The Rockies: Hiking Carpenter Peak at Roxborough State Park

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March 2, 2013

What an absolutely glorious winter day in Colorado. We started the morning with temperatures in the 30’s, but they quickly rose to the 60’s. In the sun, it feels much warmer. We were stripped down to our t-shirts in the first five minutes of the hike while trouncing through snow!


Roxborough State Park is located 25 miles southwest of Denver in Douglas County and is known for its red sandstone formations. The 3,339 acre park was founded in 1975 and provides visitors a variety of trails rated easy to strenuous. The park caters to hikers…no dogs, horses, climbers, or mountain bikers allowed. We chose the Carpenter Peak Trail, 6.2 miles in length and considered strenuous.


The trail began at the visitor’s center around 6,200 feet in elevation and weaved it’s way through a thicket of oak and brush that was leafless for the winter. Each different type of bush was marked by a stake and picture. Soon the trail crossed the open prairie and passed by the sandstone rocks protruding into the blue sky. Most of the path remained exposed to the sun as did my face, which I failed to lather in sunscreen. It now looks like a cooked lobster!


The route slowly ascended upward toward the peak, switching back and forth while gaining 1,000 feet in elevation. The muddy slosh quickly changed to a foot of deep snow beneath the evergreens. Depending on where we were on the trail, we could have gone from no spikes, to spikes, to snow shoes. Spikes were the best option, but despite me getting out my spikes and snowshoes and setting them right by the front door, I forgot them along with the sunscreen! At least I remembered my water, snacks, and first aid kit.


Frankly, it didn’t really matter what I remembered or what I didn’t remember, because it was just so nice outside…I mean really – a Texan in a T-shirt in the snow…it was awesome. Kelley and I had a great time! At times we considered turning around as the snow was so deep, but we plodded onward, in a marching fashion, lifting our feet above the snow and stepping in the tracks in front of us. We decided we would continue on as long as we always had tracks to follow. At one point, there were tracks from only one person. It was kind of cool to be in the Denver Metro Area, full of millions of people, yet look forward, and only see the tracks of one!


After a few hours, we finally summited. We didn’t feel like we were hiking very slowly, but I guess knee deep snow slightly interfered with our progress. The summit provided a panoramic view of the area. To the North we could spot Denver’s skyline and to the West the snow capped Rockies came into view. In addition, the red and yellow sandstone formations really contrasted with the snow covered prairie…a lovely scene!



Our return trip down the mountain was slightly more treacherous as we crunched along the snowy path. The melting ice was slippery and without my spikes, I had a few ” Whoops” moments. It really made me wonder about other trailblazers adorned only in sneakers. At least I had hiking boots and a hiking pole! Overall, another great day in the Rockies…thanks to Kelley for organizing! ETB


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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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