golden willows on gold dust trail

Happy Hiking: Gold Dust Trail

Depending on the source, the distance of the Gold Dust Trail is variable.  Both the unknown length and the popularity among mountain bikers may deter hikers, but aspen lovers might want to reconsider.

The entire trail begins by Camp Como on County Road 838 and climbs 8 miles to Boreas Pass Road.  Mountain bikers tend to park in Como, ride up Boreas Pass, and descend the single-track Gold Dust Trail for an 18-mile loop.

Hikers, however, have a variety of options.  I split the Gold Dust Trail into two 8 mile out-and-back hikes over two days.  The easiest way to do this is to follow the All Trails directions and to park along Forest Service Road 50 which splits the trail in half.

Hiking Gold Dust Trail to Boreas Pass

From this road, hikers may head north up the trail to Boreas Pass or south down the trail to Camp Como.  For my first hike on the trail with my friend Mike, we headed north.  The trail ascends moderately for the first ½ mile before it levels off.

For the next 1.75 miles the trail follows an old flume which diverted water from North Tarryall Creek to mining operations.  The last 1.75 miles ascends approximately 500 feet per mile to Boreas Pass Road.  While most of the Gold Dust Trail passes through an evergreen forest, toward the top hikers are rewarded with intermittent views.

Overall, I wouldn’t consider this direction on the trail to be too exciting.  Fortunately, we spotted two deer and a family of five grouse which made it more inviting.

Hiking Gold Dust Trail Down to Camp Como

Heading the other way, however, was much prettier, especially in the fall.  The trail immediately descends from the road, across the creek and into a valley of golden willows. Thereafter, it undulates through an evergreen forest before it reaches a view of a large stand of aspen.

About 15 feet off the trail, there is a bench to relax while enjoying the fall colors.  Continuing down the path to CR838 leads hikers through more quaking aspen, a wonderful site of glimmering yellow during the fall. 

Another special aspect to this portion of the trail, is it seems to be little known.  On a Friday at mid-morning during the fall season, I was the only person on the Gold Dust Trail.  Perhaps the smoky conditions and weak colors this year reduced the amount of visitors, but overall it seemed lightly used.

Town of Como

After the hike, any history buffs might enjoy exploring the Town of Como’s historic sites.  Como, named for some local workers hometown in Italy, was once the largest town in Park County with a population of 500.  A major hub for the Denver South Park & Pacific Railway, Como was a railroad community near the region’s first gold strike.  While there isn’t much open there today, there are some railroad and mining relics to check out.

While most people drive from Denver to Kenosha Pass for famous fall colors, it might be worth driving around the bend another 15 minutes to enjoy the fall colors in a less busy area.  With most of the aspen being near County Road 838, for those just looking for a few family photos, visit the Gold Dust Trail near Camp Como.  ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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