Denver, CO: Enchanted Forest - Backpacker

Denver, CO: Enchanted Forest

An invigorating climb at the base of Lookout Mountain, this 5.4-mile lollipop loop follows a bustling creek into a forest thick with trees and elk.

Just a few miles from downtown Denver, this easy-access trail begins with a long, steady climb and rewards with a wandering forest path and views of the nearby city. The trailhead in the Heritage Square parking area is marked by scraggly cottonwood, but after a short, shaded section (past an alternate trailhead), the trail opens until reaching Apex Gulch.
Follow the creek and tuck below lichen-covered outcroppings for 1.7 miles before turning left for a 2-mile loop that begins with a footbridge and a steep climb. Cruise through the thick and tranquil Enchanted Forest—watch for herds of elk moving through the trees or listen for bugling in the fall—before merging back onto the Apex Trail near mile 2.9. The route finishes with an easy descent back into Apex Gulch and offers city views on the way back to the trailhead.
Note: The Apex Trail and others in the area are open to hikers, bikers, and horses, so watch for trail traffic, especially headed uphill into the canyon where a few corners cut down visibility and make fast-moving cyclists hard to spot.
-Mapped by Jeff and Michele Hendrick

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 8.7



Location: 39.7161, -105.209949

Start at the lower trailhead where there's a map, toilet, picnic tables and plenty of free parking.


Location: 39.715541, -105.211081

About 100 yards west of the lower parking area is an alternative trailhead. Though there isn't a map kiosk here, paper maps are sometimes available alongside the park rules. Follow the trail west and across a small bridge just ahead.


Location: 39.715803, -105.21136

Turn left at the 3-way junction onto the Apex Trail.


Location: 39.713889, -105.214904

This trail follows the path of the Apex and Gregory Wagon roads, early routes to the gold fields of Central City (then known as the Gregory Diggings).


Location: 39.712129, -105.218348

Watch for mountain bikers headed downhill on this wooded stretch of the trail above the creek.


Location: 39.712126, -105.219229

Stay straight at this 3-way junction on the Apex Trail.


Location: 39.710859, -105.226664

You'll have climbed more than 500 feet when you pass this Open Space boundary marker just past mile 1.


Location: 39.713758, -105.230374

Continue straight at 3-way junction with the Sluice Box Trail. Look north for a peek at gulch-top houses before the trail ducks into the woods.


Location: 39.714349, -105.234234

Cross the wooden bridge to enter the Enchanted Forest. A rock path begins the steep climb through the trees.


Location: 39.712034, -105.235151

The trail winds along the hillside and dips down to a tiny footbridge.


Location: 39.713164, -105.238759

The trail leaves the forest briefly and skirts a property line fence below several private residences.


Location: 39.717322, -105.248302

At mile 2.9, the Enchanted Forest Trail tops out and re-joins the Apex Trail. Go straight at the 3-way junction, heading back downhill and into Apex Gulch. Turning left here heads uphill toward Lookout Mountain.


Location: 39.717481, -105.247739

This sign and bridge near the western edge of the route marks mile 3 and the beginning of the long downhill back toward the trailhead.


Location: 39.715729, -105.211505

Trailside signs explain the history of the nearby town of Golden, CO.


Location: 39.716139, -105.209836

The map kiosk at the lower trailhead. There are picnic tables and a porta-poti nearby too.


Location: 39.716123, -105.209879

Though not luxurious, the lower trailhead has a wheelchair accessible toilet.


Location: 39.715807, -105.211325

The turnoff for the Apex Trail is an obvious left-hand path.


Location: 39.71388, -105.214836

The trail climbs gently uphill from the trailhead toward Apex Gulch.

Trail Sign

Location: 39.712143, -105.219176

The Pitch and Sledge Trail heads uphill, out of the gulch, and gets more direct sunlight. It might be a good choice for winter hiking when the shady Apex Trail can be icy.


Location: 39.712287, -105.228564

The trail through Apex Gulch is in the shadow of surrounding hillsides.


Location: 39.71336, -105.234336

Open understory and dense trees combine for an eerie walk through the Enchanted Forest.

Toll Sign

Location: 39.717493, -105.247692

Signs explain some of the trail's history as an old toll road.