Denverites know Roxborough State Park as their nearest Garden of the Gods. Jutting from a treasured 4,000 acres, these rugged, sandstone marvels are amazing to behold up close.
And they’re amazing to behold from up above. That’s the allure of the hike to the park’s highest point, Carpenter Peak.
Rangers list the trip as “strenuous,” and it very well might be depending on your fitness level. But the trail is by no means reserved for the fittest of the fit. It steadily rises, though never harshly, alternating between hillsides with wide open views and tranquil forests before the panoramic summit.
The trailhead directly across from the visitor center marks Carpenter Peak as 3.1 miles out. Start through the oak, passing slanting outcrops and imposing piles along the way.
Throughout the trip, signs keep you on the right path to the peak. It splits right in a stream-fed meadow, where wildflowers pop in the summer and butterflies dance.
Before a mile in, the trail crests at an overlook to the left, where the colorful valley is on full display. The Denver skyline looms beyond, Chatfield Reservoir shimmers in the near distance, and the geologic spine rolls northwest, out toward Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
The trail thins and scampers over rocks on the subtle ascent. With every switchback, you’ll feel eye level with the eastern horizon.
After 2 miles, the vistas shift to the west, to the coniferous slopes of Pike National Forest. Carpenter Peak is a rocky promontory affording sweeping views of that forest, along with snow-capped Longs Peak and that green and red landscape from which you came.
Carpenter Peak, Roxborough State Park
Trip report: 6.3 miles round trip (out and back), 1,184 feet elevation gain, 7,153 feet feet max
Getting there: 4751 E. Roxborough Drive, Roxborough 80152
FYI: Day pass $9 per vehicle. Hiking only. No pets. No camping. Be aware of poison ivy along trails. Parking fills on summer weekends; best to try before 9 a.m. or after 2 p.m.
Editor’s note: In response to COVID-19, Gov. Jared Polis has encouraged Coloradans to recreate within 10 miles of their homes.