Trail Map of the Beaver Brook Trail System
Two Main Trail Systems to Enjoy
Hikers can enjoy Clear Creek Canyon on either of two main hiking trail systems: the Beaver Brook trail system (12.6 miles of trails) and the Centennial Cone Open Space Park system (15.7 miles of trails). Mountain Bikes are welcome in Centennial Cone Park, but are not allowed on most of the Beaver Brook trail system.
The Beaver Brook trail system is easily accessed from the east, at Chimney Gulch near Golden (trailhead #1) or from Windy Gap on Lariat Loop Road (trailhead #2) or from Colorow Road at the Lookout Mountain Nature Center (trailhead #3), or from the Stapleton Drive trail head off I-70 at the Chief Hosa exit (trailheads #4 and #5). The Beaver Brook trail system is on the south side of the Canyon and faces mainly north, so the trails are often in forest, stay green and are comfortable for hikes even in midsummer. Maps are available at the Lookout Mountain Nature Center.
Scroll below the map for detailed descriptions of the Beaver Brook trail system (BB), which includes the Chavez trail (CZ), the Gudy Gaskill trail (GG), and the Chimney Gulch trail (CG).
Click on any section of the map to link to a
magnification of that map and images in that area.
To view the entire map in PDF form click here.
Beaver Brook Trail System
The main, historic Beaver Brook trail is one of the best hikes in the Front Range foothills. The trail does not cross a road for its full length of 8.5 miles and works of man are rarely visible. Hikers feel like they are really “out there” and can sense what the Front Range was like in the old days while on a through hike.
The trail was originally built in 1918 by Colorado Mountain Club volunteers along a narrow easement through then private land to connect the City of Golden with Genesee Denver Mountain Park. The Clear Creek Land Conservancy has worked for many years to protect the land along this trail and today its corridor is fully protected either by being in public parks or through conservation easements held by Clear Creek Land Conservancy. Along its length the trail traverses land owned by Denver Mountain Parks, Jeffco Open Space, Clear Creek Land Conservancy, Mount Vernon Country Club, and Rilliet Park Association. Staying “ON TRAIL” as you hike helps preserve the wild diversity of this arid mountain terrain.
The Chaves Trail (CZ), part of the Beaver Brook trail system, was named for Robert Chavez, a Denver Mountain Parks employee, and is a 1.5-mile natural trail through Denver Mountain Park’s Genesee Park, on the canyon’s south side, just north of the I-70 Chief Hosa exit. Ten acres of the Chavez Trail, once privately owned, had been closed to the public by Denver Mountain Parks because of trespass concerns. But in December of 1999, CCLC board member John Anderson negotiated a Conservancy purchase of the private parcel, allowing the entire trail to be open to the public.
The Gudy Gaskill Trail (GC), named in honor of Gudy Gaskill, the “Mother of the Colorado Trail,” is a 2.8-mile loop off the historic Beaver Brook Trail. Its west entrance is on the BB Trail near the Mount Vernon/Denver Mountain Parks boundary. From there it wends northerly across the old Dieker Ranch. The trail enters forests, skirts precipitous cliffs with sheer views down to Clear Creek, then winds south over meadows, rejoining the BB Trail at the border of the Norman Ralston property. The Gudy Gaskill Trail was made possible by the 1996 “megadeal” in which the Conservancy, Jeffco Open Space, and the Mount Vernon Community, saved the Dieker Ranch from development. CCLC raised $105,000 (15%) of the purchase, Open Space the rest, and both Open Space and Mount Vernon donated conservation easements to CCLC (covering 337 acres). On June 4, 2000, scores of well-wishers, accompanied by TV crews and news photographers, marched into the canyon for a dedication ceremony honoring Gudy Gaskill, this long-time Mount Vernon resident whose decades of leadership have made possible hundreds of miles of beautiful hiking trails.
PACK A LUNCH AND ENJOY A 5-HOUR HIKE
If you want to try the 8.5 mile hike, start on the Beaver Brook trail at the Stapleton Drive trailhead, then walk the length of the trail to the Windy Gap trailhead. This can be lengthened by taking the Chavez trail (CZ) to start (l mile longer), or by walking the Gudy Gaskill (GG) loop trail (1.75 miles longer) in the middle. The trail first descends through thick forest down to Beaver Brook, which it follows for only a few hundred yards before climbing steeply out of this canyon up to Garnet Point 3.7 miles from the start. Dark red almandine garnets in the rock here give the site its name and views of the Continental Divide, the Canyon and on east to Golden are spectacular. With time for a leisurely lunch, the trip is a pleasant all-day walk that gets you well away from the crowds and into the heart of Clear Creek Canyon to a dramatic, unimpeded view. READ about the geological history of Garnet Peak.
