Centennial Cone Park in the foothills above Golden is a unique place for outdoor recreation. The park tries to balance the needs of hunters, hikers, bikers and wildlife. How can one park do that?
The entire park is closed from December 1 to January 31 each year for hunting. The Elk Ridge area of the park is closed from January 31 to June 15 each year during elk calving season. And on weekends, the park is hiker-only on odd days and biker-only on even days.
Got all that? Now, if you can figure out the rules, Centennial Cone Park is a beautiful place to visit. The park lies in between Clear Creek Canyon and Golden Gate Canyon and it features expansive views.
There are three trailheads. For the Travois Trail, we started at the Camino Perdido Trailhead (directions below). The trailhead has a small parking lot with a bathroom and signboard. As you stand at the trailhead, the funky shaped cone ahead and to the right is Centennial Cone. Jefferson County’s website said the summit was originally named Sheep Mountain, but since there were two other Sheep Mountains in Jefferson County, the name was changed to Centennial Cone after Centennial Ranch.
Take a few steps down the trail and you’ll quickly come to a trail split. Turn left for the Travois Trail. Notice as you walk here, the trail is downhill. Save some energy on the way out to hike back up this hill.
As you walk, enjoy the views. You can see quiet a distance here. You may also notice, there are not a lot of trees along the trail. While the starting elevation is around 7700, you don’t know want to hike here on a warm, summer day. Come in the spring or fall when the temperatures are cooler.
The Travois Trail winds down the hill, across a bridge and comes to a trail split after 0.7 miles. Here you can stay on the Travois Trail or take the Evening Sun Trail. The trails go into different canyons, but either way expect a hike that includes an up and a down. We decided to take the Evening Sun Trail on the way out and the Travois Trail on the way back.
As you hike the Evening Sun Trail, look for an old corral or small building that has collapsed across the valley. This area was ranched from 1917 to the 1990s by the Green family, according to Jefferson County. The county started buying property here in 1999.
The Evening Sun Trail winds 0.7 miles to a trail split where it rejoins the Travois Trail. Now it’s time to start climbing. Over the next 1.3 miles, you’ll hike into the trees and up a ridge. It’s not a lot of elevation gain and suddenly you’ll find yourself a rocky outcropping with a great view. If you notice a trail beneath you, that’s your trail. From here, the trail begins losing elevation of the next 2 miles. The rocky outcropping is a great place for lunch and a good spot to turn around if you’d like a hike of about 5.2 miles with 600 feet of elevation gain with all the ups and downs.
If you’d like more distance, how about a hike to Elk Creek. You may be able to spot it on the park map. It’s an easy destination to find on the trail because there’s a large bridge over the creek.
From the rocky outcropping, the trail follows a couple switchbacks down the hill and continues to drop in elevation as it heads into Clear Creek Canyon. You may even get a glimpse of Clear Creek and the highway below. The trail here isn’t too rocky and again, it has great views. If you see a hill with several towers on top, that’s likely Lookout Mountain.
You can go as far as you like, but we hiked around several bends, then down to the bridge at Elk Creek. This was a nice spot for lunch, then we turned around. That gave us a hike of about 8.9 miles with 1,400 feet of elevation gain with all the ups and downs. Remember, you’ll need to save some energy for that trek back. There’s 700 feet of elevation gain on the way back from the bridge to the rocky outcropping and there’s another 300 or so feet of elevation gain between the rocky outcropping and the parking lot.
Details: To the rocky outcropping and back is about 5.2 miles with 600 feet of elevation gain. To the Elk Creek Bridge and back is about 8.9 miles with 1,400 feet of elevation gain.
Directions: (Google 4306 Camino Perdido, Golden 80403 for directions.) From Golden, take Highway 93 to Golden Gate Canyon Road and turn up the canyon. Drive 8 miles to Robinson Hill Road and veer left. Go one mile to Camino Perdido and turn left. From here, it’s one mile to the trailhead.
Also in the area, consider hiking the Mayhem Gulch area of Centennial Cone Park or Frazier Meadow and Forgotten Valley in nearby Golden Gate Canyon State Park. Check out more great hikes here.
For more information on Centennial Cone Park, visit Jefferson County’s website.
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