Roxborough State Park – Douglas County, Colorado
Roxborough Park must be one of the finest state parks in Colorado. As soon as you reach the parking area, right by the visitor center, you will be astounded at the dramatic rock formations. This is one of the places that we take our family and friends from out of state when they are visiting. You don’t have to be a hiker to visit this park, the viewing areas are just short distances away, an easy walk as my husband says. Just be aware though that rattlesnakes are active here in summer. Coming here on our own, longer hikes is of course one of our favorite things to do in the park, especially in the fall when the surrounding foliage turns from green to autumn colors.
Roxborough Park was opened on May 15, 1987. Besides the rock formations found in the park, here you will find an old homestead – a stone house, log barn, two log sheds and the foundation of a bunkhouse. It's about a little over a mile from the Visitor’s Center, on the Fountain Valley Trail.
The land, formerly owned by homesteader Edward McKenzie Griffith, was bought by Henry S. Persse in 1889. The property was known as Washington Park back then, named for a distinctive rock in the park resembling the first President’s profile. Persse renamed the property Roxborough Park, after his family’s land in Ireland.
In 1902, Persse and two other men formed the Roxborough Land Company. They bought more land with the goal of turning it into a high-end resort. However, Persse's big dream did not materialize, although for a brief time his simple amenities attracted visitors from Denver's high society. Persse died on August 26, 1918, struck by a tram in Denver. The Persse family sold their land in the 1920s to the Helmer family, who were farming the land east of the hogback and north of Roxborough since 1880.
The Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation (today Colorado Parks and Wildlife) bought 500 acres of Persse land to establish Roxborough State Park. The hogback valley was found to have been occupied during prehistoric times, the Archaic and Ceramic periods (150-1150 CE). The area had a wealth of natural and cultural resources which earned it the designations as a State Natural Area in 1979, a National Natural Landmark in 1980 and a National Archeological District in 1983. In 2016 the park received the History Colorado Hart Archeology Award. Today, the park has almost 4,000 acres of land, including the Roxborough State Park Archeological District.
TO GET HERE
From Denver to Roxborough Park is less than an hour drive via US-85/S Santa Fe Drive. Form there exit to Titan Parkway and then follow W. Titan Road and N. Rampart Range Road to Roxborough Drive. This park is popular and parking is limited so you have to be early to get a spot, at least on weekends.
- HIKING -
All trails in the park start at the visitor center. Most visitors take the Fountain Valley Loop Trail where the old homestead and two popular overlooks are located. But there are more trails in the park, about 14 miles (including Valley Loop Trail) which connect to Douglas County Open Space Trails, Pike National Forest Trails, Waterton Canyon and the Colorado Trail. Trails here are classified from easy to strenuous.
FOUNTAIN VALLEY TRAIL – 2.5 miles
This trail is what most visitors come for. It’s an easy hike to two overlooks and the historic Persse Place. The Fountain Valley Overlook is the nearest, about 100 yards from the visitor center. The Lyons Overlook is about one mile from the visitor center and the view is even more spectacular.
The two overlooks alone give you an amazing views in the park, but taking the loop is worth the extra time. It’s a pleasant hike, you might even get to see wild animals, other than birds, along the trail. Deer are common but there are other animals rarely seen that you might find. Once we saw a black fox.
CARPENTER PEAK TRAIL -7 miles
This is the toughest hike in the park, considered a moderate to strenuous hike. We begin this hike by following the Willow Creek Loop, then at a junction by following the Carpenter Peak Trail all the way to the summit.
This trail has a spectacular aerial view of the valley, as far as the eye can see, as well as rock formations all over the park.
Hiking here in winter the snow can be deep and icy in some part of the trail, especially as you get higher. It helps to have spikes with you.
The Carpenter Peak Trail splits just below the summit. The trail on the left heading west connects to the Powerline Trail which also connects to Waterton Canyon and to the gated community outside of the park. From the sign to the summit is just a short uphill trek with a little scrambling on rocks near the top.
The summit is the highest point in the park. Up there is a beautiful 360 view of the surrounding area, the valley to the east and the high mountains to the west.
FOR LONGER HIKES
You might find that trails in the park are too short for you, so to burn that extra energy you can combine Carpenter Peak with other shorter trails, just like we do sometimes. Example below.
CARPENTER PEAK & FOUNTAIN VALLEY LOOP TRAIL - 8.5 miles
CARPENTER PEAK, SOUTH RIM & WILLOW CREEK LOOP TRAIL - 9 miles
-ROXBOROUGH PARK IN AUTUMN -
We usually come here in Winter and Spring, but one of the best times to visit Roxborough Park is in Autumn. The views and the colors of the surrounding landscape are just stunning, especially along the South Rim Loop. Bringing a camera along is a must.
Pets, drones, camping, mountain bikes, horses, rock climbing, fires or marijuana are not allowed in the park.