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Hiking at Centennial Cone Park: Southern section of Travois Trail

Scenery along the Travois Trail
Scenery along the Travois Trail
Deb Stanley

Centennial Cone Park near Golden may be one of the least used parks in the Jefferson County Open Space system. I rarely see many people here. Maybe because the main loop is 12.5 miles.

Travois Trail
Deb Stanley

Centennial Cone Park is also unique.

1. It closes in December and January for hunting. When the park reopens February 1, the Elk Ridge Trail is typically closed until mid-June for mating season.

2. The park has an alternating use schedule on weekends in which cyclists use the park on even-numbered days and hikers use the park on odd-numbered days. On weekdays, there are no restrictions.

Because the main loop is 12.5 miles, I decided to hike it in sections. The first section I did was the easiest, the 6.4-mile roundtrip Elk Ridge Trail. Then I tackled the Travois Trail in two sections, first the northeast section from the Camino Perdido trailhead, then the southern section.

The southern section starts at the Douglas Mountain Drive trailhead (directions below). The trailhead parking lot is small, but has a bathroom, a trash can and maps.

Start by walking the trail by the sign board. Pay attention as you walk, because the turnoff for the Travois Trail is just a few steps away from the parking lot and easy to miss.

The Travois Trail starts by dropping down in a scenic valley. That means there's a climb on the way back. You'll be hiking in and out of the trees which means the trail may be icy in winter, but is pleasant in the summer.

About 0.4 miles from the trailhead, you'll pass a sign and a turnoff for the Jupiter Trail. Stay on the Travois Trail. A short distance from here, you'll pass another turnoff, this time for the Mayhem Gulch Trail. The Juniper and Mayhem Gulch Trails are a nice loop hike that start on U.S. 6 and climb up to the main loop. But for today, stay on the Travois Trail as it continues to drop down to a creek crossing about three-quarters of a mile from the trailhead. You've now lost about 300 feet in elevation, but the trail will soon start to climb.

As you hike this next section of trail, you'll soon be in Clear Creek Canyon, high above the highway. You may see glimpses of the highway, but you'll likely won't see it because you'll be too busy enjoying the expansive views up here.

About three miles from the trailhead you'll suddenly reach a saddle and see the trail turn slightly north, before continuing east into a thick forest. If you're looking for a hike of about six miles, this is a great spot to turn around. You've gained about 1,000 feet with all the ups and downs, and remember, there's a climb of 300 feet or so at the very end of the hike.

After a break, we decided to head into the forest. Here the trail begins to switchback down into Elk Creek Canyon. Over the next mile, there's a gradual descent of about 300 feet.

About four miles from the trailhead, you'll suddenly find yourself at a rock outcropping. You'll actually walk right through the middle of it, climbing a couple rock steps on one side and descending a couple rock steps on the other side. From here, you'll hike in an open area for a short time before heading for the forest again and several switchbacks. The trail drops another 350 feet or so in the next 0.8 miles down to Elk Creek.

Suddenly, a long bridge appears. This is the bridge over Elk Creek. While it appears the creek roars at times, I've only seen it trickle in the winter. The northeast side of the bridge has some rocks and is a nice, sunny spot in the winter for lunch.

From here, it's about 4.9 miles back to the trailhead where you started, or about 4.5 miles if you pre-parked a car at the Camino Perdido Trailhead. If you're returning to where we started for this hike, you'll need some lunch. You're facing a steady gain about 650 feet in the next two miles back up. And don't forget that 300 feet of so of gain in the last .75 miles of the trail.

Details: The hike to the saddle is about 6 miles RT. The hike to the rock outcropping is about 8 miles RT. The hike to bridge over Elk Creek is about 9.8 miles RT with 2,500 feet of elevation gain with all the ups and down.

Park information and map.

In the area, don't Frazier Meadow and Forgotten Valley at Golden Gate State Park. Need more ideas? Check out this list of 200+ hikes. Don't miss any of my trip reports, sign for an email alert at the top of this page and follow me on Facebook.

Directions: The Jefferson County website suggests googling 2234 Douglas Mountain Road in Golden for directions. From Golden, take U.S. 6 11.4 miles up the canyon to where it intersects with Highway 119. Take Highway 119 just 0.3 miles to Douglas Mountain Road and turn right. Follow Douglas Mountain Road to the entrance to Centennial Cone Park.

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