Today I hiked to John Frazer Cabin via Blue Grouse and Mule Deer Trails in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. The park is located 35 miles west of Denver, is very large, and has several entrances. A day pass to a Colorado State Park costs $10 and may be purchased at a variety of kiosks with exact change. An affixed annual pass to all Colorado State Parks costs $80 while a hang tag is $120. It seems a little pricy, but the trails are well marked and well maintained.
The parking area to Blue Grouse Trail is located off Golden Gate Canyon Road and does not include a kiosk for paying, so be sure to plan for this in another location. The nearby Mountain Base Road to Reverend’s Ridge Campground where there is a pay station was closed for the winter. As a result, it might be best to stop in at the Visitor Center before continuing to the trailhead. The AllTrails app provides perfect directions to the trailhead, and the Colorado State Park website provides good park maps.
The Hike to John Frazer Cabin
- John Frazer Cabin
- Distance: 4.2 miles
- Type: Moderate, out-and-back
- Elevation Gain: 738 ft
- Other: Dogs Allowed
The hike to John Frazer Cabin is 4.2 miles according to AllTrails. I recorded 4.9 miles, however, I climbed up a rock outcropping and also dropped my dog’s leash upon my return, so I had to retrace my steps slightly. Yes, she was supposed to be on a leash, but on this cold weekday, no people or wildlife were around. I only saw two hikers, one just as I started and one as I ended.
The wildlife was hiding from hunters as the park is open for hunting on the Jefferson County side from September to May. We were on the Gilpin County side, but I still dressed Annie in her Ruff Wear orange backpack and kept her close. I only heard two shots fired as I descended. Otherwise, the trail was very quiet with just a few crows cawing!
Ralston Buttes Ranch
As previously mentioned, the Blue Grouse Trailhead parking area may be found on Golden Gate Canyon Road. Just below the parking area are buildings to the Ralston Buttes Ranch. The ranch was run by Bill and Katie Kriley from 1884-1938. Thereafter, their daughter Ella oversaw the operations until 1963 when it was passed on to the state. Before heading up the trail, take look at the nice view.
Blue Grouse and Mule Deer Trails
The trail to John Frazer Cabin begins at 8,360 feet and gradually ascends 750 feet over 1.75 miles as it zig-zags with the switch backs up the mountain. As the dirt trail climbs, it passes through intermittent stands of aspen as well as evergreen forest.
The hike follows Blue Grouse Trail in the beginning for a little over ¾ mile. At the trail junction, trekkers take a hard right onto Mule Deer Trail. Along the way, there are two more trail junctions. Hikers should stay to the left on Mule Deer Trail to reach the John Frazer Cabin. The junctions are well marked, so there is no need to worry, though I always like having All Trails handy as a backup.
The last quarter mile of the hike is flat through a meadow. Today it was blanketed in snow. Given it hadn’t snowed in Denver for two weeks, I was somewhat surprised by the coverage. The packed snow wasn’t a problem, but I felt slightly ill prepared for my first real hiking outing since knee surgery two months ago.
While I had a hat, gloves, a puffy, and additional layers, I just was not warm in the 30 degree temperatures. I had to walk with my hands in my armpits, and I only stopped for brief seconds to snap any photos with my iPhone.
Annie appreciated the quick pace, as I think her feet got cold if we paused for much time on the snow. Normally, I put Mushers on her feet to protect them, but again, the snowfall has been light and one of the last reviews I read said there wasn’t much on the trail. I guess I missed a few of the weather patterns while I was at Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida a few weeks ago.
John Frazer Cabin
Regardless, the John Frazer Cabin was a treat to see. I love seeing old structures, and I can only imagine how spectacular it would in the fall. Aspen trees grew up through the remnants of the home and circled the meadow. It would be a sea of gold in September.
As the name suggests, the cabin was built by John Frazer, a Pennsylvania miner turned Colorado homesteader. After mining in Black Hawk, the handicapped man who didn’t have full use of one leg, moved to Frazer meadow.
Here, he built his small cabin, cut hay, and kept two horses and a few cows. When he needed supplies, he would cut timber and take it on a wagon into town for trade. On one snowy day in January of 1894, the chain holding the logs on his wagon broke. The logs rolled onto John and crushed his skull. Two years after his death, the Gilpin County court judged that his debts were greater than the value of his 480 acres – $700. I presume, as a result, the state took over his property, since he didn’t have a will.
The overall hike to John Frazer Cabin was moderate, though the cool breeze and overcast skies made the temperature challenging. I enjoyed the hike, and while I don’t repeat any trails, I may have to return to this one for the fall. ETB
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