Elk Range Trail> Travois Trail>Juniper Trail>Mayhem Gulch Trail> Travois> Elk Range Trail
Starting Elevation: 7750 ft
Highest Elevation: 7900- ish ft ( Lots of ups and downs gave us a total of 1100 feet in elevation gain)
Trail Length: The whole park can get you around 12-15 miles of hiking but we hit up 9 miles today with the initial intention of only getting in 7miles. For the first time ever my fitbit matched the trail map information.
Trail Uses: Hiker, Biker, Horses share on weekdays – On the weekends it is hiker only on odd days & Biker only on Even days.
Degree of Difficulty: Easy to Moderate, mostly because of potential trail length
Bathrooms: Yes at all 3 parking lots
Pets: Yes but dogs must be on leash and for the first time ever they all were on leash!
We are finally healed enough from our tattoos that we can get back to the exercise we love most, HIKING. 3 weeks of not hiking has taken its toll on both Aaron and I, I mean yeah I got out last weekend but it wasn’t a super challenging hike and I didn’t have my favorite hiking partner with me. Surprisingly 3 weeks of inaction really effected our stamina and strength, we both were a little nervous about what might be challenging so when I was looking for a trail this weekend I went with a low one and maybe a little easier than what we normally do. I have wanted to check out the Centennial Cone Park for almost a year but at first it seemed too hard and then it seemed too easy so I kept passing it over. It was perfect after a 3 week unexpected break. We decided we would try out the newly reopened Elk Range Trail and go a little further depending on how we felt physically.
The trail itself starts out pretty easy and since we parked at the north parking lot we initially started out going slowly down on a road like path. Look at the cool bench they have the beginning so you can just enjoy the rolling hills all around:
The park itself consists of one big loop with 2 side loops near different entrances of the trail(s). One trail is open most of the year except during December & January, the Travois Trail and it is almost 8 miles one way to the west parking lot. The other is the Elk Range Trail that closes periodically, during May and June for Elk calving and again December & January for hunting those same elk…weird. The other thing is that the park alternates on the weekends between biker only(even Days) and hiker only(Odd Days), which I have to say I really love.
The trail moves across a couple of hills and in just a 1.4 miles we were upon the private property cross over. It is before the private property, that if you want to try to make your way to the summit of the Centennial Cone, do it here because the opposite side of it looks much harder to navigate. It will have to be a path you, find as there is no trail up to the top. We chose to just play it easy today and went onward to the West Parking lot.
We made really good time to the private property and actually to the west parking lot 3 miles into the hike, it took us just an hour. Remember this is private property so stay on the trail, it is nice that they let everyone go through so lets all make sure they don’t stop that kindness.
We made such good time to the West Parking lot, we decided to go ahead and try to do the extra 2.5 miles by doing quick loop on this end of the park. We were also feeling deceptively good.
We went down the Travois Trail to pick up the Juniper Trail to the Mayhem Trail and back around to the Travois returning to the Elk Range trail. The Travois to Juniper to Mayhem was all single track through a little bit of tree coverage so our first, and only, bit of relief from the sun today.
Coming up to the Mayhem Gulch Trail, offers another small option to lengthen you hike to hit the Mayhem Gulch parking lot. At this point we started to realize we may have over committed ourselves and so we just took the left and headed back to the Travois trail.
Strangely, the trail turned into quite the struggle for me at this point. My feet apparently aren’t allowed to take any breaks, I am awash with blisters…again! In the end this trail was perfect to help us gauge what we can do next week and how much our break hurt us. It changed my plans for the next month which means longer until we climb our next 14er, we are both a little bummed but determined to get back up there as soon as we can.
A couple of things to note, this trail is almost entirely exposed so in the summer go early or late and slather on the sun block. We were thrilled at how many flowers were out on the trail, this time last year it was so dry and hot, all the flowers had burned out this low. We were again walking through a parade of flowers the whole time and they were everywhere!!! I am not sure how long this will last so if you think you want to check out this trail go soon to enjoy all the flowers even the Rangers were surprised at the abundance of flowers. Finally our choice of starting at the North parking lot meant that we went mostly downhill in the beginning and so the return trip was all up hill.
After the directions will some our favorite pictures from the hike.
North Access: 4306 Camino Perdido, Golden . Horse trailer parking permitted.
West Access: 2234 Douglas Mountain Road, Golden . No horse trailers allowed.
Mayhem Gulch Trailhead, Clear Creek Canyon Road: From Golden, the trailhead is between mile marker 262.5 and 262, 9.5 miles from the intersection of US 6 and State Highway 93, on the north side of the road.