Journey to Colorado’s ‘Summer White House’ that Never Was

The 1911 cornerstone and foundation remain from the “Summer White House” that never was. Hikers and mountain bikers reach the site from Mount Falcon Park.

John Brisben Walker dreamed of a “castle in the clouds” or, as the project became known, a “Summer White House.” The entrepreneur in the early 1900s envisioned U.S. presidents vacationing on his scenic mountain property not far from Colorado’s Capitol. But fundraising failed, and the dream crumbled to the foundation that remains today, along with a 1911 cornerstone at the edge of a cliff. It is now the destination at the end of a trail.

Jefferson County’s Mount Falcon Park is a go-to escape for Denverites – though with the crowds, not all would consider it an escape. On summer weekends, cars line the streets of the neighborhood beside the east parking lot, preferred for the longer portion of Castle Trail that starts here. Rather than head down from the west, mountain bikers knock out the burn to earn the downhill coming back. All the same, hikers work for the rewards too.

At the trailhead, it’s easy to stop and stare at Red Rocks Amphitheatre’s glory. Begin the ascent, best described as moderately relentless – never steep but steady and constant. The switchbacks are long and swoopy on the hillside, from which the city resembles an island on the plains. More angling red rocks come into view, joining the colorful, rolling mosaic.

The trail gets rocky before climbing briefly into dense, refreshing woods. At 2.66 miles, see the spur marking Walker’s Dream. The trail stretches about a half-mile to rock piles overlooking green slopes and snow-capped mountains, including Evans. Yes, presidents would have had quite a view.

Trip log: 6.14 miles round trip (out and back), 1,535-foot elevation gain, 7,664 feet max

Difficulty: Easy-moderate

Getting there: Going north on Interstate 25, exit for Colorado 470 west. Continue for about 21 miles before exiting for U.S. 285 south. Soon exit for Colorado 8 toward Morrison. Turn left on Forest Avenue, then right on Vine Street to the park.

FYI: If lot is full, find spot on Vine Street. Multi-use, nonmotorized trails. Dogs on leash. Don’t cut switchbacks.


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