The John Frazer Cabin hike in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, less than hour from Denver, Colorado, is a perfect combination of natural beauty and local history. This moderate trail offers stunning views of the aspen trees and leads hikers to the historic John Frazer Cabin, which dates back to the late 1800s. The cabin is now a fun destination for anyone interested in Colorado’s rich history and natural beauty.
Tim and I had the chance to hike to the John Frazer Cabin via the Blue Grouse Trail in the fall. As we hiked, we were struck by the vibrant hues of the aspen trees, which were in full autumn splendor. Combined with the cabin and its rustic charm, this is a truly unforgettable experience. We’re excited to share it with you!
In this blog post, we will take a closer look at the John Frazer Cabin and how to hike there.
History of John Frazer Cabin
One of the things that make the John Frazer Cabin hike so charming is the history behind the cabin. According to signage next to the remains of the cabin, John Frazer had been a miner in Black Hawk, Colorado before he came to these meadows in 1869 to homestead. For furniture, he only had a pot-bellied stove, a table, and two chairs. He slept on a bedroll on the floor with his feet towards the stove for warmth.
The same sign tells of Frazer’s sad demise in 1894. While hauling logs to trade for sugar and salt, the logs rolled over him in a freak accident that crushed his skull and killed him. The sign makes a point of how he died “all alone on a wintery hillside surrounded by dead trees.” Ooph – that is a rough one.
Overview of the John Frazer Cabin Hike
John Frazer Cabin is one of the most charming, photogenic, and yet relatively unknown hiking destinations in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. Several trails in the park lead to this historic cabin, and we’ll tell you about all of them. We will focus in particular on the Blue Grouse Trail to John Frazer Cabin, which is the trail Tim and I took! The John Frazer Cabin is a perfect destination for hikers of all skill levels and provides an excellent opportunity to explore the natural beauty of the park.
Plan Your Visit to Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Golden Gate Canyon State Park is less than an hour from downtown Denver, nestled in the foothills near Golden.
You need either a Colorado State Parks Annual Pass or a daily pass to visit Golden Gate Canyon State Park. Prices are below but check the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website for the most up-to-date information.
- Daily Vehicle Pass: $10
- Annual Pass: $80 (affixed) or $120 (hang tag)
- Aspen Leaf Annual Pass (64+) : $70
Wildlife is abundant in the area, and it’s not uncommon to see elk, deer, and blue grouse (hence the name of the trail) along the way.
The trails in Golden Gate Canyon State Park are dog-friendly, but pups must be on a leash!
Blue Grouse Trail to John Frazer Cabin
Hiking the Blue Grouse Trail to John Frazer Cabin is a 4.4-mile round-trip trek. The trailhead is located at the Kriley Pond Picnic Area, where there is ample parking available. There are several helpful orientation signs at the start of the trailhead, including wildlife in the area, a map of Golden Gate Canyon State Park, and a trail marker.
All of the trail markers in Golden Gate Canyon State Park have the trail name on them, as well as icons indicating whether the trail is just for hiking or if biking and horses are also allowed.
The hike to John Frazer Cabin starts right away on the Blue Grouse trail with some mild switchbacks as you gain elevation. As you hike along the trail, don’t miss the views from the switchbacks of the surrounding mountains, including Mount Evans and the Indian Peaks.
From there, the trail winds through a forest of aspen and pine trees.
Eventually, you’ll come to a fork where the Blue Grouse Trail meets up with the Mule Deer Trail. You should take a right onto the Mule Deer Trail.
Soon, the trail levels out and you hike through beautiful aspen forests. Keep going straight on the Mule Deer Trail until you get to Frazer Meadow and the John Frazer Cabin!
Directions to John Frazer Cabin via the Blue Grouse Trailhead
- From the Blue Grouse Trailhead, hike on the Blue Grouse Trail for about 0.7 miles until you reach the intersection with the Mule Deer Trail.
- Turn right onto the Mule Deer Trail and continue hiking for about 1.5 miles until you reach the John Frazer Cabin.
- Return the way you came!
Other Trails to John Frazer Cabin
There are multiple ways to get to the John Frazer Cabin in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. Here are some other options:
- From the Black Bear Trailhead near the Visitors Center: Hike about 1.9 miles (each way) on the Black Bear Trail until you reach the John Frazer Cabin.
- From Panorama Point: Take the Mule Deer Trail 3.3 miles (start clockwise) to John Frazer Cabin.
- From Old Barn Knoll Trailhead: Hike 3 miles (start counterclockwise) each way on the Mule Deer Trail to John Frazer Cabin.
When to Hike to John Frazer Cabin
In our opinion, the best time to hike to John Frazer Cabin on the Blue Grouse trail is in the fall, between late September and October. Maybe we’re biased because that’s when we went, but it is hard to beat the stunning display of golden and orange aspen leaves against the blue Colorado sky. Plus, it’s less crowded during this time, so you can enjoy a more peaceful hike.
Another great time to hike to John Frazer Cabin is during the summer months of June through August when the weather is warm and sunny, perfect for a comfortable hike. However, keep in mind that afternoon thunderstorms are common in Colorado during the summer months, so start your hike early in the day and aim to finish before midday to avoid getting caught in a storm.
Winter and spring are also beautiful times to visit Golden Gate Canyon State Park, but make sure you’re prepared for snow and icy conditions on the trail. Winter hikers should bring appropriate gear like snowshoes and crampons to navigate safely.
Remember to always check weather conditions and trail closures before setting out on your hike, no matter the time of year.
