The Rockies: Snow Hiking Black Bear Trail to Horseshoe Trail in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

February 16, 2013

This was my first time to Golden Gate Canyon State Park, located northwest of Denver and Golden. The park requires a $7 daily entry fee which can be paid at a self pay station or the visitors center located at the south entrance on Golden Gate Canyon Road. Black Bear Trail, 2.8 miles, is rated most difficult on the park’s literature and Horseshoe Trail, 1.8 miles, carries a moderate rating. The starting altitude is around 8,250 feet and the elevation gain is around 1,000 feet. Overall, both ratings seemed a little extreme.



Black Bear Trail immediately ascended from the parking lot up through a meadow. Eventually it wound through trees and around boulders. There were many ups and downs where we thought we had reached “the summit”, only to find out we were following the trail back down through the forest. Thankfully, the trail was well marked! The roller coaster hike allowed for several beautiful views of snow capped mountains in the distance, a bit of boulder scrambling, and an enjoyable variety. Our winter clothing was the only challenge…we found ourselves bundling up while going downhill in the wind and shade and stripping down while climbing uphill in the sun.





We came to a trail junction where we turned right and headed toward the Greenfield Meadow Campground. Here we connected to the Horseshoe Trail that gradually descended until we reached a small wooden bridge. We crossed the bridge, followed some snowy, switchbacks up the mountain and reconnected to the Black Bear Trail, heading back to the parking lot.


This was my first snow hike. I used traction devices called Yaktrax, that attach to the bottom of the hiking boot. I found out these are not the best…they broke the first try! Luckily I bought them at REI which will take all returns! I normally don’t return used items, but this time I think I will (and get something different) as after talking to several people, they have all said they don’t even know why REI sells Yaktrax because they always break! Regardless, I’ll be planning some more winter hiking as well as some snow shoeing soon! ETB