Location: Jefferson County Open Space
Nearest town: Golden
Distance from Denver: 12 mi / 0:15
Trail distance: 6.1 mi loop + 2.1 mi of additional hiking trails
Elevation: ~6,200 ft at main parking area
Directions: From I-70, exit on Hwy 93 and go south just 0.1 mi to turn right into the park entrance. For this hike I parked in the Stegosaurus Lot on the eastern side of Hwy 93.
Dates hiked: June 2009, November 2012, January 2013
Jefferson County Open Space
Trail and Park Reviews
Trail notes and photos:
Waking up with a craving for rocks, I decided to explore a bit of the Dakota Hogback, the narrow ridge of tilted, uplifted rock layers which runs along most of the Front Range. I decided on a 6.1 mi loop along the Dakota Ridge Trail, then across the valley and back north along the Red Rocks Trail. To add a little more mileage and elevation gain and loss, divert onto the Morrison Slide Trail, which re-joins the Red Rocks Trail after 1.2 mi.
It was a sunny 50 degree January day and my dog friend, Truly, was happy to join me (dogs must be on leash).
For this loop I parked at the Stegosaurus Lot on the eastern side of Hwy 93.
Just up the hill behind the lot is the road which starts off the Dakota Ridge Trail. The road climbs quickly to the top of ridge where soon the wire fences and “Danger: Shooting Range” signs disappear and the highway noise lessens. The rocky and sparsely forested trail rolls along the top of the ridge, with sections of trail which are so rocky that I wonder how the mountain bikers can make it through (I saw a few walking). This trail is much quieter than the trails on the western side of the park, but you will share it with bikers.
The trail alternates sides of the ridge, with views to the east of C-470, the western edge of William F. Hayden Park, the plains, and the suburbs.
To the west are views of Hwy 93, Red Rocks Amphitheater and the foothills to the west.
To the south is a very cool view looking down the Hogback.
This park is very accessible to Denver with great natural features, but is not a source of solitude or wilderness.
Halfway along the Dakota Ridge Trail is an option to take the Zorro Trail 0.9 mi down to Rooney Rd and a parking area. Continuing forward on the Hogback, the trail continues along the ridge before dipping down and crossing Rooney Rd. There is a port-a-potty and then a series of educational signs along the road, including a view of dinosaur tracks.
To the left is a sign marking the continuation of the Dakota Ridge Trail, which climbs up from the road and then down the other side of the ridge to cross Hwy 93 and enter Red Rocks Amphitheater.
Walk along the Red Rocks entrance road a few hundred yards to a trail on the right, which isn’t signed but is the Red Rocks Trail. Shortly, it crosses another Red Rocks entrance road at a small parking area. From there, it climbs past red sandstone rocks to the north of the amphitheater.
Be sure to turn around to see the ridge you just hiked.
Past the red rocks is the option to divert onto the Morrison Slide Trail. I continued on the Red Rocks Trail, which is fairly level as it winds along the open foothills 2.2 mi to the main parking area.
This last 2.2 miles is not my favorite part of this park’s trail system, and tends to be the busiest section with hikers, runners, dogs and bikers. However, in the spring and early summer the wildflowers can be spectacular.
Next visit I’m going to park at the small parking area along the Red Rocks road to do about a 3.0 mi Morrison Slide and Red Rocks loop, or do the Dakota Ridge Trail out and back or via the Zorro Trail, including the dinosaur tracks along Rooney Rd.