Eldorado Canyon State Park south of Boulder protects an awesome gorge carved by South Boulder Creek. The 885-acre park, one of Colorado’s most beautiful parks, is also one of America’s best rock climbing areas. The canyon’s major cliffs attract thousands of climbers every year that ascend over 2,000 different routes. Eldorado also offers hiking trails, horseback riding, mountain biking, trout fishing, picnicking, educational programs for kids, and sightseeing. No campground is in the park. Below the canyon is 76-degree Eldorado Hot Springs’ pool. When you visit Eldo, watch the climbers and remember Ivy Baldwin, a stuntman and wirewalker, who crossed a high wire 500 feet above the creek over 300 times between 1906 and 1949.
- Eldorado Canyon and its major cliffs—Redgarden Wall, Wind Tower, and The Bastille—are considered one of the premier climbing areas in the United States. About 70% of the park’s 250,000 annual visitors come to climb its colorful sandstone walls. Most ascend Eldo’s most famous climbs, including The Yellow Spur, Bastille Crack, Wind Ridge, The Naked Edge, Ruper, and Rewritten. If you’re a beginner and want to try climbing, hire a guide to get high.
- Hikers and mountain bikers can easily sample Eldorado Canyon’s scenic terrain on several good trails. Rattlesnake Gulch Trail is a great three-mile hike, offering a steady uphill ascent and broad views, while the seven-mile Walker Ranch Loop, accessed from Crescent Meadows, makes a great bike ride. Other trails are the easy Fowler Trail and Eldorado Canyon Trail. Bring lots of water when hiking in summer. Some trails may be closed to mountain bikes.
- Watch for rattlesnakes on trails during the warmer months—there’s a reason why Rattlesnake Gulch has its name! The snakes are generally secretive, hiding under boulders or in scrub, but they may sun themselves on open ground along trails. Watch your dog and kids to make sure they don’t have a rattlesnake encounter.
- Parking is limited at Eldorado Canyon State Park. Get there early on weekends or you might have to park elsewhere and walk in. Also remember that all fires, camping, and swimming in the creek are prohibited. South Boulder Creek is a raging torrent in spring and very dangerous.
Recommended season(s): Year-round.
—Stewart M. Green