Rattlesnake Gulch Trail is a 1.4-mile one-way hike up the north flank of Eldorado Mountain above Eldorado Canyon, a deep gorge sliced into the Front Range south of Boulder. The moderate hike, a 3.6-mile round-trip outing in Eldorado Canyon State Park, climbs switchbacks for 600 feet to the site of the historic Crags Hotel. The hotel, built in 1908 and burned in 1913, was accessed by an incline railway and wagon road. From the hotel, the trail makes a 0.8-mile loop to a higher viewpoint that looks west to the snow-covered Continental Divide. While the trail gains 1,200 feet of elevation, the grade is gradual, making it an ideal family hike.
- When you reach the Crags Hotel site, take a breather and read several interpretative signs about the hotel. The lavish hotel only lasted for four years until it was mysteriously burned to the ground. Some said it was torched for insurance money. Guests could buy a round-trip ticket on Moffat Rail to the canyon, then ride a funicular to the hotel where they danced and drank the night away. Little remains now except a stone fireplace and crumbling walls.
- Keep an eye out for wildlife. Golden eagles, bald eagles, red-tail hawks, peregrine falcons, and turkey vultures are spotted soaring on thermals above the canyon. Also watch for rattlesnakes catching a tan on the trail in summer.
- Eldorado Canyon is a rock climber’s paradise and one of Colorado’s most famous climbing areas. Bring binoculars to watch climbers edge their way up the park’s vertical cliffs, including Redgarden Wall, The Bastille, and Wind Tower. If you want to try climbing, ask at the visitor center for a list of approved climbing guides.
- Summer days are usually hot in Eldorado Canyon. Get an early morning start to hike in cool of the morning. If you come mid-day, be sure to bring plenty of water and wear a hat and sunscreen. Dogs are welcome to hike too if they’re on a leash. The trail can be icy and slick in winter. Wear good footwear and spikes on your boots for traction.
Recommended season(s): Year-round.
–Stewart M. Green