6 Best Roxborough State Park Hikes for Every Level
As Colorado locals, we’re always on the lookout for new and exciting places to hike. And when we’re looking for a short and scenic hike, Roxborough State Park is at the top of our list. We created this guide to help you discover the best Roxborough State Park hikes!
Located just a short drive from Denver near Pike National Forest, Roxborough State Park is home to some of the most beautiful red rock formations in the state. The park offers a variety of hiking trails for all levels of experience, so whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned hiker, you’re sure to find a trail that’s perfect for you.
In this blog post, we’ll share the best hiking trails in Roxborough State Park. Whether you are looking for the perfect trail to bring visitors, aiming to summit a peak, or planning a fun day out with the kids, there is a hike in Roxborough for you. We’ll also provide some tips for hiking in the park and a one-day Roxborough State Park hiking itinerary so you can make the most of your visit.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s start planning your Roxborough State Park hike!
Best Roxborough State Park Hikes
Easy Hikes in Roxborough State Park
1. Willow Creek Trail
|Distance: 1.4 miles|
Elevation: 164 feet
|Time: 45 minutes|
The short and sweet Willow Creek loop trail is the best easy hike in Roxborough State Park for getting an overview of the most iconic red rock features with minimal effort. This trail is also known as a good place to watch for birds, like Western Tanagers, thanks to the many trees along the trail. These same trees turn golden yellow in autumn, so it’s a great fall foliage hike as well!
2. South Rim and Willow Creek Loop Trail
|Distance: 2.8 miles|
Elevation: 465 feet
|Time: 1.5 hours|
Hit two trails in one by adding the South Rim Loop hike to your stroll along the Willow Creek trail. The two trails are combined into a larger loop that ascends the hills to provide excellent panoramic views over the red rock slabs. There are several scenic benches throughout the trail that provide an opportunity for rest and to take in the views. We especially recommend this trail early in the morning when you can catch a foggy mist dancing around the rocks as the first rays of the sun illuminate the crimson rocks.
The South Rim Trail provides particularly good views of the Fountain and Morrison formations, which is why we think this is the best place to hike in Roxborough State Park for some early morning and sunrise photography!
3. Fountain Valley Loop Trail
|Distance: 2.6 miles|
Elevation: 344 feet
|Time: 1 hour|
Also known as the Fountain Valley Trail, this loop trail takes you through Fountain Valley, offering stunning views of the red rocks. Don’t miss the Fountain Valley Overlook or the 0.5-mile detour to Lyons Overlook trail for a view over the Fountain Formation! This is also one of the best hikes in the park for kids.
At the far end of the loop, you will also get to see what remains of a historical home called Persse Place. This brick house was the vision of Henry S. Persse. Persse immigrated to the area in the late 1800s from Ireland and named Roxborough after his homeland. In the early 1900s, he planned to develop a resort at Roxborough. It never came to be, but the house was a popular destination for Persse and his friends to enjoy the red rock views.
Note that rattlesnakes are common on this part of the trail. Stay on the wide path and away from the grasses. There is a yellow rattlesnake warning sign as you near the area they are known to frequent. We saw one crossing the trail in front of us here which was very adrenaline-inducing!
4. Willow Creek Falls
|Distance: 2.7 miles|
Elevation: 272 feet
|Time: 1.5 hours|
The Willow Creek Falls via Bear Canyon Trail takes you to Willow Creek Falls, a beautiful (though rarely-flowing) waterfall located in a secluded canyon. This is a lesser-known hike in Roxborough State Park, and you won’t usually see as many other hikers here as you do at the first 3 hikes mentioned in this guide. The best time to see the water is in the spring when snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains increases the amount of water flow.
Moderate Hikes in Roxborough State Park
5. Carpenter Peak Trail
|Distance: 6.2 miles|
Elevation: 960 feet
|Time: 4 hours|
This trail climbs to the top of Carpenter Peak, the highest point in the park, for stunning views of the surrounding area. The Carpenter Peak trail starts along the South Rim and Willow Creek trails before beginning a strenuous ascent to the Carpenter Peak trail. The trail is easy to find and marked with signs at each junction. This is the perfect Roxborough State Park hike for you if you want a challenge and the accomplishment of reaching the highest point in the entire park!
Difficult Hikes in Roxborough State Park
6. Elk Valley Trail
|Distance: 7.7 miles|
Elevation: 960 feet
|Time: 5 hours|
The hike to Elk Valley goes to a lesser-visited area of Roxborough State Park. This hike is a great addition to or alternative to Carpenter Peak since it follows the same trail. At the Y junction where you see signs for Carpenter Peak or Elk Valley, take the route to Elk Valley. You can create a loop that includes summiting Carpenter Peak by turning onto the Powerline Trail after hiking through Elk Valley. This trail combines the Powerline Trail and the Carpenter Peak Trail, offering a variety of scenery, including grasslands, meadows, and red rock formations.
