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On Walkabout On: The Fountain Valley Trail at Roxborough State Park

Basic Information

  • Name: Fountain Valley Trail
  • Where: Roxborough State Park, Colorado
  • Distance: 2.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 367 feet
  • Difficulty: EasyMediumHardDifficult
  • Cost: $7 daily pass
  • More Information: Colorado State Park website

Topographic Map of the Trail

Picture from Roxborough State Park

Narrative

One of my favorite Colorado State Parks is located just a short drive from Denver, every time I go there I am always surprised how few people visit the park compared to the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.  Roxborough State Park is basically the Denver equivalent of the Garden of the Gods, but despite being located so close to the major metropolitan area of Denver it does not seem to get the same number of visitors as the Garden of the Gods which can get crazy crowded on weekends.  For those of us who know about this park this is actually a good thing so hopefully my posting here doesn’t cause a mad rush of people to start visiting the park!  😉

Picture from Roxborough State Park

Roxborough State Park is accessed by Highway 85 that runs between Castle Rock and Denver.  Since I travel to the park from Colorado Springs I exited at Castle Rock on to Highway 85 and headed north towards Denver.  I then took a left at Titan Road which eventually begins traveling South and turns into Rampart Range Road that leads to the park:


View Larger Map

Since I have a annual Colorado State Parks pass I am able to drive right into the park.  However, for those without a pass they will have to pay either at the toll booth or the park’s visitor center for a $7 day pass.  Every time I have been to the park there has been plenty of parking and I never had a problem finding a space in the lot closest to the visitor center:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

Unlike other Colorado State Parks the visitor center at Roxborough is not located adjacent to the parking lot.  There is actually a short stroll visitors must make up a paved path to reach the visitor center:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

The visitor center is a large dome shaped building that sits below one of the parks many spectacular red rock formations:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

The visitor center had all the standard historical and geologic information that you would expect from a Colorado State Park:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

Here is a brief geologic history of the park from the State Park’s website:

The most striking feature for visitors to Roxborough is the dramatic Fountain Formation.  This spectacular tilted sandstone began over 300 million years ago with the gradual erosion of the Ancestral Rocky Mountains.  Today these red sandstones stand beautifully at Roxborugh at a sixty degree angle and are the result of millions of years of uplift and erosion.

There are excellent examples of exposed geology from the Precambrian to Late Mesozoic, including hogbacks of Cretaceous, Permian, and Pennsylvanian age. Erosion of steeply dipping monoclinal sedimentary sections has resulted in the series of three major hogbacks and strike valleys, exposing highly scenic dipping plates, spires and monoliths. Precambrian gneiss and biotite-muscovite granite are exposed on Carpenter Peak.  [Roxborough State Park]

The rock formations are known as the Lyons Rock Formation which is the same type of rock that is exposed in other areas along Colorado’s Front Range to include the Garden of the Gods and the Red Rock Canyon Open Space in Colorado Springs.  The park also had various stuffed animals on display such as this mountain lion:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

My 4-year old gets spooked whenever she sees a mountain lion at the zoo or even a stuffed one like this one, but she soon over came her fear.  The visitor center also has a little children’s play area as well that both my son and daughter had fun playing in.  So overall the visitor center was nice, but something I found strange was how inattentive the park personnel here are.  Most of the time it seemed like we had the place all to ourselves with no park rangers to be seen.  Other State Parks I have been to the Rangers come up and talk to you and show you around if they are not busy doing other things.  Anyway we next went outside to hike the Fountain Valley Trail which is the most popular trail in the park.  I have actually did this hike a few times before with just my daughter, but recently I took my wife and my one year old son as well with us:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

The Fountain Valley Trail is listed at 2 miles long, but we found that when one hikes to the two lookouts as well it adds an additional half mile to the hike thus making it 2.5 miles long.  You can view all the trails at Roxborough State Park at this link.  The trail begins immediately outside of the Visitor Center and travels north into the heart of the park:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

Just a short distance down the trail is the short side trail that leads to the Fountain Valley Overlook.  This overlook provides a stunning view of the various red rock formations that extend across the park:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

Here is a panorama picture I took from the lookout:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

