There is many a trail near Denver, CO. I’d go so far as to say that the city is world renowned for its hiking and outdoor recreation opportunities. A lot of the big, famous hikes are outside of the city, however, nestled in the Rocky Mountains. There are some amazing hiking opportunities within 45 min of the city center, and Mount Falcon is one of them.
In particular, the Western Loop Trail is a relatively easy-moderate trail that is great for families. This short trek also features several different, historic points of interest which include the cornerstone of a once-imagined, Summer White House (yes, for the president of the United States). Hiking Mount Falcon is a great way to learn more about Colorado’s history and experience the amazing scenery of the lower elevation Rocky Mountains.
Hiking Mount Falcon
If I were to describe the shape of this trail, I would say it’s a mix between a lollipop and an out and back trail. The loop is actually in the middle of your journey, and it offers the opportunity to turn your outing on this trail near Denver, CO into a shorter hike.
From the trailhead, follow the track down towards the bathrooms and the Castle Trail (past the branch for Parmalee Trail). This is a very wide section of trail that feels a bit developed, but it makes passing and hiking with the crowds more comfortable. Eventually you will come to the junction between Castle Trail and the Tower Trail and you will have your first route decision on your hands. Castle trail is much flatter, and leads to the Walker Home Ruins. The Tower Trail leads to Mount Falcon, so it has more elevation gain. If you’d like to start with the more challenging hike, start with the Tower Trail. If you want to make sure you see the ruins, start with the Castle Trail.
Castle Trail and the Ruins
While hiking Mount Falcon, we took the Castle Trail first, and went straight to the Walker Home Ruins. This section of the trek is flat and meanders through the forest. It’s a bit well-loved, but the trail stays wide, so the crowding isn’t too bad. The Walker Home Ruins are the remains of a 1910s home that once belonged to the wealthy entrepreneur that bought the mountain. What remains are the stone walls of the home, and anything your imagination can conjure up.
From the short spur to see the ruins, we continued east on the Castle Trail on the longest spur of the hike. This took us past the junction at Two Dog Trail and past a picnic spot with amazing views of the city. Up the mountain on Walker’s Dream Trail is a bizarre historic relic, a marble block at the corner of Walker’s “Summer White House” site. If the idea of kids donating their money to a wealthy landowner so he could build a summer home for the United States president sounds odd to you… well, it is. The summer home was never built, but we now get to enjoy what remains of the fanciful idea.
Mount Falcon and the Tower
From the Summer White House site, turn around and head back to the junction with the Meadow Trail. This is near where you turned off for the Walker Home Ruins; take the Meadow Trail. Predictably, this trail will take you through an impressive meadow. It’s still relatively flat here. Be sure to enjoy the unique plants and flowers in this sunny part of the mountains, free from the shading crown of the trees.
The easy part of the trail will end, however, when you start to hike up towards Mount Falcon itself. You will notice a pretty big difference when you turn off of Meadow Trail onto Tower Trail. From here, you will hike up, up, up to aforementioned “Tower.” This is a raised platform where you can enjoy the heights and take pictures of the mountains.
The good news is that from here you will mostly be hiking down. And on your way off the mountain you will pass by another fascinating ruin – the Eagle Eye Shelter. This is what remains of a family home built on the side of the mountain, complete with marble accents from the old, abandoned Walker home. You will follow Tower Trail back to Castle Trail and then go back the way you came to the trailhead to complete your hike.
Need To Know Information
Trail difficulty: Easy to moderate
Restrooms available? Yes!
4WD needed to access? No
Other suggestions: The trailhead is small at Mount Falcon, so be sure to have a plan B if you go and the lot is full. You might also consider waiting a bit if you get to the trailhead and the lot is full. Like anywhere, trails have waves of users throughout the day.
How To Get There
The best way to access the Western Loop trail near Denver, CO is to park at the Mt. Falcon Park- West Trailhead. Otherwise, you will be doing quite a bit more hiking than you might be planning.
You can put the West Trailhead into Google and get to the parking lot, but if you’d like to check your route, keep reading.
From Denver, you will need to take the 285 west, into the mountains. When you hit the town of Indian Hills, turn off of the freeway onto Parmalee Gulch (the 120) and head north. Past Parmalee Gulch Park and St. Anne’s in the Hills, you will turn right onto Picutis Rd. Take an immediate right to stay on this road as it loops up through the forest. Then take a very hard right onto Nambe Rd and follow this until it turns into Mt Falcon Road.
You can then follow this road to its end, where it turns into a parking lot/trailhead for hiking Mount Falcon.
Mount Falcon’s human history goes back thousands of years, but the ruins that dot the park these days are linked to a man named John Brisbane Walker. He bought the mountain in the late 1800s. He then built a mansion on the mountain, which looked down at the growing city of Denver. I guess this view really made him dream big, because from there, he started planning the Summer White House. John really loved that view enough that he felt Mount Falcon was worthy of the US president living on its shoulders for the summer. The marble cornerstone that is still onsite was laid in 1911.
Now, if you visit Mount Falcon, you will definitely feel the love for this place. It is beautiful. But what I thought was most interesting, is that Mr. Rich Man Walker was planning on asking the school children of the United States to contribute their “pennies” to the project. Mhm.
While I would love to be able to visit a marble wonder in the mountains of Colorado (because… the sketches for the Summer White House were beautiful), I am happy that this guy’s dream didn’t come to fruition. The mountains are more peaceful now and the views that John loved so much have been preserved.
As for his original mansion, it was burned down by a fire in 1918. The story of the land afterwards is somewhat evident in the Eagle Eye Shelter. This crazy platform on the edge of the mountain is what remains of a private home. When you walk up to it, you will note the unique marble slabs on walk up. This marble was taken by the family from the old Walker mansion and reused.
Eventually, Jefferson County Open Space acquired the land of Mount Falcon for the public in 1974. Thanks to those hard-working folks who make places like this open for exploration and enjoyment.
Access to nature is important. Sounds silly to say, but Mount Falcon is a testament to how much work it can be to create and maintain “open spaces” or natural spaces for people to explore and experience.
For me, the natural world is a place where I can meditate, and open my mind. It can be a huge challenge, physical and mental. Or it can be a stroll through the woods along a creek. I’ve learned to mourn and celebrate change through nature. And I’ve learned about the unique beauty of the world, from the celebrated landscapes to more humble places that many consider to not be worth their time.
Nature is everything to me. Those spaces where I can find peace and experience things not created by humans.
But there are so many people who would like to do those things, and would benefit as much as me or more, who can’t get out on the trail. They might not live in a city like Phoenix or Denver where trails are nearby. Or they might have physical or monetary limitations that make even those places hard to get to.
What’s been so joyful to me has been working with the people who are focused every day on expanding parks, taking care of the ones we already have, and improving access in so many different ways. If you can, give your Parks Department some extra love. Whether they are behind-the-scenes folks or rangers, these folks make nature accessible.
Remember, your safety in the wild is up to you. This guide is not a promise of safety.
Follow the tips above (they are not comprehensive), and do your own research on safety. Check the weather, travel when it is safe to do so, and don’t risk yourself for a hike.
The land that we know today as Colorado is the territory of the Apache, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Pueblo, Shoshone, and Ute tribes. The Southern Ute Tribe and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe a currently federally recognized Indian Tribes of Colorado.
For a historically in-depth land acknowledgement, check out the American Library Association’s Indigenous Tribes of Colorado.
Exploring More of Colorado
There will be more Colorado guides coming to Nightborn Travel soon! We moved here in 2022, and have just started exploring this beautiful state.
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