Belcher Hill - Rawhide - Longhorn - Whippletree Loop, White Ranch Park in Golden, Boulder - Denver - Golden - Fort Collins - Lyons, Colorado

Belcher Hill - Rawhide - Longhorn - Whippletree Loop - 8.8 miles

White Ranch Park in Golden

Mule Deer on the Belcher Hill Trail

Mule Deer on the Belcher Hill Trail

Round-Trip Length: 8.8 miles
Start-End Elevation: 6,175' - 7,860' (7,860' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +1,685' net elevation gain (+2,140' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: Yes
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Belcher Hill - Rawhide - Longhorn - Whippletree Loop - 8.8 Miles Round-Trip

White Ranch Park supports nearly 20 miles of well-maintained multi-use trails that stretch through open grasslands and lower-montane pine forests. One lengthier option joins the Belcher Hill Trail - the Park's longest - with the Rawhide, Longhorn and Whippletree trails for a varied lollipop loop across White Ranch.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The following description begins on the Belcher Hill Trail from the East Access Trailhead and travels clockwise:

The Belcher Hill Trail runs NW across the foothills to a small creek (.65 miles : 6,260') and the Whippletree Trail split (1.15 miles : 6,510'). It turns sharply SW and begins a steep, winding climb into the foothills.

Views improve on a westerly bend and methodical climb past connections for the Longhorn Trail (1.85 miles : 6,870'), Mustang Trail (2.4 miles : 7,245'), Roundup Trail #1 (2.55 miles : 7,285'), Roundup Trail #2 (2.8 miles : 7,385'), Maverick Trail (2.85 miles : 7,420') and the Sawmill Trail (2.95 miles : 7,462').

The ponderosa park through which you're passing is home to deer, elk, turkey, coyote, bear, rabbit, hare, porcupine, mountain lion and bobcat. Note greater tree densities and the introduction of fir and of aspen as you climb.

The Belcher Hill Trail narrows past the Sawmill Trail, pushing steeply to a west-facing rim near the trail's highest point (3.65 miles : 7,840'). Here you'll enjoy rangy views across wide valleys and distant peaks.

The trail comes to the second Mustang Trail junction (3.77 miles : 7,855') and turns north, dropping steeply in a heavy forest to the Park's west parking lot on Belcher Hill Road (4.12 miles : 7,650'). Cross the road and parking lot and continue downhill to the Belcher Hill Trail's terminus at the Rawhide Trail junction (4.5 miles : 7,465').

Bear right on the Rawhide Trail for an easy jaunt to the Park's main West Access parking lot (4.8 miles : 7,485'), where you'll turn left to remain on the Rawhide Trail. The Rawhide Trail heads NE and eases on the edge of a vast meadow framed by 9,000' peaks.

This diverting stretch leads to the Longhorn Trail junction (5.05 miles : 7,425'); turn right (east) on the Longhorn Trail to begin the second half of the loop.

The narrowly cut Longhorn Trail negotiates lengthy and intermittently steep stretches of open hillsides, pine stands and rocky outcrops.

The twisting descent passes connections for the Maverick Trail (5.55 miles : 7,235') and Shorthorn Trail (6.05 miles : 6,968'), before dropping into a ravine (6.85 miles : 6,348'). It climbs out and begins a series of moderate undulations across the lower foothills to the Whippletree Trail split (6.95 miles : 6,475').

Bear left on the Whippletree Trail to complete the loop (it's worth noting the Longhorn Trail veers sharply right and uphill at this point, a counter-intuitive change in direction clouded by a poorly positioned sign).

The Whippletree Trail rolls mildly back to the Belcher Hill Trail (7.65 miles : 6,510'), which you'll follow back to the East Access Trailhead on 56th avenue (8.8 miles : 6,175').

