When 2016 rolled around, I realized not only had I been neglecting this blog, but I also hadn’t gone for a hike since summer. Let me remind you – I live in Denver. Mere hours from some of the most spectacular outdoorsy-ness this country has to offer. And there I was, on my couch. Hours deep into Netflix binging. Eating cookie dough in a blanket nest.
And so was born my New Years Resolution: Go hiking (somewhere different!) once a month. Every. Effing. Month. And I’m happy to report I put the cookie dough aside (temporarily) for some good ole fashioned time with Mother Nature.
Roxborough State Park was a good gateway drug to getting back into hiking. It’s within an hour of Denver, so it was going to be reasonably warm in January, and it has lots of beginner-friendly options. I give this same spiel every time I write about a state park, but they really are close-to-home hidden gems for those of us on the Front Range.
If you’ve been spending a lot of your time watching Netflix in a blanket nest on your couch, Fountain Valley Loop is the perfect place to start. This 2.3-mile loop is mostly flat, very wide, and has several scenic overlooks with great views of the park. This also makes it a great option if you have family visiting from out of town, or if you’re trying to get into trail running. The trailhead is just past the visitor’s center – it’s the one on the right if you’re looking at both trails.
The trailhead is just past the visitor’s center – it’s the one on the right if you’re looking at both trails. Roxborough has great signage, so it’s not difficult to figure out which one to take.
All state parks are $7 to enter, but remember our state parks subsist solely off of parks pass sales and from lottery funds – they don’t get any taxpayer dollars. If you’re going to visit a state park every month, then you should take the plunge and get an annual pass ($70). It pays for itself pretty quickly, and you look like a legit Coloradan with it on your windshield. You can buy one at the gate, where you can also get a trail map.
Roxborough has a small parking lot, so if you don’t get there early on the weekends you may have to wait to get let in to park. We went in May around 11 a.m. and waited for about 10 minutes. In the winter this wasn’t an issue at all, making it the perfect winter hiking spot!
Shortly after you start on the trail, you’ll come to a fork. Go to the right – it’s the easier direction around the loop. Everyone we saw coming the other way was seriously hurting at multiple points. Don’t make their (completely unintentional) mistake. Counter-clockwise means you go down the big hills and up the small ones.
I highly recommend taking the short detours for both overlooks. You’ll run into the signs for Fountain Valley almost immediately after starting the loop, and Lyons Overlook is shortly thereafter. Both are short uphill trails, but be aware that they’ll be more narrow and a little rocky.
This trail is perfect for beginners because you don’t sacrifice scenery for a more accessible option. There are great views and the trail is super straightforward (literally impossible to take a wrong turn because it’s the only trail on this side of the park). The elevation is only about 6,200 feet so if you live in the city you won’t be gasping for air, and because it’s so low you can still hike it without snowshoes in the winter!
Seriously there were all kinds on this trail – angsty teens in street clothes, blatant out-of-towners (I see you in jeans sir), bearded Denver hipsters in flannel, families with babies (the scariest part is that each year these people look closer and closer to my age…). So don’t be shy and get out there! Tag me in your pics on Insta or Twitter @outdoorbeginner. See you out there!