Here is a picture from an earlier visit ofhow this same view looks when there are leaves on the various bushes which gives the scene more color:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

For visitors with mobility problems that cannot walk very far just walking to the Fountain Valley Overlook is worth the effort because it is less than a half mile round trip and provides one of the best views of the park.  After checking out the views from the overlook we continued up the trail where nearby houses can be seen bordering the park to the West:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

I could not help, but think what a great area to live so near the park and at the base of the beautiful Rampart Range to the West:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

As we continued up the trail we came to an intersection where the loop portion of the hike begins.  We decided to go left and take in the views of the red rock formations first:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

Soon after taking the left on the trail we came upon a deer grazing in a meadow:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

After a closer look we spotted some additional deer sitting down in the bushes as well:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

We would later find out that during the winter months that deer tend to flock to Roxborough because we saw them throughout the extent of hike around the Fountain Valley Trail.  Besides deer we of course saw plenty of cool rock formations as we continued down the trail:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

Picture from Roxborough State Park

Picture from Roxborough State Park

As we continued into Fountain Valley we did find that the trail became icy in some areas, but it was mostly very muddy which made wearing boots mandatory to prevent our feet from getting wet.  Here is a picture of my wife and daughter walking down the trail:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

Farther down the trail we saw some pretty cool rock formations that rose up like highrise buildings:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

 

The one pictured below was especially impressive:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

 

Another impressive rock formation was this massive wall of red rock:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

 

As the trail began to approach the far end of the loop hike we came to a large meadow backdropped by the red rock formations that continue to the north:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

 

Just like with nearly every other meadow in this park we could see some deer grazing in the grass:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

 

Here is another picture of these deer as we passed them:

 

Picture from Roxborough State Park

 

Here is another view of the rock formations extending to the north:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

Here is a panorama picture from the far end of the trail:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

 

As we had the meadow to our left we had this impressive rock formations on our right:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

Here is a panorama picture of this impressive rock:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

At the far end of the trail loop we reached the historic Persse Place:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

Here is a closer look at the house:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

Henry Persse built this stone house back in 1903 using rock from the nearby Lyons formation:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

The house sits in a spectacular location in the park, but Persse never lived in this house full time.  Instead it was used to entertain guests and be a centerpiece for his idea to create a resort at Roxborough.  Fortunately the resort idea never panned out, but Persse’s house is now part of the state park that visitors can tour:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

In front of the house were the remains of a corral and a couple of wooden sheds:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

From the house we began to walk up hill back towards the visitor center:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

On top of the hill from the Persse House there is a small branch trail that leads to the Lyons Overlook:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

From the main trail it is less than a half mile walk up a hill that leads to a nice viewpoint of the park. On the way up the hill I spotted some more more deer grazing down below the hill:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

On top of the hill there is a park bench to rest on for those who are a bit tired after walking up the hill:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

Also on top of the hill is this nice fenced in viewpoint that hangs out over the side of a cliff:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

The Lyons Overlook provides some really good views looking down at the rock formations that we had previously walked by in Fountain Valley:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

The viewpoint provides a good perspective of just how spectacular these rock formations are:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

Finally here is a panorama picture from the Lyons Overlook:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

After we finished taking in the views we walked back down to the main trail and once again we saw even more deer:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

This park really does have an incredible amount of deer that lives within its boundaries.  From there it was just a simple walk back down the trail to the visitor center:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

Along the way the view to the East of us opened up which allowed us to see the skyscrapers of Denver rising in the distance:

Picture from Roxborough State Park

Conclusion

By the time we were back at the visitor center we had walked 2.5 miles.  The hike was listed as a two mile loop hike but with the detours to see some of the other sites along the trail this added a little extra distance.  The elevation gain was a modest 367 feet with most of it coming on the hill the trail goes up after the Persse House.  Overall though this is a great place for a family looking for hike.  I had no issues carrying my one year old son on my back and my four year old daughter handled this hike with no problems as well.  There is so much for young kids to see at Roxborough such as the red rocks and all the deer that will keep them excited about the hike.  My daughter was even excited to see the Persse House.  So we definitely had a great time visiting the park and I am sure anyone else visiting the park would have a great time as well.

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