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Why we love it: It’s a fantastic trail run, and the biodiversity here is top-notch (you’ll see everything from frogs to elk). Also, the park is bordered to the west by Pike National Forest and to the east by Sharptail Ridge and Nelson Ranch Open Space Parks, meaning that it’s Colorado country as far as you can see.
When to go: Anytime. The first mile of the trail is exposed to the elements, but the last two miles wind through shaded forest. If you get hot, respite isn’t far away.
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Cross the pedestrian bridge and you’ll start climbing almost immediately (try this dynamic stretch warmup and thank us later). You’re on the rocky outcrops of the Dakota Hogback, and the trail is narrow with loose pebbles along the edge, so watch your footing. To your right is a canyon where deer like to congregate. Half a mile in, the switchbacks start and your heart pumps faster and faster. Keep climbing. The trail will level out, and you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of the sandstone formations to the west.
About a mile in, take a break at the overlook (you can see downtown Denver in the distance) and have some water. (You’ll be thirsty.) Shortly after this, you’ll start to descend, eventually emerging into a lovely little meadow on the canyon floor.
When the trail meets Carpenter’s Peak Trail, keep right. There’ll be a second fork shortly after —there’s no sign for South Rim Trail, so stay to your left this time. Follow the base of the enormous rock formations for the next half mile, and eventually you’ll emerge at the Visitors Center. Go right, down the paved path to the lower parking lot.
Getting there: From Sante Fe/Highway 85, take the Titan Road exit and turn right. Titan will turn into Rampart Range Road in three miles. Drive another 3.5 miles and turn left onto Roxborough Park Road. Take the next right for east Roxborough Road, which takes you down a gravel road and into the park.