Golden Gate Canyon State Park is an absolute gem in Colorado’s state park system. The park is conveniently located less than an hour’s drive from Denver and is open during all four seasons. Seemingly endless activities abound within its 11,911 acres, including hiking, horseback riding, fishing, rock climbing, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, etc. Indeed, one of the biggest draws of Golden Gate Canyon State Park is its abundant camping opportunities, including cabins and guest houses.
DESTINATION GUIDE SERIES: GOLDEN GATE CANYON STATE PARK
Why Should You Visit Golden Gate Canyon State Park?
Visitors of Golden Gate Canyon State Park can take in incredible vistas of Front Range mountains and often enjoy a less crowded outdoor experience than many other parks. In particular, Panorama Point Scenic Overlook is a very popular destination within the park to catch some spectacular views. There are plenty of trails that offer challenges for varying skill sets, relaxing fishing spots, excellent picnic and camping areas, and much more. Pet friendly and great for family fun, we think Golden Gate Canyon State Park is a must visit.
Where is Golden Gate Canyon State Park?
Golden Gate Canyon State Park is located within Gilpin and Jefferson counties, less than 30 miles from Denver and about 15 miles from Golden. The Visitor Center is just off of Golden Gate Canyon Road.
Things to Do
Hiking and Trail Running
Hiking is an extremely popular activity in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. The park has an extensive network of hiking-only and mixed-use trails that range in difficulty, so there are suitable hikes for all skill-levels. Note that mixed-use trails share the trail with mountain bikers and horseback riders. If you’d prefer to avoid the extra trail traffic, opt for a hiking-only trail.
For trail runners, consider picking up a copy of Best Trail Runs Denver, Boulder & Colorado Springs that has more details on awesome routes.
- Horseshoe Trail: 1.8 Miles, One-Way
- Blue Grouse Trail: 0.7 Miles, One-Way
- Buffalo Trail: 1.4 Miles, One-Way
- Mule Deer Trail: 9.1 Miles, Loop
- Raccoon Trail: 2.5 Miles, Loop
- Burro Trail: 4.5 Miles, Loop
- Mountain Lion Trail: 6.7 Miles, Loop
- Snowshoe Hare Trail: 3.0 Miles, Loop
Most Difficult Trails
There are a number of options for camping within Golden Gate Canyon State Park. Standard tents/RVs campgrounds, group campgrounds, and backcountry sites are available throughout the park. In addition to a campsite reservation, you must also have a park pass or pay the $9.00 park entrance fee upon arrival. Visit here for campsite reservations or call 1-800-244-5613.
Reverend’s Ridge Campground
Reverend’s Ridge Campground has 97 campsites; 38 sites are tent-only and 59 sites have electric. Of the two main park campgrounds, Reverend’s Ridge is more developed with flush toilets and showers.
- Tent-Only: $28.00/night
- Electric: $36.00/night
Aspen Meadow Campground
Aspen Meadow Campground has 35 tent-only sites. This campground is the more primitive option, with vault toilets and no showers.
- Tent-Only: $28.00/night
Rifleman Phillips Group Campground
The Rifleman Phillips Group Campground is tent-only (trailers are not permitted) and can accommodate up to 75 people. This campground is fairly primitive, but does have a vault toilet.
- Fees: $364.00/night
Works Ranch Cabin and Group Camping Areas
Works Ranch combines cabin accommodations with a group campground. The area can accommodate up to 30 people (6 in the cabin, 24 in the tent-only camp area). The site has a vault toilet. Trailers are not permitted.
- Fees: $202.00/night (two night minimum)
Golden Gate Canyon State Park has 20 backcountry tent sites and four backcountry shelters. Permits are required and are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Visitor’s Center. Visit here for a map of the park’s backcountry campsites/shelters.
- Fees: $18.00/night
Golden Gate Canyon State Park has a variety of other accommodations, beyond campgrounds, available for reservation, such as cabins, yurts, and a larger occupancy guest house. These are great options if you prefer more comfortable accommodations instead of a campground. Visit here for cabin/yurt reservations or call 1-800-244-5613.
