Mountain Lion Loop Trail & Windy Peak, Golden Gate Canyon State Park, Boulder - Denver - Golden - Fort Collins - Lyons, Colorado
Mountain Lion Loop Trail & Windy Peak - 7.9 miles
Golden Gate Canyon State Park
|Round-Trip Length:||7.9 miles (includes .9 mile roundtrip excursion to Windy Peak)|
|Start-End Elevation:||7,739' - 7,739' (9,106' max elevation at Windy Peak)|
|Elevation Change:||+1,367' net elevation gain (+1,804' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Mountain Lion Loop Trail & Windy Peak - 7.9 Miles Round-Trip
The 7.9 mile Mountain Lion Loop Trail (which includes a .9 mile roundtrip excursion to Windy Peak) passes through diverse terrain highlighted by aspen groves, summer wildflowers, abundant wildlife, and historical landmarks.
This multi-use trail accommodates hikers, runners, mountain bikers, and equestrians. Clockwise travel is recommended for better morning light and favorable traffic patterns:
An access trail heads east from the trailhead to the official beginning of the loop (.13 miles: 7,789'). Turn left and begin a steady climb through open hillsides dotted with Ponderosa Pine. The trail briefly merges with the Burro Trail after 1.1 miles, veering off soon after toward Forgotten Valley.
The trail climbs steeply to the City Lights Ridge junction (1.35 miles : 8,212'), past which it widens on a fire road and gently drops through a patchwork of pine and aspen. At 1.55 miles it bottoms out (8,160'), emerges from the forest, crosses a creek, and begins a methodical climb to Forgotten Valley (1.85 miles: 8,253').
In Forgotten Valley is Tallman Ranch, an historic site with several cabins still intact. Interpretive signs tell the story of Swedish immigrant Anders Tallman, who in 1876 settled here with his family and raised cattle, chickens and vegetables which they sold in the mining community of Blackhawk. The Mule Deer Trail splits off here into Tallman Ranch for those interested in viewing the cabins up close.
The trail continues by a pond past the Buffalo Trail split (2.05 miles : 8,343'), where it begins a demanding 500' climb on switchbacks. The trail crests with good westerly views of the Indian Peaks and James Peak Wilderness Areas (2.9 miles : 8,872'), then drops through mixed pine to the 1st split for Windy Peak (3.1 miles: 8,776') - bear right.
The trail rises modestly to the Burro Trail (3.2 miles: 8,858'), which you will now follow to Windy Peak (3.5 miles: 9,106'). Enjoy panoramic views from the summit before backtracking down via the Burro Trail to continue clockwise on the Mountain Lion Loop (4.0 miles: 8,776').
The trail relaxes on a long glide down the backside (north side) of the loop, which levels considerably upon reaching Deer Creek (4.3 miles: 8,521').
The trail follows - and frequently crosses - Deer Creek for the next 1.9 miles through a distinct riparian ecosystem: Aspen, spruce, cottonwood, alder, currant and blue-stem willow envelop the trail and form an opaque canopy. Large rock piles and steep hillsides flank the narrow creek corridor.
The trail passes several backcountry campsites en route to the Quarry Trail junction (6.15 miles : 7,649'); make a hard right to remain on the Mountain Lion Trail. Moderate intervals undulate through glades to the Knot Creek Parking Area and Trailhead (7.5 miles: 7,758').
Cross the parking lot diagonally towards the restrooms to regain the Mountain Lion Trail. An easy jaunt completes the official loop (7.8 miles: 7,789'); turn left for the final 225 yards back to the Mountain Lion Trailhead (7.9 miles: 7,739').