Roxborough State Park Hikes and Trail Map
About Roxborough State Park Geology
The geology of Roxborough State Park is incredibly unique and fascinating. The park is situated on the eastern side of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, and the rock formations here are made up of red sandstone, conglomerate, and shale that were formed over 300 million years ago.
One of the most prominent geological features of Roxborough State Park is the Fountain Formation, which is a layer of rock that was deposited during the Pennsylvanian Period. This formation is composed of conglomerate, sandstone, and shale, and is responsible for creating the park’s famous red rock formations. The Fountain Formation was created by the accumulation of sedimentary rocks that were deposited in ancient rivers and streams.
Another interesting geological feature of the park is the Dakota Hogback, which is a long ridge of rock that runs through the park. This ridge was created by the uplift of the Rocky Mountains and subsequent erosion. The ridge is made up of Dakota Sandstone, which is a type of rock that was formed during the Cretaceous Period.
Where is Roxborough State Park?
Roxborough State Park is located just outside of Denver, Colorado, in Littleton. Follow these directions to get to Roxborough State Park from Denver:
- Head south on Santa Fe (Highway 85).
- Take Titan Road on the right (west).
- Continue on Titan Road as it curves south and becomes North Rampart Range Road.
- Pass the Foothills Water Treatment Plant.
- Turn left onto Roxborough Park Road.
- Take the next right onto East Roxborough Drive to enter the park.
Note that the last 2 miles to the park are on a well-maintained dirt-gravel road. It can be bumpy when wash-boarded but is accessible for any vehicle, including 2WD cars.
What is the Roxborough State Park Entrance Fee?
There is a $10 daily entrance fee per vehicle. You can also use your Colorado State Parks annual pass if you have one to enter for free. Below are the entrance fees for Roxborough State Park.
- Daily Vehicle Pass: $10
- Individual Daily Pass: (Only for individuals accessing the park WITHOUT a motor vehicle and who are entering on foot or by bicycle) $4
- Annual Vehicle Pass (affixed to one vehicle) : $80
- Family Annual Pass (can be used in multiple vehicles): $120
- Aspen Leaf Annual Pass (Colorado Resident 64+): $70
Visitor Amenities at Roxborough State Park
The Visitor Center at Roxborough State Park is a great place to pop in and learn more from one of the knowledgeable rangers or volunteers about any educational programs or exhibits currently taking place in the park. There are also clean restrooms with running water inside the building.
Outside of the Visitor Center is a shaded area with picnic tables and walking trails.
More Things to Do in Roxborough State Park
In addition to hitting the hiking trails, there are many other things to do at Roxborough State Park. Here are some ideas to supplement your hiking trip.
Wildlife Watching Opportunities
In addition to frequent rattlesnake sightings in the summer months, fox, mule deer, bobcat, mountain lion, and black bear all also call Roxborough State Park home. Sightings of bobcats, mountain lions, and black bears are rare, but you have a good chance of spotting deer. Additionally, Roxborough State Park is designated an Important Bird Area (IBA) by the Audobon Society and is an excellent place for birding.
Photography in Roxborough State Park
Roxborough State Park is a photographer’s dream. The park is home to stunning red rock formations, dramatic landscapes, and abundant wildlife. There are many different photography opportunities available at the park, from sunrise and sunset shots to wildlife photography.
Here are some of the best hikes, trails, and overlooks to take photos in Roxborough State Park:
- The South Rim Trail: This trail offers stunning views of the park’s red rock formations.
- The Carpenter Peak Trail: This trail offers panoramic views of the park and the Front Range.
- The Bear Canyon Trail: This trail winds through a canyon with towering red rock walls.
- The Fountain Valley Trail: This trail takes you through a wide valley surrounded by red rock formations.
- The Lyons Overlook Trail: This short trail leads to an overlook with views of the Lyons Valley and the Rocky Mountains.
Picnicking Areas at Roxborough State Park
Roxborough State Park has 8 picnic tables on the patio outside the Visitor Center. Visitors can bring their own lunch and eat at the tables or at a bench along the park trails. Visitors are asked to pack out all trash and leave no trace.
Special Events at Roxborough State Park
There are many ranger-led events throughout the year at Roxborough State Park. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department maintains a calendar of upcoming events in Roxborough State Park to help you plan.
Winter Activities in Roxborough State Park
Although snow melts quickly at Roxborough State Park, usually within a day or two of the snow falling, the contrast of snow against the red rocks is a captivating, if fleeting, event. If you are lucky to visit Roxborough State Park on a snowy day, you can snowshoe or cross-country ski the hiking trails.
Things NOT to do in Roxborough State Park
Roxborough State Park is unique in that there are several specific recreation activities that you cannot do in Roxborough that you can usually do in a lot of other places in Colorado. Here are some of the things that you CANNOT do in Roxborough State Park due to park rules.
