Mount Falcon Park has everything a traveler and hiker could want: a well-maintained trail system, stunning panoramic views of the Rockies and the Denver skyline, and historic ruins of the famed Walker Home. The accessible and family-friendly park has something to please every traveler, and can easily be enjoyed over the course of a weekday afternoon or a Saturday morning.
Mount Falcon Park is part of the expansive Jefferson County Open Space System, which refers to a collection of fee-free parks in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains just outside downtown Denver. Therefore, Mount Falcon Park is perfect for travelers who want to enjoy the great outdoors without making the trek all the way up to Estes Park; Mount Falcon is a quick thirty-minute drive from the city.
The park is composed of one major trail that runs from the west to east entrances – the Castle Trail – and plenty of shorter ones that take hikers to various sites and viewpoints. For our hike, Kevin and I parked at the West Trailhead (simply type 21004 Mount Falcon Road, Indian Hills, CO into your GPS) and created our own loop. We started on the Castle Trail, and then continued on to the Meadow Trail before arriving at the Walker Home Ruins. We then returned to the parking lot along the Castle Trail – the entire loop took about an hour and a half, including the time I spent taking photographs. I recommend printing out a copy of Mount Falcon Park’s trail map ahead of time – you can find a copy here!
Look at those endless mountains! Aren’t the Rockies amazing? Mount Falcon Park also contains expansive picnicking opportunities for those visiting on warm-weather days – trust me, five-dollar sandwiches taste a lot better when enjoyed alongside this view.
Mount Falcon Park boasts one lookout tower, and despite the fact we visited on a sunny summer day, the haze was simply too thick to enjoy a clear view of downtown Denver from the structure. However, if you squint and look at the above photo very carefully you will see the skyline’s faint outline – even so, Mount Falcon Park was still well worth the visit without the postcard-worthy view.
The Walker Home Ruins are the defining feature of Mount Falcon Park, and are located along the western stretch of the Castle Trail. Now, if you’re thinking the history of how a mansion’s ruins came to define a mountain park outside must be a little bizarre…you’d be right.
John Brisben Walker, who built the Walker Home in 1909, was something of an eccentric – his career highlights included attending West Point Military Academy, brief ownership of Cosmopolitan magazine, a congressional run on the Republican ticket, three marriages (his third wife, Iris Calderhead, was an outspoken suffragette), and the founding of River Front Park in Denver before he sold it to the city. Despite his variety of ventures – I’ve only listed some of his more colorful speculations; interested readers can learn more about Walker’s background here – Walker died completely penniless in 1931 in New York City.
Built in 1909, the Walker Home burned to the ground less than a decade after its completion, two years following the death of Walker’s beloved first wife Ethel. Remember how I mentioned Walker was a little on the quirky side? Well, in 1911, Walker commissioned what he called the “Summer White House” to be built on Mount Falcon; Walker intended President Wilson to enjoy the home, but the so-called “white house” never materialized.
Even stranger still, the home was supposed to be styled after King Ludwig’s famed Bavarian fairy-tale castle. The “White House” never made it past the laying of the cornerstone and foundation, and visitors can scope out the site along Walker’s Dream Trail (not pictured; Kevin and I did not hike out to the site).
Below are photos of the Walker Home Ruins; a lightening strike is believed to have caused the destructive fire, which are common in the Rocky foothills.
Thanks to Mount Falcon Park’s rich history and lack of admission fee, locals and tourists alike flock to its trails on summer weekends, meaning the park fills up fast. If you’re planning to hike at the park from May-September, especially on warm, sunny weekend days, I recommend arriving at the park early in the morning (between nine and ten-thirty a.m.) or later in the afternoon (after three-thirty p.m.).
While Kevin and I did not stumble upon any rattlesnakes (or snakes of any kind) while hiking at Mount Falcon Park, venomous snakes always pose a risk when hiking in the Rocky foothills. To minimize that risk, stay on the delineated trails, and if you do happen upon a rattlesnake, try and stay calm. I know, it’s hard to stay calm when facing a rattlesnake; believe me, the first time I saw one I was physically shaking. During summer months, rattlesnakes like to sun themselves in clearings – including trails – and they attack when they feel threatened. If necessary, carefully keep your distance from the rattlesnake and pass with extreme caution; otherwise, turn around and find an alternate path. For more information about hiking in rattlesnake country (especially with dogs, who are more likely to be bitten), please check out these tips.
Also, wear thick-soled shoes! I don’t know why, but from time to time I see people hiking in the foothills with open-toed sandals. Since the sun can get quite hot and relentless at high altitudes (where shade cover isn’t a guarantee), wear sunscreen and/or a hat. Always carry plenty of water (for a ninety-minute hike at Mount Falcon park, I’d recommend a bottle and a half of water per hiker) and either carry a physical copy of the trail map or download the map onto your smartphone. Cell service in the mountains can be spotty and unreliable.
Looking for another park in the Jefferson County Open Space System? I heartily recommend Meyer Ranch Park – read more here!