- Cabins: There are five cabins available for reservation year-round within Golden Gate Canyon State Park. Each cabin has a maximum occupancy of six people. Note that you must bring your own bedding. Pets are permitted in all cabins except Cabin #2 for a $10.00/night fee. Fees: $90.00/night (two night minimum)
- Yurts: There are two yurts available for reservation year-round within Golden Gate Canyon State Park. Each yurt has a maximum occupancy of six people. Note that you must bring your own bedding. Pets are permitted only in Yurt #1 for a $10.00/night fee. Fees: $90.00/night (two night minimum)
- Harmsen Ranch Guest House: The Harmsen Ranch Guest House is a nice alternative to the more rustic cabins and yurts. The guest house has four beds and four baths and can accommodate up to eight people. Pets are not permitted. Fees: $270.00/night per night (two night minimum)
Golden Gate Canyon State Park has nearly 20 miles of mixed-use trails that are designated for mountain biking. Review the park’s trail map to find a trail. Note that since these trails are mixed-use, you will likely share the trail with hikers and horseback riders. MTB Project also has some great information on the park’s trails.
Golden Gate Canyon State Park has nearly 20 miles of mixed-use trails that permit horseback riding. Review the park’s trail map to find a trail suitable for riding. Note that since these trails are mixed-use, you will likely share the trail with hikers and mountain bikers. Visitors with horse trailers should consider parking at Nott Creek or Kriley Overlook.
There are plenty of trad and some sport climbing options within Golden Gate Canyon State Park. Mount Thorodin and Dude’s Throne are popular climbing areas. Check out Mountain Project for in-depth information on the park’s crags.
Golden Gate Canyon State Park has a number of stocked ponds open to fishing. There is a daily bag limit of four fish. Note that a Colorado fishing license is required. If you do not have a fishing license, stop by the Visitor Center to purchase one or buy one online here.
Nordic Skiing and Snowshoeing
All of the trails within Golden Gate Canyon State Park are open to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. In the winter, Mountain Base Road is closed to vehicles, making it available for cross-country ski or snowshoe use.
- Daily Vehicle Pass: $10.00 – Purchase day of visit. Remember to bring exact change if you opt to use any of the self-service pay stations found around the park. Alternatively, the Visitor Center will accept credit card payments during their operating hours.
- Affixed State Park Pass: $80.00 – This pass is good for 12 months of unlimited access to Colorado state parks. The pass is not interchangeable between vehicles.
- Hang Tag Park Pass: $120.00 – This pass is good for 12 months of unlimited access to Colorado state parks. The pass is interchangeable between vehicles.
- Park Hours: 5:00 AM – 10:00 PM
- Pets: Dogs are permitted on trails, but must be on leash.
- Camping: Backcountry campers must purchase a first-come, first-served permit at the Visitor Center. Backcountry camping permits are $18.00.
- Fishing: Fishing in the park requires a Colorado fishing license. If you do not have fishing license, stop by the Visitor Center to purchase one or buy one online here.
Cell Phone Reception
- There is limited to no cell coverage in Golden Gate Canyon State Park.
- Always check the weather forecast before venturing into wilderness. Although Golden Gate Canyon State Park is not at an extremely high elevation, still plan ahead. If the weather is not ideal, plan your trip for another day. Safety first!
If you intend to visit more Colorado state parks beyond Golden Gate Canyon, “Colorado State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide,” though a bit dated, does a nice job providing general overviews of the parks. In addition, we recommend picking up a few naturalist guides for general awareness of the area. An easy to use field guide for plants and birds will help identify species and further add to the enjoyment of your outdoors experience.
- Colorado State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide
- Best Trail Runs: Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs
- Saddle Up, Colorado
- Plants of the Rocky Mountains
- Sibley Birds West: Field Guide to Birds of Western North America
- Roadside Geology of Colorado
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