RMNP from Raccoon Trail

Hiking Trails in Colorado | Raccoon Trail

Trail Information

Trail Name: Raccoon TrailHiking Trails in Colorado | Raccoon Trail

Location: Golden Gate Canyon State Park, Colorado

Date: December 29, 2019

Time at the Trail Head: 1:30 pm

Trail Length: 4.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 754 feet

Elev. at Trail Head: 9,137 feet

# of Hikers Passed: 7

# of Mnt. Bikers Passed: 0

# of Horses Passed: 0

Mosquitoes: 0

Trail Research

I was at a meeting recently when someone told me about one of their favorite trails in the Front Range in Colorado. They told me about Golden Gate Canyon State Park.

All Trails Map | Raccoon Trail

After some quick research on the state park, I noticed there were probably 20 or more trails to choose from. After consulting with both of my kids, we opted for the 4.0 mile Raccoon trail.

It had snowed about 6 inches or more in the last two days so we knew there would be fresh snow on the ground plus the forecast was for 15 degrees F for the day. I briefly thought about sleeping in and staying warm by the fire but we opted to get out and enjoy the Rocky Mountains.

Drive to the Trail

We got a late start on the trail but I figured that would be fine as the temperature would not get above 15 degrees F for the day, so I didn’t think the trail would be crowded with hikers.

It was a beautiful drive through Denver, into Golden and then on to the Golden Gate Canyon State Park.

Golden Gate Canyon Road to the State Park

We had to be careful on the drive as there was still some significant snow and ice in the shade of the mountains from the recent snow fall.

The drive on Golden Gate Canyon Road was relaxing and beautiful. The snow was fresh and most of the pine tress still had snow in their branches.

Golden Gate Canyon Road to the State Park

We reached the turn off into Golden Gate Canyon Park but the entrance was closed. After closer inspection, we could see that Colorado State Highway 57 was close to another park entrance so we decided to drive on further and try it.

After reaching the turnoff, we were rewarded with an open park entrance and the trailhead to the Raccoon trail.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park | Raccoon Trailhead

My Day on the Trail

It was a gorgeous day, except for the 12 degree F temperatures. I was wondering how well our dog Ranger would do and it didn’t take long for us to realize he needed to go back to the SUV. Fortunately for me and my kids, Caleb and Grace, we had brought along face masks or face warmers, which made a tremendous difference.

Seirus Ultra Clava Facemask

We thought it wasn’t that cold until we took of our face masks off and about froze right there on the trail.

Seirus Innovation 2885 Polartec Ultra Clava for Complete Head, Face, and Neck Protection - Breathable Windproof Waterproof - TOP SELLER, Black, Small/Medium
  • POLARTEC FLEECE - Provides a thermal insulation with proven durability, lightweight warmth and fast drying characteristics. A versatile combination for all cold weather activity
  • WINDPROOF AND WATERPROOF - Seirus exclusive Weathershild tri-laminate fabric keeps you warm in the coldest, wettest conditions
  • COMFORTABLE - Weatherproof combination of Lycra outer and Fleece inner with a wicking lining keeps your skin dry
  • 4-WAY STRETCH - Will stretch to fit over goggles and central breathing holes provide increased ventilation
  • VERSATILE - 3-in-1 Ultra Clava can be worn as a face mask, neck gator, full hood, or a combination of these

Hiking the Raccoon Trail

The trail has at least 6 inches if not a foot of fresh snow but many hikers with snowshoes had been before us so the trail was packed down pretty good. We put our ICETrekkers on and pulled out our Leki Trekking Poles and that was good enough for today’s hike but there were a few places we were thinking snowshoes would have been helpful.

It was nice that the trail is extremely well-marked, even in the snow, so we were never lost on the Raccoon Trail.

We were only about 1/4 mile down the trail when Ranger started limping and holding up a paw, then he tried to turn around several times and head back to the SUV. Ranger loves the snow but he likes it better when it’s around 30 degrees F, not 12 degrees.

Grace decided to take Ranger back to the SUV as she didn’t have the right boots on for this hiking trip. She has great boots but they vented, even though they are waterproof. They are hiking boots that are best used in the Spring, Summer and Fall, not the dead of winter.

Ranger on the Raccoon Trail

So much for two of our hiking buddies. Grace gets out a lot with her Search and Rescue team so she was happy to stay in the SUV with Ranger and read a great book, while surrounded by gorgeous scenery.

Well, Caleb and I decided to head farther along trail, looking for some great photo and video opportunities and it wasn’t long before we were rewarded with many.