Facebook Comments

Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 47.946 W105 14.915 — White Ranch Park - East Trailhead
  • N39 48.446 W105 15.666 — 1.15 miles : Whippletree Trail junction
  • N39 48.255 W105 15.908 — 1.85 miles : Longhorn Trail junction
  • N39 48.375 W105 16.437 — 2.4 miles : Mustang Trail junction #1
  • N39 48.655 W105 16.773 — 2.85 miles : Maverick Trail junction
  • N39 48.964 W105 17.561 — 3.75 miles : Mustang Trail junction #2
  • N39 49.124 W105 17.550 — 4.12 miles : Cross over west parking lot
  • N39 49.261 W105 17.438 — 4.5 miles : Rawhide Trail junction
  • N39 49.128 W105 17.216 — 4.8 miles : Main west parking lot
  • N39 49.305 W105 17.037 — 5.05 miles : Rawhide Trail - Longhorn Trail junction
  • N39 49.225 W105 16.563 — 5.55 miles : Longhorn Trail - Maverick Trail junction
  • N39 49.025 W105 16.347 — 6.05 miles : Longhorn Trail - Shorthorn Trail junction
  • N39 48.850 W105 15.871 — 6.85 miles : Cross ravine bottom
  • N39 48.760 W105 15.855 — 6.95 miles : Longhorn Trail - Whippletree Trail junction
  • N39 48.446 W105 15.666 — 7.65 miles : Belcher Hill Trail junction
  • N39 47.946 W105 14.915 — 8.8 miles : White Ranch Park - East Trailhead

Worth Noting

  • Ponderosa forests are naturally maintained by low-intensity fires every 5-15 years that keep populations and competition to a minimum. Mature ponderosa pine bark is resistant to such fires, while their cones rely on heat to open and release seeds. European settlement in the late 1800s ushered in decades of fire suppression, producing forests of unnatural densities susceptible to widespread, high-intensity fires from which they cannot always recover. White Ranch is working to restore natural conditions through controlled burns and selective cutting.

  • The Paul White family owned and operated this land from 1913 to 1974 as a commercial cattle ranch. After Paul White's death in 1969 his wife, Anna Lee White, initiated a purchase-gift agreement for the land with Jefferson County Open Space.

  • Anticipate heavy mountain bike traffic on these trails, and remain alert to their fast approaches. Consider taking the Shorthorn Trail on the return route, as its rugged terrain sees lighter bike traffic.

  • Be mindful of private property lines and respect homeowners' privacy.

  • Though reasonably well marked, take advantage of free maps at the two main trailheads to guide you through White Ranch's many intersections and routing options.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • White Ranch Park has two camping areas: Sawmill Hiker Camp and Sourdough Springs Equestrian Camp. Both grounds have restrooms, water, and bear-proof food storage.

  • Camping permits (advance or on-site) are free, valid for a maximum stay of up to three consecutive nights.

  • Campground stays are limited to no more than a total of 12 nights within a 30-day period. Campers are asked to use the west parking area.

  • Sourdough Springs Equestrian Campground
  • 10 campsites, each with picnic table, metal fire ring, horse hitching rail and horse watering trough.

  • Restrooms, firewood, bear-proof trash cans and food storage poles are provided.

  • Maximum of three tents and eight people per site (erect tents within 30' of post and metal fire ring).

  • A drinking water hand pump is seasonally available (check for status prior to arrival).

  • Reservations are taken a minimum of 3 days prior to arrival. All others sites may be secured on a first come, first-served basis. 3 day maximum stay.

  • Sawmill Hikers Campground
  • The Sawmill Hikers Campground is located 1 mile from the West Access parking lot.

  • There are 10 campsites, each with a picnic table, metal fire ring, and food storage poles. Sites have access to a restroom, bear-proof trash cans, and a hand pump for drinking water (closed in winter).

  • Maximum of three tents and eight people per site (erect tents within 30' of post and metal fire ring).

Directions to Trailhead

East Access Trailhead: From Colorado Highway 93 (connecting Golden and Boulder), turn west on 56th Avenue. Follow signs on Pine Ridge Road to the White Ranch East Access Parking Lot (about 1 mile total from Highway 93).

West Access Trailhead: Take Highway 93 north from Golden approximately 1 mile to Golden Gate Canyon Road. Travel west approximately 4.1 miles to Crawford Gulch Road (Highway 57). Turn right on Crawford Gulch Road and folow signs to White Ranch Park. There are two parking lots .3 miles apart. The first parking lot offers immediate access to the Belcher Hill Trail.

Contact Information

Jefferson County Open Space
700 Jefferson County Pkwy
Suite 100
Golden, Colorado 80401
Information Line: 303.271.5925

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Hot and dusty (at 9 a.m.) with scant shade; narrow trails with cyclists and horses aplenty. Taken together, not very dog friendly. I won't be hiking White Ranch again in the summer. Probably a lot nicer in fall/winter, off peak."
 -   -  Date Posted: June 17, 2012


Add Comment

Only used to identify you to ProTrails. Will not show on comments list.
Tell us when your experience with this trail happened.