Did you know Colorado was almost home to the western White House? The cornerstone was even installed on a hill above Morrison in Jefferson County and you can hike to the spot.
The story starts in the early 1900’s. John Brisben Walker made a fortune on land speculation in West Virginia and his purchase of Cosmo Magazine. He bought over 4,000 acres of land in what is now Jefferson County. Walker built a beautiful stone castle for himself and his wife.
Then he decided to build a summer home for the Presidents of the United States on a ridge to the east of his home. Thousands of school children in Colorado each donated 10 cents to Walker’s dream. A marble cornerstone with the words “Summer Home for the Presidents of the United States, gift from the People of Colorado, 1911” was laid out and construction began.
But America got involved in World War I and due to a lack of money the project near went very far. Then Walker’s wife died and his own castle caught on fire.
Now hikers can step back in time to the early 1900’s. Mount Falcon, a Jefferson County Open Space Park is home to both the ruins of Walker’s stone home and the cornerstone to the Western White House.
There are two ways to hike to the ruins. Read about the hike from the west trailhead here. The hike from the east trailhead is longer and harder and a great workout (directions below).
From the parking lot, grab a map at the sign board and take the only trail here — the dirt path between the sign board and the bathrooms. Hike about a tenth of a mile to a trail split for the Castle Trail and the Turkey Trot Trail. I recommend taking the Turkey Trot Trail up and the Castle Trail down, creating a loop. The Turkey Troy Trail is hiker-only, so you won’t have to deal with any bikers as you hike up the steep-at-times trail.
The Turkey Trot Trail winds through the foothills with some great views of Red Rocks Amphitheater. The trail always feels tough to me. While it’s never really steep, it does have a steady gain most of the way — gaining 800 feet in 1.7 miles. If you come in winter, expect lots of snow and icy patches because sections of this trail wind through the forest.
After hiking 1.8 miles from the parking lot, the Turkey Trot Trail ends at the Castle Trail. Now it’s decision time:
- Have you had enough? Then head down the Castle Trail for a 3-mile loop.
- Do you want more? The head up hill on the Castle Trail.
About 0.3 miles from the trail split is a nice overlook. Enjoy the far-reaching views of the city and the Eastern Plains beyond.
The Castle Trail continues winding up the foothills. At times, the trail is in the trees. At times, the trail goes through meadows. From the last trail split to a picnic shelter at the top of the hill is just 0.8 miles, but the trail gains another 700 feet.
At the top, take break at the picnic shelter. Have a seat and enjoy the views below you. When you’re ready for a little more, continue on the Castle Trail to the turnoff for Walker’s Dream Trail. That will lead you to the western White House cornerstone and a sign explaining the story behind this dream.
There are more trails to explore at the top. Get a park map here. Find more Jefferson County Open Space hikes and Colorado hiking trails here. Don’t miss any of my trip reports, sign up for an email alert by clicking on subscribe at the bottom of this article.
Details: the hike up to the western White House and back is about 6.25 miles with 1500 feet of elevation gain.
Directions: Google 3852 Vine St. in Morrison for directions to the east trailhead.