Rattlesnake Gulch Trail, Eldorado Canyon State Park - Walker Ranch, Boulder - Denver - Golden - Fort Collins - Lyons, Colorado

Rattlesnake Gulch Trail - 2.4 miles

Eldorado Canyon State Park - Walker Ranch

The Cadillac rock climbing formations seen from Rattlesnake Gulch

The Cadillac rock climbing formations seen from Rattlesnake Gulch

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Round-Trip Length: 2.4 miles (3.8 miles roundtrip with all attractions)
Start-End Elevation: 6,087' - 6,717' (6,727' max elevation to Crags Hotel :: 7,080' max elevation on the loop)
Elevation Change: +630' net elevation gain to Crags Hotel (+1,068' total roundtrip gain for all attractions)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: Yes
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Rattlesnake Gulch Trail - 2.4 Miles Round-Trip

The Rattlesnake Gulch Trail follows an old wagon road known as 'Crags Boulevard' up the south wall of Eldorado Canyon to the Crags Hotel site, which was completed in 1908 and mysteriously burned down in 1913.

Though little remains of this historical curiosity, visitors will enjoy insight to the canyon's storied past and geologic origins.

Those seeking a longer trip may continue on the Rattlesnake Loop Trail, an additional 1.4 miles that includes a short spur to the Continental Divide Overlook:

The Rattlesnake Gulch Trail heads east to the Fowler Trail split (.12 miles : 6,095'), where it banks right and begins a winding, moderately steep climb up the south wall of Eldorado Canyon.
Jagged Cadillac formations along the southeast wall are named so for their resemblance to 1950s car fins.

The trail reaches a small clearing where the Crags Hotel once stood (1.2 miles : 6,717'), a surprising location given the area's modest size and challenging access.

An historical marker details the hotel's history and construction. Those seeking a longer trip may continue on the Rattlesnake Loop Trail, an additional 1.4 miles that includes a short spur to the Continental Divide Overlook:

Follow signs west to The Rattlesnake Gulch Loop - Continental Divide Overlook spur, which comes rather abruptly (1.5 miles : 6,810'); take note of this sparingly marked point and continue a few steps further to the Continental Divide Overlook (1.55 miles : 6,815').

The promise of a grand overlook is perhaps over-stated, nevertheless a quiet place with rangy views over the canyon and distant peaks. Retrace your steps back to the Rattlesnake Gulch Loop Trail and veer right.

Here the trail bends back east and climbs up the south wall. Note the introduction of fir and aspen as you gain elevation. The mixed pine forest clears with a good look at a precarious section of train tracks, Union Pacific's 'Moffat Road' rail line, which began construction in 1902 for eastern plain community access to the mountains.

This line still operates today as the Denver & Rio Grande route from Denver to Winter Park and beyond. The trail crests and hairpins left downhill (2.2 miles : 7,060') for a moderately steep descent that leads back to the Crags Hotel site to complete the loop (2.6 miles : 6,717'). Retrace your steps back on the Rattlesnake Gulch Trail to the parking area (3.8 miles).

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Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

View Interactive Google Map

  • N39 55.766 W105 17.402 — Rattlesnake Gulch Trailhead
  • N39 55.766 W105 17.271 — .12 miles : Rattlesnake Gulch - Fowler Trail junction
  • N39 55.680 W105 17.540 — .5 mile mark
  • N39 55.603 W105 17.693 — 1.2 miles : Crags Hotel site - begin Rattlesnake Loop
  • N39 55.639 W105 17.885 — 1.5 miles : Rattlesnake Loop - CD Overlook spur
  • N39 55.679 W105 17.882 — 1.55 miles : Continental Divide Overlook
  • N39 55.274 W105 17.631 — 2.2 miles : Trail hairpins sharply left downhill
  • N39 55.603 W105 17.693 — 2.6 miles : Complete Rattlesnake Loop at Crags Hotel
  • N39 55.766 W105 17.402 — 3.8 miles : Rattlesnake Gulch Trailhead

Worth Noting

  • The north-facing Rattlesnake Gulch Trail sees little sunlight during winter months. Anticipate lingering snow and slick conditions from late October through early April.

  • Before setting out, consider stopping by the Visitor Center for a free brochure explaining the canyon's complex geology and rich biology.

  • Portions of the original road and rail line leading to the Crags Hotel are now traced over by the Fowler Trail.

  • Mule deer, elk, black bear, bobcat, red fox, coyote and mountain lion inhabit the Eldorado Canyon State Park area. Large populations of bats breed in caves of the inner canyon. 7 of 10 bat species recorded in Boulder County have been sighted in the Park. South Boulder Creek supports cold-water fish species, including rainbow, brook, and brown trout, longnose dace, white and longnose suckers.

Rules and Regulations

  • There's an $8 entrance fee to Eldorado Canyon State Park.

  • Dogs are permitted but must be leashed at all times.

Directions to Trailhead

The Eldorado Canyon State Park entrance station is located 3.1 miles west of Highway 119 on Eldorado Springs Road. Use the self-serve pay station if no attendant is on duty. The Rattlesnake Gulch Trailhead is located .7 west of the pay station on the left (south) side of the road. Parking is limited at the trailhead. Additional parking is available in designated areas along the main access road.

Contact Information

Eldorado Canyon State Park
9 Kneale Road (P.O. Box B)
Eldorado Springs, CO 80025
303.494.3943
parks.state.co.us/parks/eldoradocanyon
Park Hours: sunrise to sunset, everyday

Trip Reports

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Comments

"Dorothy and I completed this hike today! Steep incline but overall short hike"
Rochelle Emerson  -  RattleSnake Gulch Trail  -  Date Posted: August 5, 2012
"Thanks for the information. Just an update. The entrance fee for parking is $8 for the day."
Chris  -  Denver  -  Date Posted: July 28, 2012
"Thanks Trailsnet! You're correct. We've made the change as you've indicated. PT Staff."
 -   -  Date Posted: February 12, 2012
"I'm pretty sure bikes are allowed on Rattlesnake Gulch Trail. I've often ridden it and always seen many other mountain bikers. It's been almost a year, so things may have changed."
trailsnet  -  Louisville, CO  -  Date Posted: February 12, 2012

 

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