- N39 50.883 W105 21.714 — Mountain Lion Loop Trailhead (0.0 miles : 7,739')
- N39 50.885 W105 21.590 — Beginning of Loop (.13 miles: 7,789')
- N39 50.977 W105 22.499 — Mountain Lion - Burro Trail merge (1.1 miles : 8,123')
- N39 51.079 W105 22.693 — City Lights Ridge junction (1.35 miles : 8,212')
- N39 51.209 W105 22.861 — Cross Creek - begin long climb (1.55 miles : 8,160')
- N39 51.345 W105 23.081 — Forgotten Valley (1.8 miles: 8,253')
- N39 51.555 W105 23.145 — Buffalo Trail junction (2.05 miles : 8,343')
- N39 51.839 W105 22.879 — Crest of steep ascent (2.9 miles : 8,872')
- N39 51.894 W105 22.696 — First split for Windy Peak (3.1 : 8,776')
- N39 51.818 W105 22.632 — Final split to Windy Peak (3.2 miles : 8,858')
- N39 51.702 W105 22.803 — Windy Peak Summit (3.5 miles : 9,106')
- N39 52.001 W105 22.554 — Reach Deer Creek (4.3 miles : 8,521')
- N39 51.517 W105 21.539 — Burro Trail split (5.6 miles : 7,892')
- N39 51.518 W105 21.504 — Backcountry Campsite #20 (5.65 miles : 7,870')
- N39 51.512 W105 21.404 — Backcountry Shelter #4 (5.7 miles: 7,827')
- N39 51.490 W105 21.195 — Backcountry Campsite #17 (5.95 miles: 7,743')
- N39 51.426 W105 20.969 — Mountain Lion - Quarry Trail junction (6.15 miles : 7,64
- N39 50.996 W105 21.615 — Cross Knott Creek Trailhead Parking Lot (7.5 miles)
- N39 50.885 W105 21.590 — Back at beginning of loop (7.8 miles : 7,789')
- N39 50.883 W105 21.714 — Mountain Lion Trailhead (7.9 miles : 7,739')
- Several fishing spots are accessible from the trail, most notably along Deer Creek.
- Anticipate several uneven foot bridge crossings on the back side of the loop; exercise patience when wet or carrying heavy packs.
- Parking spaces are limited at the Mountain Lion Trailhead, but more are available at the nearby Knott Creek Trailhead.
Camping and Backpacking Information
There are multiple backcountry camping destinations along the Mountain Lion Loop Trail, including the Forgotten Valley and Deer Creek areas:
- Forgotten Valley - Tallman Ranch Backcountry sites
1.8 miles clockwise from Mountain Lion Trailhead - 8,253'
There are 4 backcountry campsites at Forgotten Valley. Sites 13, 14, 15 and 16 are acessible via the Mountain Lion Trail. Beautiful location adjacent to Forgotten Valley and Tallman Ranch. Large pond, rolling hills and easy access to Windy Peak.
- Backcountry Campsite #20
5.63 miles clockwise from Mountain Lion Trailhead - 7,870':
One backcountry campsite on the creek. Lightly traveled location with easy water access.
- Backcountry Campsite #19
5.68 miles clockwise from Mountain Lion Trailhead - 7,845'
One backcountry campsite located on south side of trail. Hidden location with easy water access.
- Backcountry Shelter #4
5.73 miles clockwise from Mountain Lion Trailhead - 7,827'
One backcountry covered shelter located creekside. Great location with easy water access on less traveled portion of trail.
- Backcountry Campsite #18
5.88 miles clockwise from Mountain Lion Trailhead - 7,783'
One backcountry campsite on the south side of trail in close proximity to creek. Somewhat hidden from trail view.
- Backcountry Campsite #17
5.94 miles clockwise from Mountain Lion Trailhead - 7,743'
One backcountry campsite located on the south side of trail in close proximity to creek. Nice location but a bit more exposed to the main trail.
- Fishing is permitted in any stream or pond at Golden Gate Canyon State Park with the exception of the Visitor's Center Show Pond. The daily bag limit at Golden Gate Canyon is four fish. There is an ADA-accessible fishing pier at Kriley Pond. The Park's ponds including: Kriley, Slough, Dude's Fishing Hole, Forgotten Valley and Ranch Ponds, are stocked by the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
- A Colorado fishing license is required as well as a daily or annual vehicle pass. In addition, all Colorado Division of Wildlife and Division of Parks regulations apply. A map of fishing areas is available online through the park's official website as well as at the Visitor's Center.
Rules and Regulations
- There is a $7 entry fee to Golden Gate Canyon State Park. You may pay at the Visitor Center or, if closed, use the self-pay station located beside it on Golden Gate Canyon Road. Display payment verification as instructed.
Directions to Trailhead
Take Highway 93 north from Golden to Golden Gate Canyon Road. Turn left and continue 12.9 miles up-canyon to the Park entrance and pull-in Self Service Fee Station on your right.
Take Highway 93 south towards Golden. Turn right on Golden Gate Canyon Road and continue 12.9 miles up-canyon to the pull-in Self Service Fee Station on your right.
From the Fee Station:
Turn right on Crawford Gulch Road and drive 3.4 miles to the Mountain Lion Trailhead (marked on the left hand side of the road).
Golden Gate Canyon State Park
3873 Highway 46
Golden, CO 80403