Colorado’s Eldorado Canyon State Park is one of its most impressive state parks, and because it offers so many climbing routes and is close to both Boulder and Denver, it is extremely popular and often quite crowded. It is possible to enjoy hiking trails with dramatic views even if you don’t climb. Picnics by the stream and hiking trails with dramatic views are also enjoyed here. While climbing is the main attraction of the park, there are also several hiking trails, some of which can also be used for horseback riding or mountain biking. Whether you spent the day climbing or just deserve a good soak, consider taking a dip in the nearby deep-blue hot springs pool, the closest hot springs to Boulder. The natural, artesian-spring-fed pool isn’t too hot, around 76 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes it more appealing to families for a dip on a hot summer day.
Eldorado Canyon State Park offers about 11 miles of trails of all levels, from easy to challenging and short to long. Some trails connect to the city of Boulder’s trail system, providing a full day’s worth of hiking entertainment and challenge. Different trails have different elevations, but you can typically expect between 6,000-7,000 feet above sea level. This is much higher than the 5,280-foot elevation in Denver so it may require some acclimatization.
Eldorado Canyon State Park is considered one of the best places in Colorado to climb. It boasts over 500 different technical climbing routes. Here, you can find routes for different levels, but there are not as many beginner routes and only a few bolted “sport routes” in the canyon. Some of the cliffs jut up as high as 700 feet. The 885-acre Eldorado Canyon State Park has two different areas. The Inner Canyon is the more developed area, and Crescent Meadows is undeveloped.
The park is also known for its multi-pitch sandstone walls, intricate routes, irregular cracks, and more. Best to leave this to the climbers with experience, or book your climb through a tour company that can keep you safe. You will have many climbs to choose from, such as the Bastille Crack, a 5.7-grade route that can be divided into the North and West face, and the Wind Ridge, a 5.6-grade route that is a good choice for intermediate climbers to test their skills. Despite the park’s early history as a resort area, there are not many accommodation options near the park entrance of the town of Eldorado Springs.
The park is west of Boulder Eldorado Springs on CO-170. The state park is surrounded by Roosevelt National Forest to the west and the mountains of the Front Range. The drive will take about 40 minutes from Denver and less than 20 minutes from Boulder, CO. From Boulder, take Broadway to CO-170. Then head west on CO-170. Take that for three miles through the town of Eldorado Springs. When you enter the state park, you will have to drive on a dirt road for about a mile through the canyon. You will cross a small bridge, too, but conditions are not extreme and you can follow the signs to the visitor center.
As a state park, Eldorado Canyon offers several facilities. There are bathrooms and trash receptacles in convenient locations. A well-maintained picnic area with grills sits on the edge of the creek, and an event center can be booked for parties or meetings. There is also a handicap-accessible visitor center and a bookstore with informational exhibits about the area’s geology, nature, and human history. In addition, you can bring your packed lunch and spread out the blanket on South Boulder Creek for a scenic picnic. There are designated picnic spots in the park, which are first-come, first-serve. If you have a fishing license, you can fish in the creek, and in the winter, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are also common activities. Furthermore, no overnight camping is allowed in the park.
Because the park is so convenient to get to, it’s usually very busy. If you can avoid visiting Eldorado Canyon State Park during the peak season from May through September on weekends, you will avoid some of the crowds. The parking lot quickly reaches capacity during peak season, and staff won’t let you in if the lot is full; it’s a one-out, one-in situation. To avoid congestion visit in the springtime or on weekdays. The park opens at sunrise, so it’s best to get there as early as possible if you want to secure a good parking spot.
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