Biking at Roxborough State Park
Bicycles are not allowed on any of the trails in Roxborough State Park. All trails are hiking-only in Roxborough. Although this can be disappointing for bikers, there is something to be said for hiking the trails at Roxborough without having to worry about bike traffic!
Climbing at Roxborough State Park
Unlike similar red rock locations in Colorado like Garden of the Gods or Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater, rock climbing is not allowed at Roxborough State Park. Check out Garden of the Gods or Red Rocks for climbing similar geology, or Clear Creek Canyon for world-class climbing nearby.
Camping at Roxborough State Park
There are no campgrounds or overnight parking at Roxborough State Park. There are many camping options in and around Denver. The closest backcountry camping to Roxborough State Park is on the Colorado Trail at Lenny’s Rest.
Hanging out with your Dog
Sorry pup-lovers, but dogs are not allowed on any trails in Roxborough State Park. The park has a healthy population of native rattlesnakes, and so for their safety and for that of your pup, the park does not allow dogs on the hiking trails in Roxborough.
Tips for Hiking at Roxborough State Park
Best time of year to hike in Roxborough State Park
Spring (April-May) is a great time to visit if you’re looking for mild weather and fewer crowds. The wildflowers are in bloom, and the park is lush and green. However, with snowmelt, the trails can be very muddy.
Summer (June-August) is the warmest and busiest time of year. The park is full of people enjoying the hiking opportunities. However, it can be very hot in summer and most of the hikes in Roxborough State Park have little shade. We recommend hiking Roxborough State Park very early in the day if you go during the summer. This is also the season when rattlesnakes are most likely to be out and about.
Fall (September-October) is a great time to visit if you’re looking for colorful leaves and milder weather. The park is ablaze with color, and the crowds have thinned out. This is, in our opinion, the best time to visit Roxborough State Park.
Winter (November-March) is the coldest and snowiest time of year. The park is sometimes covered in snow, and some trails may be closed. However, if you’re looking for a winter wonderland after a snowfall, Roxborough State Park is a great place to visit.
What to Wear and Bring for Roxborough State Park Hikes
- 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 always hike 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.
- 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: 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: I always pack my Columbia jacket when hiking in Colorado.
- 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. These Black Diamond Trail Back hiking poles are really popular!
- If you’re hiking Roxborough State Park in winter, you’ll 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!
Safety Tips for Roxborough State Park Hikes
- When hiking in Roxborough State Park, it is important to be aware of the park’s wildlife, including deer, coyotes, and rattlesnakes.
- It is also important to wear sunscreen, bring water, and wear comfortable shoes.
- Start your hike early in the day to avoid the heat of the day.
- It is also a good idea to bring a map of the park with you or download your hiking trails on AllTrails.
- If you are hiking with children, it is a good idea to keep them close to you. Make sure they stay on the trails to avoid an encounter with a rattlesnake!
- There is poison ivy on the trails near the visitor center. Avoid brushing up against plants with “leaves of three” and avoid touching any parts of your clothing that make contact with poison ivy.
- It is also a good idea to let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back.
Are dogs allowed on Roxborough State Park hikes?
No, dogs are not allowed on the trails at Roxborough State Park. You’ll want to leave your pup at home when visiting Roxborough State Park.
One-Day Roxborough State Park Hiking Itinerary
If you have one day to spend in Roxborough State Park and want to hike as much of the park as you can, we recommend this itinerary. This is what we did on our first visit to Roxborough and we felt like we got to experience a lot of the park!
- Hike the South Rim Loop Trail for sunrise and allow lots of time for photos! (2 hours)
- Return to the Visitor Center for a picnic breakfast at one of the tables. (30 minutes)
- Hike the Fountain Valley loop after your breakfast break. Stop at the Lyons Overlook, Persse Place, and the Fountain Valley Overlook
- Visit the Visitor Center before you leave to check out the informational exhibits and chat with a ranger or volunteer about any questions that arose during your hikes!
Final Thoughts on Roxborough State Park Hikes
We hope you enjoyed this blog post about hiking in Roxborough State Park. As you can see, there are many different trails to choose from, so you can find one that’s perfect for your fitness level and interests. And with its stunning scenery and abundance of wildlife, Roxborough State Park is sure to be a place you’ll want to visit again and again.
Spending some more time in the area? Be sure to check out our additional guides for the hikes and other things to do near Denver, Colorado:
- Ultimate Guide to Golden Gate Canyon State Park
- How to Find John Frazer Cabin in Golden Gate Canyon
- Essential Guide to the Raccoon Trail
- Comprehensive Guide to Lookout Mountain
- Everything You Need to Know about North Table Mountain
- Paleontologists Say These Are the Best Dinosaur Footprints
- Best Things to Do in Golden, Colorado
- Winter Holiday Activities in Denver