Jefferson County Open Space Trails ranging from 1.6 miles to 8.6 miles Directions: From 6th/I-70/C470, take I-70 West to exit 259, Morrison. Turn right. 1.1 miles to Heritage Road, turn left. As you come around that first turn, take a quick left onto an unsigned paved road to the parking lot. (If you see Kimball or Berthoud streets, you've gone too far. Turn around, there is a sign for Apex park in the other direction)

The good: Close to town Ample parking Lots of trail choices The occasional sound of a stream

The bad: Crowded with hikers, bikers and dogs.

Are you a person who likes options? Then this is the hike for you! Apex Park in Golden has so many trail options that you can hike (or bike) a loop as small as 4.5 miles or as large as 8.6 miles. I chose the Apex to Grubstake Loop at 5.5 miles. I've also done the Apex to Enchanted Forest hike after work at 5.3 miles. Today it was Grubstake.

There's plenty of parking on the far north side of the Heritage Square parking lot. Officials would prefer if you use the lower lot, but I have seen trail users using both the lower and upper lot. The trail maps are on a board at the lower parking lot as you walk into the tree area.

Head up the trail, cross a bridge and turn west onto the Apex trail. As you head into the canyon area that makes up the Apex trail, look for the sign that explains some of the history of the Apex Park area. This was a bustling town in the 1860s and 70s with a major wagon road to the gold fields of what is now Central City. The sign tells the price of using what was a toll road. Now, you get to hike the area for free. The view of the Heritage Square lift and Alpine Slide from Apex Park. As you climb the Pick 'N Sledge trail you end up at a higher elevation than the people who rode this lift.

Take the Apex trail 0.8 of a mile and you come to your first decision. Head uphill on the Pick 'n Sledge trail or continue on the Apex trail. The Pick 'N Sledge trail climbs 878 feet and comes around the front side of the park, as you climb you'll have views of downtown Denver to Golden. After another 0.9 of a mile, another decision. Stay on the Pick 'N Sledge trail to Sluicebox and back down Apex for the shortest loop, 4.5 miles. Or turn right on the Grubstake Loop trail to add a little more distance, knowing in just a half mile, you'll get to decide again. At this spot, take the Bonanza trail to make the loop 4.9 miles or continue on the Grubstake Loop trail for a 5.5-mile loop. I took the Grubstake Loop and it actually mellows out here with some downhill. As you loop around on the Grubstake trail, you actually enter a forest area. With the views of the city behind you, enjoy the trees, the peace and quiet, but watch out for bikers who sometimes speed through this area. I really enjoyed this section of the trail until a dog barked and I realized just how close some of the homes are to this little trail in the trees.

As you get toward the end of the Grubstake Loop, it begins to climb again, passing the Bonanza cutoff, then heading downhill to the Pick 'N Sledge cutoff. I only saw one bench on this entire trail and it was at the intersection of the Grubstake and Pick 'N Sledge trails. This is also the area where you see how close some people live to Apex Park, I always wonder if they enjoy the park they live so close to or if they're couch potatoes.

After you pass the intersection with Pick 'N Sledge, the rest of the hike is pretty much all downhill. The trail here takes on the name Sluicebox and it's a 397-foot drop in 0.7 of a mile. I passed plenty of bikers huffing and puffing and sometimes walking their bikes as they worked their way up this hill, and I was glad to be taking it down.

On the northern side of the Grubstake trail, hikers and bikers enter a heavily treed area.

When you get to the bottom of sluicebox, there is another option. You can turn back down the Apex trail 1.5 miles to the parking lot or if you want more, turn up the trail to add 2.3 miles to your hike. Going up the Apex trail, there are trail junctions at 0.3 of a mile or at the 1-mile mark for the Enchanted Forest trail. Enchanted Forest is a great option to add on or do the loop without Pick 'N Sledge or Grubstake. If you decide to do this, I'd suggest hiking up Apex 1 mile and taking Enchanted Forest back down. Enchanted Forest pretty much lives up to its name, it's cooler, there are lots of trees and you feel like a goblin could jump out from behind a tree at any minute. It's a very nice treat so close to the city, especially as the sun drops in the evening.

Whether you choose the Apex/Enchanted Forest loop (5.3 miles), the Apex/Pick 'N Sledge/Sluicebox loop (4.5 miles), Apex/Pick 'N Sledge/Grubstake/Bonanza/Sluicebox loop (4.9 miles), Apex/Pick 'N Sledge/Grubstake/Sluicebox loop (5.5) or the double circle of Apex/Pick 'N Sledge/Grubstake/Sluicebox/Apex/Enchated Forest loop (8.6 miles), this is a good workout and a nice place to visit after work or on a day off. Be nice to people you pass on this trail, as some of them, especially the bikers may do the loop more than once. I saw one group of bikers three times, and it became quite fun to say hello to them as we passed each other.

These wildflowers were beginning to open in June 2007

If you have any questions, comments or even hiking suggestions, e-mail me, deb_stanley@kmgh.com.

  • For more information about Apex Park in Jefferson County, including maps, list of trails, more on the park's history, etc... click here.

    Also check out our Discover Colorado section for more tips on things to see and do in our beautiful state.

    Previous hiking reports:(lower elevation hikes have a star) Boulder: Caribou Ranch*, Mallory Cave*, Marshall Mesa,Heil Valley Ranch* Forsythe Canyon*, South Boulder Peak*, The Boulder Flatirons*, Walker Ranch*, Bear Peak*, Rabbit Mountain*, Bald Mountain*, Betasso Preserve*, Wonderland Lake* Golden area: Forgotten Valley, Chimney Gulch* Jefferson County: Mt. Falcon*, Elk Meadow* I-70 area: Herman Gulch, Chicago Lakes, Chief Mountain Rocky Mountain National Park: Granite Falls, 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 Northern Colorado: Homestead Meadows, Devil's Backbone*, Lake Agnes Summit & Eagle Counties: Booth Falls, Missouri Lakes, Mohawk Lakes & Continental Falls Grand County: St Louis Lake, Waterfall At Snow Mountain Ranch, Granby Ranch Other: Exploring Fulford Cave, Our Favorite Hikes, Our Favorite Bike Rides

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