Break free from the bustle of work with this beautiful, moderately challenging hike in Mount Galbraith Park. Near Golden and only 25 minutes from downtown Denver, this 4.2-mile lollipop loop around the top of a 7,260-foot peak flanked by rugged Clear Creek Canyon on one side and Golden Gate Canyon on the other, makes a great sunrise or sunset escape. Offering stellar views, excellent spring wildflowers and the chance to see elk, bighorn sheep, golden eagles or red-tailed hawks, this trail rewards every bit of your effort.

To reach the trailhead, head north 1.25 miles on Colorado 93 from the intersection with U.S. 6. At the stoplight for Golden Gate Canyon Road, turn left and head west for 1.5 miles to reach the Cedar Gulch Trailhead and parking area on the left.  The lot for this popular trail often fills up on weekends so it is best to arrive early. Note: Mount Galbraith is open only to hikers and runners (no mountain biking allowed)

Cedar Gulch Trailhead

Head south out of the parking lot to pick up the Cedar Gulch Trail. Immediately cross the water on a small wooden footbridge. Follow the dirt path along the streambed for a few hundred feet and then begin a steady, moderate climb offering peaks into Golden Gate Canyon and Tucker Gulch. To reach even greater heights, follow the trail as it edges along a series of switchbacks, which amble in and out of various ravines. Along the way, you’ll catch glimpses of Golden, Denver, North and South Table mountains and the Continental Divide.   

Mount Galbraith Loop Trail Intersection

After 1.2 miles and a 600-foot climb, the trail splits and noticeably levels out. From here, choose which direction you’d like to take on the 1.6-mile Mount Galbraith Loop trail. (Note: we recommend going right and tackling the loop in the counter-clockwise direction for the best scenery, so that is the route this descriptions follows). From the junction, head right on a rocky trail to begin circling the summit of Mount Galbraith. Meander through stands of serene, shaded forest dominated by ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, and a variety of spruce. Periodically, the trees part, providing stunning vistas of the canyon below, as well as Mount Tom (9,741 feet) and Ely Hill (10,045 feet).

Break Time 

The trail gets a little rougher and more interesting as it curves around the north side of Mount Galbraith. Take care as you navigate some rock ledges, stone stairways and a couple narrow, rocky traverses. Right before the trail bends sharply east, you’ll encounter an obvious rocky outcropping accessible via a small social trail. Rest here for a moment enjoying views of Golden below and Clear Creek Canyon to the southwest. Lookout Mountain, a popular paragliding launching site, dominates the skyline to the south. Keep an eye out in this direction for people paragliding through the sky, flying chutes of all colors. Scan the varied hillsides and ridges for critters that may be roaming the area.

A Familiar Spot

Turn the corner and continue east along the front side of Mount Galbraith. Unlike the forested northern section, this portion of the loop, dominated by shrubby mountain mahogany, passes through an open landscape that can be brutal on hot days. Begin early, don a hat and slather on the sunscreen to make it more pleasant. Continue descending and turn northeast to reach a junction with the Nightbird Gulch Trail, which comes in from the east and provides access to this circuit from nearby neighborhoods. Just past this intersection, you reach the same trail junction that started this loop. Turn right and retrace your steps back to the trailhead on the Cedar Gulch Trail.

Adidas Terrex Skychaser

These stable, protective trail shoes will carry you over a wide range of terrain with confidence. Credit that stability to Boost energy-return, which charges each step with a quick spring back, so you can last longer in the mountains. Plus, a sock-like upper and extraordinary grip keeps you solid and grounded on rocky surfaces. Speed lacing keeps it all secure and adds comfort and a snug fit. $160; adidas.com

Eddie Bauer Women’s Movement Pieced Capris

These extremely cozy pants made of compression stretch fabric moves with you, wick moisture and control odor. The mid-calf length is perfect for spring hikes and runs when the weather can vary greatly. The wide waistband includes a hidden pocket for phone and keys. $60-$65; eddiebauer.com