Looking for a remote hiking trail in Douglas County? The Ringtail Trail offers a forest-to-foothills trail from the Pike National Forest to Roxborough State Park.
Douglas County says the trail is 7.2 miles. However, to access the trail, you have to hike 1.6 miles from Indian Creek, 2.5 miles from Roxborough or 4.5 miles from Sharptail Ridge. We decided to create the shortest hike possible, using the Indian Creek and Roxborough trailheads.
Starting the hike at Roxborough creates a hike with about 1,800 feet of elevation gain, but starting at Indian Creek creates a hike with about 900 feet of elevation gain. We decided to start at Indian Creek.
From the parking lot next to Highway 67 (directions below), you’ll see there are several trail options — the campground to the east, the equestrian campground to the west and a trail in the middle of the both. A small sign for Indian Creek Trail #800 is on the trail in the middle, so we went that way.
Take just a couple steps on this trail and you’re in the forest. The single-track trail winds through the trees turning north, then west and back again. At times, the trail gets a little steep, but it never lasts more than a few steps. For the most part, it’s a steady gain.
The trail twists and turns as it heads mainly north. There are a few bends where you may have a stream crossing.
Suddenly, the trees opened up and we found ourselves in an open meadow with trails leading in five directions. After some exploring, we determined only two of the trails had signs. The road-like trail to the north (left) is the continuation of the Indian Creek Trail (signed). The single-track trail almost directly ahead is the Ringtail Trail (signed). The road to the right (heading downhill) is the way back to the Indian Creek Campground. The trail we came up was the Indian Creek Trail and we had no idea what the 5th turnoff was.
When we looked at the sign for the Ringtail Trail, we were surprised it said the trail was 6.1 miles. The Douglas County website says it’s 7.2 miles. My GPS registered about 1.5 miles from Indian Creek. 7.2 miles minus the access of 1.5 miles doesn’t equal 6.1, so I’m not sure why the sign says 6.1, but I was hopeful that meant the hike would be shorter than expected.
The Ringtail Trail is much like the Indian Creek Trail except the forest seems to be even more dense up here. Hike up the single-track trail as it winds through the forest and shrubs. After about 0.3 miles, in the winter, there’s a nice overlook up here, but after a wet spring, the view was mostly blocked by the vegetation.
After climbing to about 8,000 feet in elevation, the trail begins going up and down, with mainly downs over the next 5.7 miles. The vegetation is so lush in this area, we even ran into an area of ferns about 4.1 miles from the trailhead.
At 4.3 miles from the trailhead, we came to a sign that said we were entering the Pike Hill Open Space. The sign says it’s 3.3 miles to the Swallowtail Trail. That’s the north terminus of the Ringtail Tail. However, there’s 2.3 miles after that to the Roxborough Trailhead.
While this sign seems like a good place to stop and take a break, I recommend hiking just a short distance further to a turn-off to an old cabin. The cabin was likely one or two rooms and there are still the remnants of at least one bed and table inside. I recommend looking at the cabin from the doorways and windows because the floor inside is starting to deteriorate.
Back on the main trail, it’s another 1.3 miles to an area where the forest opens up and you’ll find yourself hiking on a ridge with a view. This is also where the forest turns from thick trees to more gamble oaks. There’s even a turnoff for a short trail to a picnic table and view spot. Because of the length of our hike, we didn’t take the spur trail, we just kept going.
At 5.8 miles from the trailhead, you’ll cross over a ridge from the Indian Creek area to the Roxborough side. From this vantage point at 7,080 feet you’ll see the Roxborough Valley including the red rock formations and neighborhood in the distance. Enjoy the views as you hike down into the Swallowtail Open Space, coming to the start of Swallowtail Trail and the end of the Ringtail Trail at 7.5 miles.
The Swallowtail Loops are a pleasant trail if you want a few more miles or just follow the arrows for County Road 5 and Roxborough State Park. The most direct route of the Swallowtail Trail winds through a meadow, a forest and more meadows as it gets closer to that interesting rock formation that is the icon of the open space park.
Near the rock formation, there’s another trail split. Turn left, again following the arrows for County Road 5 and Roxborough State Park. The trail winds about another half mile to County Road 5. Here’s where it gets a bit confusing.
Exit the fence and walk onto the wide, dirt road that is County Road 5. Turn right (downhill) and follow the road as it bends to the left. (If you turn right at the bend, you’ll go through a gate to the fire evacuation road. If you go straight at the bend, you’ll end up on the Sharptail Ridge Trail.)
County Road 5 heads downhill toward Roxborough State Park passing several structures and old homes.
At 9.25 miles from the start of the hike, watch for an important turnoff. To your left, a sign says Carpenter Peak. To your right, a sign says Visitor Center 0.6 miles – that’s your trail. Take this trail through the meadows and oaks back to the Visitor Center and the parking lot.
Details: The one-way hike from Indian Creek to Roxborough State Park is about 9.9 miles with 940 feet of elevation gain and about 1,800 feet of elevation loss.
Find more Douglas County hiking trails and more Colorado hikes in this list of 400+ Colorado hiking trails.
Directions to Roxborough State Park: From C-470, take Wadsworth south past Chatfield State Park. Turn left on Waterton Road (just before the entrance to Lockheed Martin.) Continue on Waterton Road until it ends at North Rampart Range Road. Turn right (south) on North Rampart Range Road. After 2.3 miles, you’ll see the entrance to Roxborough State Park on your left, just before the entrance to Arrowhead golf course.
Directions to Indian Creek: From Denver, take C-470 to Santa Fe (U.S. 85) and turn south. In Sedalia, turn west on Highway 67 and drive 10.3 miles to the trailhead on your right.