Know before you go: Eldorado Canyon State Park requires timed-entry reservations for vehicle access on weekends and holidays mid-May to mid-September. Make your reservation or check out the free shuttle service.
Known as the “Coney Island of the West” in the early 1900s, Eldorado Canyon was a lavish getaway resort for celebrities and politicians (including the newlywed Eisenhowers), when Ivy Baldwin’s 580-foot-high tightwire act across the canyon awed guests until his final walk at the age of 82 in 1948.
Today, the park entertains those wanting to escape the city with a quick trip into Colorado’s rugged geology. With more than 500 technical routes, Eldorado invites world-class rock climbers to tackle its lichen-covered walls throughout the year. Not ready to scale the canyon yourself? Fowler Trail (0.9 miles) is the perfect place to watch these seasoned cragsmen (from the ground!).
Hikers, bikers and horseback riders hit the park’s five trails, which lead through jutting red and golden peaks of sandstone, quartzite and granite.
Dramatic views of the Continental Divide and canyon sprout from every tree-lined trail bend. Relax and lunch near South Boulder Creek — the carving force behind Eldorado’s canyon — while watching fly-fisherman catch the night’s dinner.
A day park only (no camping), arrive early morning or on weekdays for ultimate serenity, or visit during cooler months or at sunrise, when the park’s at its most quiet.
Magic Moments in Eldorado Canyon State Park
Witness Eldorado’s colorful history and scenic vistas as you embark on Rattlesnake Gulch Trail (3.6 miles). One and a half miles into the hike, you’ll find the remains of a hotel that burnt down in 1913. You might even happen by as a passenger train winds through the canyon layers above.
Continue the loop to uncover expansive views of the Continental Divide and Colorado’s eastern plains. Set the alarm clock early to make it here before the sun does: Colorado’s misty plains seem to stretch out forever from Rattlesnake’s perch.
Immediately after a hearty snowfall is the best time to wander the frosted canyon with snowshoes or cross-country skis. The park becomes a glistening winter wonderland that invites visitors to make the first tracks in the fresh powder.