Raccoon Trail | Golden Gate Canyon State Park, ColoradoRaccoon Trail | Golden Gate Canyon State Park, ColoradoRaccoon Trail | Golden Gate Canyon State Park, Colorado

Soon we came upon a less traveled section of the trail and this is where we wished we had some snowshoes.

Raccoon Trail | Snowshoes Recommended

We have done some preliminary research and have settled on the MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes, which are some of the highest rated, meant for more mountainous terrain, but are also some of the most expensive.

MSR Lightning Ascent Backcountry & Mountaineering Snowshoes with Paragon Bindings, 25 Inch Pair, Cobalt Blue
  • Ultralight (4.33 lbs) technical snowshoes with superior traction for mountaineering, aggressive backcountry pursuits, and rugged terrain
  • 360-degree Traction Frames deliver edge-to-edge grip, especially on traverses, while durable steel DTX crampons provide serious bite on alpine steeps
  • Paragon bindings feature a one-piece contouring strap that wraps securely around boots, for a glove-like feel that eliminates rigid pressure points, and provides easy alignment and foot control
  • Ergo Televator heel lift bar flips up to increase uphill efficiency, provide help on steep ascents, and reduce fatigue
  • Snowshoes measure 8 x 25 inches, weigh 4.33 pounds/pair, and can carry up to a 220-pound load; bindings fit men’s shoes sizes 4.5-15; made in the USA

 

Note: Every hiker we saw on the first section of the Raccoon Trail had snowshoes on.

Eventually, we started climbing on the Raccoon trail and were rewarded with some beautiful views of the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and Longs Peak.

Rocky Mountain National Park | RMNP

You can see Long’s Peak on the right side of the next photograph.

Rocky Mountain National Park | Long's Peak

We were near the high point of the Raccoon trail now and had come upon a Lookout or Viewing Area. It provided some easy access of a park road, which was open, for those who want to drive to a beautiful view, rather than hike to it.

Raccoon Trail | Panorama PointRaccoon Trail | Panorama PointRaccoon Trail | Panorama Point

I believe they call this Panorama Point.

Lastly, here is a photograph of the four freezing hiking buddies from left to right. Grace, Rick, Caleb and Ranger below.

Raccoon Trail | Grace - Rick - Caleb & Ranger

It was a stunning day on the Raccoon Trail, but make sure your ready for anything, including freezing temperatures.

Trail Recommendations

The Golden Gate Canyon State Park in Colorado had many trails and breath taking views. The hard part will be picking which trail you wan to hike.

The few things you need on any Colorado trail in the winter are:

  1. Great (warm) waterproof hiking boots
  2. ICETrekkers
  3. Trekking Poles
  4. Snowshoes
  5. Warm clothing (layered)
  6. Face Mask or Warmer

I highly recommend the Seirus Ultra Clava breathable hood. It is a thicker material that keeps you warm but not so much that it causes you to sweat. It has a breathable mask with nose ventilation and I didn’t realize how warm in kept me in 15 degree F temperatures until I took it off and about froze to death (slight exaggeration).

Seirus Ultra Clava Breathable Hood

There are other things, such as matches, in case you get lost and stuck out overnight, but this list can go on and on.

We loved this trail and the area and will be going back to it again, in the winter and summer.

Check out this short video of the Raccoon trail on YouTube.

I would love to know if you have had any experience on this trail or have other trails you love to hike. Leave a Comment Below or send me an Email.

 

Return to Home Page

Raccoon Trail

8.8

Scenic Drive

10.0/10

Accessibility

9.0/10

Mountain Views

10.0/10

Lake or Stream Views

5.0/10

Well Maintained Trails

10.0/10

Pros

  • Stunning Views of RMNP
  • Well Marked Trails
  • Excellent Bathroom Facilities
  • Lookout Vantage Points
  • Variety of Trails to Choose From

Cons

  • Harder to Reach in the Winter

8 thoughts on “Hiking Trails in Colorado | Raccoon Trail”

  1. Thanks a lot for such an amazing review about Hiking Trails in Colorado Raccoon Trail and explanation are given

    I’ve been wanting to climb these mountains for a long time. I have been searching for an article for a long time about this but I did not find much on the internet and if I found it was very poorly explained. When I came to this site I found out everything I needed

    Thanks again for this post. If you don’t mind, I will share this article on my social media account. Good luck!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing the article. I’m glad you liked it and the style and information provided.

      I love taking these hikes with family and friends and then sharing them with everyone else.

      Let me know if you have any trails you like or would like for me to check out.

