When I moved to Colorado this past summer, there were two things I was hoping to see plenty of: dramatic red rocks and snow-capped mountains. While the latter can famously be found in the spectacular Rocky Mountain National Park, I wanted to spend a summer Saturday discovering a less-congested locale in the Denver area. After a few minutes of online research, I stumbled upon Roxborough State Park – only a forty-three minute drive from downtown Denver – and let me tell you, it did not disappoint.
Impeccably-maintained hiking trails, breathtaking scenery, and no crowds make this park a must-visit for me – it’s now one of my top recommendations for anyone heading to the greater Denver area in search of an outdoor activity! Also, most of the trails in Roxborough State Park are easy and accessible for hikers of all skill levels – due to the heat, Kevin and I decided to avoid the park’s more strenuous offerings and hiked the Fountain Valley and Willow Creek trails instead. The park is composed of numerous short trails, all varying in difficulty, allowing hikers to spend just an hour or two in Roxborough State Park or an entire day.
In addition to red rocks and world-class ski slopes, Colorado is also renowned for its wildflowers. Did you know that? I certainly didn’t, but trails populated by fields of wildflowers are a popular attraction in the Centennial State – and Roxborough State Park has a handful! My allergies are acting up just looking at this photograph…but was it a lovely sight.
The Fountain Valley Trail hosts two separate scenic overlooks, and I highly recommend each of them. They offer stunning panoramas of the park’s iconic red rocks and thick green brush. Also, since Denver is the sunniest city in the United States – take that, Honolulu and Miami! – chances are you will enjoy blue skies and sunshine. There are also opportunities to picnic at each of the two overlooks (but please, do not leave behind any garbage!).
I was enthralled by the rock formations at Roxborough State Park. Isn’t this what we travel out West to see? I took over two hundred photos of the park while visiting, and because the park is relatively uncrowded and ripe with natural features and wildlife, I heartily recommend it to amateur photographers.
Colorado doesn’t neatly fit into one geological region. Ninety minutes north of Denver are the dramatic peaks of the Rockies, while the Great Plains can be found just east of downtown by the city’s primary airport. Roxborough State Park, on the other hand, feels like a touch of New Mexico in Colorado. The bold desert colors, cacti, and blistering sun are all hallmarks of the American Southwest.
When Kevin and I visited Roxborough State Park in late June, temperatures climbed well into the nineties during our visit and shade was limited. I suggest packing plenty of drinking water along with sunscreen and/or a hat. Dressing in layers is always a great idea when hiking in desert-like climates: mornings can be chilly, and afternoon rainshowers can strike with little warning.
Also, this park sits in the heart of rattlesnake territory; we didn’t see any snakes during our visit, but do be careful and listen for the telltale “rattle.” If a rattlesnake is blocking your path or trail – they like to sun themselves during the middle of the day – you are best off turning around and returning back the way you came. Otherwise, rattlesnakes hide in shady crevices in rocks, so do be cautious where you put your hands and feet while hiking or climbing.
Since cell phone reception can be spotty while in the park, I recommend either downloading or printing out the Roxborough State Park trail map (available here) ahead of time. Bicycles and dogs are not permitted in the park. There is a $7 USD entry fee that can be paid with cash or plastic upon entering the park unless you have an annual Colorado state park pass.
Above: Kevin struggling in the Colorado summer heat on one of the two scenic overlooks situated along the Fountain Valley Trail.