Golden, CO: Raccoon Trail

Not ready to tackle a 14er (yet)? Try this 2.5-mile gem in Golden Gate State Park for a view of the continental divide where you can pick the target of your next alpine adventure.
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Not ready to tackle a 14er (yet)? Try this 2.5-mile gem in Golden Gate State Park for a view of the continental divide where you can pick the target of your next alpine adventure.

With over 12,000 acres and trails of all kinds, Golden Gate Canyon State Park is an oft-overlooked escape from Denver offering hiking, biking, fishing and camping. This 2.5-mile loop begins by heading east from the Reverend’s Ridge Visitor Center—follow the double-paw-print Raccoon Trail signs through the parking lot to avoid getting sidetracked toward the campground. The loop splits 0.4 miles in and this route turns left for a short, flat prelude to the 1-mile, 400-foot climb. You'll cruise thick pine and aspen trees heading east but the trail opens up before turning south toward the loop’s apex—and highlight—at Panorama Point. Take in wide open views of Long's Peak and the continental divide from the observation platform and rest up before heading downhill.
The loop’s southern half follows the Raccoon Trail down a few rocky switchbacks and traverses the hillside below the park road before turning abruptly north at mile 2.4 to close the loop. For a mellower climb, consider approaching the loop counter clockwise.
-Mapped by Justin Lesniak

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 5.1

Waypoints

RAC001

Location: 39.8758547, -105.4489231

The main Reverend Ridge lot offers easy access to the trail. Begin at the map kiosk on the lot's east side and head east into the woods, following signs for the Raccoon Trail to avoid getting lost in the campground.

RAC002

Location: 39.8769498, -105.4473138

Turn right at the T-junction heading downhill toward a small stream and the beginning of this route's 2.4-mile loop.

RAC003

Location: 39.8781272, -105.4448462

Turn left at mile 0.4 to follow this clockwise approach to the Raccoon Trail's 2.4-mile loop. You could turn right instead for a more moderate climb.

RAC004

Location: 39.879955, -105.444535

Turn right at this Y-junction to cross the small creek and continue on the Raccoon Trail. Stay left at the junction on the far side of the creek and get ready to begin the long climb toward the park's high point.

RAC005

Location: 39.8756366, -105.4361343

Stay to the right where the trail forks to continue on the trail. The left-hand detour will take you past a parking lot, picnic area, and pit toilet and along the road to Panorama Point.

RAC006

Location: 39.8759041, -105.4406619

Panorama Point at mile 1.7 is the reward for the invigorating climb. Take time to rest and enjoy the observation platform, educational displays, and scenery. If it's a clear day, expect to see the continental divide on display.

RAC007

Location: 39.8759371, -105.4411554

Just to the west of Panorama Point the trail begins to descend. There are a few pine-shaded switchbacks before the trail turns more decisively south.

RAC008

Location: 39.872203, -105.4456937

Turn right at this 3-way junction to follow the Raccoon Trail 0.4 miles north toward loop end. If you have more time or would like to add distance to this route, you could continue following the Elk Trail for a southbound out-and-back.

Clearing

Location: 39.8783577, -105.4455328

The trail winds from forest to fields with great 360-degree views.

Aspen

Location: 39.8780284, -105.4447603

Tall aspen hug the trail at the beginning of the clockwise loop.

Sign

Location: 39.8800373, -105.4442453

Carsonite signs mark the trail and trail users (hikers, mountain bikers, and horses) allowed.

Panorama Point

Location: 39.8759041, -105.4406404

The Continental Divide view from the aptly-named Panorama Point. Use the peak map to plan an future mountain adventure.

Descending Trail

Location: 39.8746032, -105.4452324

Watch your head as you pass below low-hanging branches on the final approach to loop-end.