      Rick

  2. Hi there and thanks for your informative and timely article.

    We’re absolutely into hiking and I love that you’ve covered so much – even the level of mosquitoes!

    I see that you have pictured your dog in your review and wonder whether this is generally accepted; many national parks ban dogs so we find ourselves limited in the trails we can take. 

    Also, would you recommend this trail for kids under 10? Ours are pretty used to hiking but we don’t want them to have an awful experience and hate hiking in the future.

    1. We take Ranger hiking a lot and have not seen a trail yet that didn’t allow dogs (but that may not apply to the National Parks). However, the 12 degree F temperatures was too cold for him and my daughter had to take him back to the SUV after about only 1/8 mile on the trail.

      The Rocky Mountain National Park allows pets in the camp grounds but not on the trails and where they area allowed, they have to be on a leash. (This is not a problem for us as we hardly ever hike in the national parks). We hike in the national forests, open areas, state parks, etc. When we do hike in the National Parks, we leave the dogs at home.

      The Raccoon trail would be perfect for young children in the summers but I would be careful in the winter, unless they are use to the altitude and are in shape. I saw a family with three young children about 10 years old but they all had great cold weather gear and snowshoes, so they all seemed to be having a great time. (Dogs are allowed in all of the state parks I have visited).

      I would try trails in the Denver, Boulder or Colorado Springs area to start with or an easier trail at higher altitudes and make sure you don’t overdue it so the kids have a great time. If you’re hiking in warmer weather then you probably don’t have to worry much about your children.

      Rick

  3. Hi Rick! Interesting hiking trails. I can see a lot of good photos of you that come with amazing views and great skiing. I have never been there, but if I had the chance I would definitely try it.
    Besides Ultra Clava that you recommend plus a several items mentioned. Is it necessary to prepare for physical health? Because of the 9 thousand feet ++ trail head?  

    By the way, when will be the best time to go up there? Spring, Summer or Autumn? Does it snowy during that season? or do you have any suggestion?
    And another thing, can I reach the area without using an SUV?
    Thanks Rick!

    1. Thanks for all of the great questions. Let me answer them one at a time.

      1. If you’re not use the altitude then I would start with a few trails in the Denver area at the 5,000 and 6,000 foot elevation. My sister came and visited in October and after about 5 days of hiking there, she was able to handle the altitude much better.

      2. I would recommend the summer and early fall to visit. The summer may be the best time and also the warmest but seeing the aspens turn yellow in October is a special treat. It normally doesn’t snow until late October or early November but it depends on the year. Last year didn’t get as much snow but this year it’s snowing a lot.

      3. You can reach a lot of the areas without a 4 wheel drive but it depends on the snow fall and when the storms hit. There are a lot of snow plows in Colorado and they clear the roads quickly. There are new chain laws in Colorado so you need to be prepared for that. I would be careful about venturing to far out with out a 4 wheel drive, all wheel drive and chains but you could have reached the Raccoon trail in a 2-wheel drive and without chains on the trip we just took.

      Note: A lot of high altitude roads, especially the fire access roads and national forest or park roads are closed in the winter so it’s best to check those out before hitting the road. I have been stopped on several hiking trips due to closed roads. The main roads, interstates, highways, state highways and county roads will remain open but may be best driven with a 4-wheel drive, when it snows. The Denver and Colorado Springs areas my need 4-wheel at times, but if you wait for the snow plows then any 2-wheel drive will work any time.

      Feel free to ask any other questions if you think of any more.

      Rick

  4. This is a nice review of Raccoon Trail. It really has a lot of great views with some nice spots for awesome shots.

    Particularly, I’ve used the MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes when I visited the Herman Gulch Trail and it’s been great so far. The awesomeness about the product was that the teeth on the frame was very helpful to prevent sliding.

    Many in my group had snowshoes with round frame with no extra grip and they were having issues sliding on hills, while I had no issues at all because of the extra traction provided. The opening on the front of the snowshoes also kept any snow from accumulating on the front of the snowshoe like others in my group experienced.

    And I like the tips you outlined to have in mind when hiking in the winter. This can be a good trail to try out.

    1. Hey Kell, thanks for sharing your experience with the MSR Lightning Ascent. I am definitely getting the Lightning Ascent for my daughter as she is on the Gunnison Mountain Rescue team and they need great gear and never know where they will be called out to.

      I’m sure I will getting them for my son and I also, but I need to set some money aside first.

      I’m glad you liked the tips about hiking in the winter. I would like to add one more tip. Always take a Satellite Messenger with you that has an S.O.S. function so you can call for help if you end up in a life-threatening situation.

      Rick

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