Continuing east, the trail drops down to gentler terrain, where the Gudy Gaskill trail loop can be taken to extend your hike if you wish. The area is mainly open grassy areas interspersed with Ponderosa pine forest. Beyond the second Gudy Gaskill trail junction, the trail traverses thick Douglas fir, juniper and Ponderosa pine forest on steep slopes until it gets to Windy Gap, 8.2 miles from the start and often visible as a distant goal. This last section is mostly level to slightly downhill. Overall, this is a challenging hike with about 1500 feet of elevation gain, and you should allow at least 5 hours to fully appreciate its charms. Bring two liters of water per person and a lunch to enjoy along the way. Wildflowers are abundant and varied from late May into July. In Fall (late September to mid October) the shrub understory (Maple, Chokecherry, Jamesia, Aspen) turns yellow, orange and red, contrasting beautifully with the dark green forest and pale brown grasses. If you leave a car at Windy Gap at the start of your day, the shuttle to Stapleton Drive to start the walk is about 15 minutes. Walking the trail from Windy Gap to Stapleton Drive involves more uphill climbing and ends with the steep hike out of Beaver Brook to the trailhead.
HIKING THE SHORTER 3.5 MILE LOOP, THE CHAVEZ TRAIL DOWN TO BEAVER BROOK
Shorter hikes are also possible within the Beaver Brook System. From Stapleton Drive you can make a pleasant 3.5 mile loop (with 700 feet of elevation loss and gain) by taking the Chavez trail down to Beaver Brook, following it (with several un-bridged crossings which can be challenging in spring) to its junction with the main Beaver Brook trail and then following the Beaver Brook trail back up to Stapleton Drive. This loop takes 2-3 hours.
ACCESSING THE BEAVER BROOK FROM GOLDEN
From Windy Gap you can follow the Beaver Brook trail out and back to a number of sites. Lovers Leap, an obvious overlook of the Canyon just north of the trail is an excellent destination about 1.6 miles from Windy Gap. It is also possible to walk from Windy Gap up to the Jeffco Nature Center on top of Lookout Mountain along a steep, but short (1 mile) trail taking off from the Beaver Brook trail about 0.2 miles from the trailhead. Golden residents can access the Beaver Brook trail by using the roughly 2-mile-long Chimney Gulch (CG) (trailhead #1), which can be reached several ways from Golden.
Windy Gap Trailhead #2 – exit U.S. Highway 6 in Golden on 19th Street, turning west (up hill). 19th Street becomes Lariat Loop Road, which you follow up for about 4 miles from U.S. 6 to a parking area at Windy Gap. From on top of Lookout Mountain, get to the trailhead by taking Lookout Mountain Road down from Buffalo Bill's Grave to the Windy Gap Parking area.
STARTING AT THE BRAILLE TRAIL
Stapleton Drive Trailhead #4 & #5 – exit I-70 at the Chief Hosa exit, then go north and immediately turn right onto Stapleton Drive, which is a good dirt road. Follow this road to its end after about a mile and a few switchbacks at the parking lot. The Beaver Brook trail begins as the BRAILLE TRAIL directly below the parking area (see trailhead 4) and the Chavez trail begins at the gate closing off the continuation of Stapleton Drive. The Chavez Trail traverses west through forest, then loops north through a lovely meadow and drops to Beaver Brook, following its lush riparian zone downstream to the Beaver Brook Trail Extension, which was blazed by the Colorado State Forest Service in 1989. The Beaver Brook Trail Extension crisscrosses Beaver Brook for about 0.7 miles to its junction with the Beaver Brook Trail, then returns south to Stapleton. Together, the two trails provide a rigorous 4-mile loop within the Park. The "Braille Trail," with interpretive signs in braille and waist-high guide wire, was designed for vision-impaired hikers. Click here to learn more about the Braille Trail.
SIGN UP FOR TRAIL NEWS
Starting in 1988, the Conservancy sponsored an annual Beaver Brook Trail hike every May. The small-group hikes (invigorating short 3-4 miles hikes; medium 5-mile hikes; or strenuous long 8-mile hikes), fit into everyone’s schedule and capabilities. Expert guides were along to answer questions on the canyon wildlife, geology, wildflowers, plants, etc., and a two-page sheet was provided giving time and place of hike, map, and other needed information. Although we do not currently have plans for a 2011 Beaver Brook Trail hike, if you would like your name added to a “Yes, I’m interested “ list, please contact Claire Riegelman.
Other Hiking Opportunities
Lookout Mountain Nature Center Trail System
Lookout Mountain Nature Center offers many resources for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, including a 110-acre park with trails winding through the towering ponderosa pines and montane meadows adjacent to Clear Creek Canyon. The Center (and Preserve) is just minutes off I-70. Complete directions and information about their moderate “hiker only” trail system are available on their website. Maps of each of the Open Space Parks are available at the LMNC on Lookout Mountain.
Colorado Mountain Club
Founded in 1912, the CMC is devoted to connecting those who love the Colorado Rockies or who study or seek recreation in them. They offer regularly scheduled mountain trips of various types and level of difficulty. These trips take place primarily on Saturday and Sundays into the most attractive localities at modest expense, with trained and experienced leaders and with the best of companions.
Our thanks to Greg Holden and Jack Reed for this detailed trail system information.