What to Pack and Wear
- Day Pack: It’s so helpful to have a good day pack to carry everything you need. I’ve had the Osprey Skimmer 20 for Women for years and it’s held up on every adventure! And here’s the Osprey Talon 22 Pack for Men!
- Water Reservoir: If your day pack doesn’t have a water reservoir in it already, you can buy one separately to slip into your bag. It’s absolutely NECESSARY that you bring water with you on every hike. Here are our favorite 2-liter reservoir and 3-liter reservoir!
- Sun Protection: This is so important year-round – even more so in winter when the snow can reflect the sun back up to your skin, multiplying your exposure! Sun Bum is our favorite sunscreen brand.
- Hiking Boots: I hiked to John Frazer Cabin in my Columbia hiking boots. I literally have these in multiple colors because I love them so much! You can’t beat the price for the quality, too. Tim always hikes in his Foxelli boots and swears they are the best hiking boots he’s ever owned. He also has multiple pairs on stand-by in his closet for when the tread on these finally wears out (though it’s been a few years and they are still going strong!).
- Socks: I started wearing these double-layer Wrightsock brand socks when marathon training years ago and have never gotten a blister with them! In winter, I might mix it up with merino wool socks, too.
- Sunglasses: I love these wooden frame sunglasses, so they are my go-to.
- Hiking pants: These hiking leggings are my favorite in winter. In summer, I usually hike in biker shorts or leggings.
- Moisture-wicking layers: SmartWool is our favorite layering brand. I wear this pullover all the time (it went around the world with us in 2014 and is still in great condition) and their wool t-shirts are great base layers. There are also SmartWool t-shirts for men!
- Jacket: Even in summer it can be really chilly in the Rocky Mountains! I always pack my Columbia jacket when hiking in the mountains.
- First Aid Kit: An ultralight first aid kit is a must-have for every hike. You never know what can happen, and you’ll be glad to have a first aid kit if you need one!
- Camera: I always hike with my Sony a7iii. It’s a great full-frame camera for capturing all of our hiking memories!
- Snacks: Clif Energy Bars are our favorite hiking snack. It’s got the perfect mix of carbs, fats, and protein to power us through our hikes!
- Trekking poles: Many people like hiking with trekking poles to reduce the impact on the knees, especially going downhill. We don’t use ours often, but these Black Diamond Trail Back hiking poles are really popular!
- If you’re hiking to John Frazer Cabin in winter, you’ll absolutely want to bring a pair of microspikes and/or snowshoes with you. These will slide over your boots and keep you from slipping on icy portions of the trail. Trust us, you’ll be able to enjoy your hike so much more if you aren’t worried about falling on the ice or snow!
How to get to the Blue Grouse Trailhead
The Blue Grouse Trailhead is located in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, at the Kriley Pond Parking area.
To get there from the Denver area, you can follow these directions:
- From Denver, take US-6 West to CO-93 North.
- Follow CO-93 North.
- Turn left onto Golden Gate Canyon Road and continue for 14 miles.
- Pay the entrance fee at the park gate.
- Follow the signs to the Blue Grouse Trailhead, which is located near Kriley Pond.
Once you arrive at the Blue Grouse Trailhead, you can park your car and begin your hike on the trail. It’s always a good idea to check the park’s website or call the ranger station before you go to get up-to-date information on any closures or trail conditions.
Tips for Hiking to John Frazer Cabin
- Plan ahead: Before setting out on the hike, make sure to check the weather forecast and trail conditions. The trail can be snow-covered and icy in the winter, so appropriate gear and precautions are necessary.
- Bring plenty of water and snacks: The hike to John Frazer Cabin is moderately hard and can take several hours to complete. Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated and snacks to keep your energy levels up.
- Wear appropriate footwear: The trail to John Frazer Cabin can be rocky and uneven in places, so wear sturdy hiking boots or shoes with good traction.
- Consider the season: The trail is particularly beautiful in the fall when the aspen trees are changing colors.
- Respect nature and history: As you hike, be sure to stay on designated trails and follow Leave No Trace principles. When visiting John Frazer Cabin, be respectful of the history and take care not to disturb any artifacts or structures.
- Bring a map: The trail to John Frazer Cabin is well-marked, but it’s always a good idea to bring a map or download one to your phone, just in case.
Where to Stay Near Golden, Colorado
Check out these highly-rated (9 out of 10 or better!) and well-located hotel options in Golden, which is near John Frazer Cabin and Golden Gate Canyon State Park.
- Golden Hotel Ascend Hotel Collection
- The Eddy Taproom and Hotel
- Origin Red Rocks a Wyndham Hotel
- Table Mountain Inn
Guided Tours in Golden, Colorado
One of the best ways to experience all that Golden has to offer is by booking a tour with a local guide. Whether you’re interested in hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, or even whitewater rafting, there’s a tour for everyone. With an experienced guide leading the way, you’ll be able to explore hidden gems and discover the beauty of the area in a way that you wouldn’t be able to on your own. Check out some of the popular options and search for even more below!
The John Frazer Cabin hike in Golden Gate Canyon State Park is a charming and beautiful destination for those looking to explore the natural and historic beauty of Colorado. The hike offers a unique opportunity to explore the historic cabin, while also providing stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. We also think this is one of the best hikes to do in Colorado in the fall!
PS: Did you know Golden Gate Canyon State Park is less than 2 hours from Rocky Mountain National Park? Check out our hub of guides that cover everything you need to know about RMNP – from the best hikes to what to pack and so much more!