Lookout Mountain, Golden
At the top of the winding, scenic road from Golden, the Lookout Mountain Nature Center shares a big parking lot with Boettcher Mansion. This is the hub for cyclists who take on Lookout Mountain Road from town. This is also the point where drivers settle after failing to find a parking space along the road at Windy Saddle Park's trailheads. On this visit, we lucked out with a spot and hiked a short but beautiful trail up to the nature center, where the views rival anything else in the area.
We pulled off at the Windy Saddle trailhead, where Beaver Brook Trail starts into dense, tall woods. Don't count on complete tranquility, as if the road's traffic weren't enough of a hint. But it's impossible not to appreciate the path, thin and rocky and immediately offering rewards. Through the trees, Mount Evans hangs over the hills rolling over a creek.
Beaver Brook Trail continues for nearly 11 miles. But not far from the trailhead, we split left for Lookout Mountain. The trail ascends but never sharply, flowing by lichen-covered boulders and overlooks of Golden and its iconic mesas. It ends at the front gate of the nature center, where you may decide to start on this trail, if you don't mind the subtle descent. At the trail marker by the road, go over to the rock piles for the sweeping vistas.
If you do go down Lookout Mountain Trail, there's still an opportunity for some quick elevation gain. Where the trail meets the Beaver Brook Trail, go right, on to the Windy Saddle trailhead. Across from the small parking lot, a footpath climbs steeply up a hill to mountain and city views.
Trip log: 2.6 miles round trip (out and back), 488-foot elevation gain, 7,530 feet max
Getting there: Off Interstate 25, go west on U.S. 6, continuing on Sixth Avenue to the traffic circle in Golden. Stay left on 19th Street, which becomes Lookout Mountain Road. Going up, Chimney Gulch will be the first trailhead pull-off, Windy Saddle will be the next. Or park at the nature center at the top.
FYI: Hiking and biking on Lookout Mountain Trail. Dogs on leash.
SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE