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Length: 2.3 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Easy (there’s only about 675 feet of elevation gain)
Why we love it: The trail is close enough to provide beautiful views of Golden, but tucked-away enough to find respite from city life
When to go: Weekday mornings or at sunset
Pre-hike buzz: Head to Golden’s Windy Saddle Cafe for its house-made pastries and, for a proper meal, the breakfast croissant sandwich
Restrooms: At the end of the trail inside Lookout Mountain Nature Center & Preserve
Dogs: Allowed on leash
I felt like I was leaving the city behind as I drove up Lookout Mountain Road on a Monday morning in late August. Traffic on I-70 and I-25 delivered its regular dose of stress, but it dissipated as soon as I ascended the winding passage that has understandably become a favorite among cyclists. Soon, I reached Windy Saddle Park, the trailhead for Lookout Mountain Trail. I parked, rolled up the windows, put my valuables in the trunk, and let my lungs fill up with the cool mountain air.
Cue the light-rail horn, which blared as it repeatedly announced itself either leaving or entering Golden. Whichever it was, it served as a subtle reminder that I hadn’t really escaped the city just yet, which made me even happier to embark on the trail.
Lookout Mountain Trail starts by leading away from the city, and within minutes I noticed the light-rail horn had been replaced with the sounds of chirping birds, the dirt crunching beneath my feet, and the occasional clicking of mountain bikers cruising by. Eventually, the trail brought me into an evergreen forest, but prior to that I found myself overlooking acres of deep valleys that appeared seemingly out of nowhere.
Although it’s short hike, Lookout Mountain Trail is full of diverging paths that are worth exploring if you’ve got the time. After the trail goes past a rockslide, there’s a fork. There’s no signage at this point, but Lookout Mountain Trail goes uphill and to the right. This is a very popular hike, so if you find yourself traversing a noticeably higher amount of loose rock, it’s probably time to backtrack. From the fork, the path opens up and leads to a ridge which provides—framed perfectly between several evergreen trees—a stunning view of Golden. Lookout Mountain Trail eventually leads to the Lookout Mountain Nature Center & Preserve and continues down Colorow Road. I chose to turn back at the nature center, though, as the notion of exploring more side-trails and their accompanying views held more appeal than continuing down the side of a road. Whichever path you choose, you won’t be disappointed by this tucked away adventure just outside the city.
Getting there: From Denver, head west on 6th Avenue. Take the exit for westbound I-70 toward Jefferson County. In 4.8 miles, take exit 256 toward Lookout Mountain. Turn left to get on Highway 40, then turn right onto Paradise Road. Stay on this street as it turns into Charros Drive, and turn right onto South Lookout Mountain Road. Stay on this for about 3 miles, and eventually the parking lot will be on your left.