The 3.5-mile out-and-back Eldorado Canyon Trail is a moderate hike at Eldorado Canyon State Park southwest of Boulder. The challenging hike, beginning at the park visitor center, climbs over 1,000 feet and passes from the state park onto Boulder Open Space land before ending at the a point along the 7.8-mile Walker Ranch Loop. The trail ascends a moderate grade as it switchbacks out of the canyon, passing towering cliffs, before easing through shady woods and grassy slopes. After a couple miles, the trail emerges on a high ridge with distant views of the snowy Continental Divide, and then descends 600 feet to Walker Ranch Loop Trail. Return the same way for a seven-mile, round-trip hike.
- Find the park and trailhead by driving south from Boulder on CO 93, then west on CO 170 to Eldorado Springs and the state park entrance. Park by the visitor center at the canyon’s west end. The trail heads north of the parking lot. Eldorado Canyon State Park is a fee area.
- Bring lots of water, sunscreen, and a hat in summer. Consider hiking in the morning or late afternoon coolness to avoid the heat of the day. Watch for rattlesnakes on the trail. The parking at the trailhead is busy on weekends on holidays so come during the week to ensure you find a parking spot and to avoid crowds. Leashed dogs are allowed on the trail.
- If you have lots of energy after hiking the 3.5-mile Eldorado Canyon Trail then keep hiking by following the 7.8-mile Walker Ranch Loop Trail, which makes a big loop through 3,500-acre Walker Ranch Open Space, a Boulder County park, and the Crescent Meadows section of Eldorado Canyon State Park. This moderately difficult hike, crossing lots of varied terrain, makes for a long 14.8-mile day on the trail. Look for gushing Eldorado Falls along the trail for a good lunch stop.
Recommended season(s): Year-round.
–Stewart M. Green