Looking at the map of Golden Gate Canyon State Park, you’ll see most of the trails have animals names, except three — the Quarry, Windy Peak and City Lights Ridge.
City Lights Ridge is a steep, one-mile spur trail with 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains, valleys and even the city lights, if you come at night.
The hike starts at the Bridge Creek Trailhead (directions below). Wander past the bathrooms, through the picnic area, over a bridge and follow the trail as it follows the creek for a short distance, then begins climbing the trail up the hill. The trail quickly gains 100 feet in elevation in just the first quarter mile, so the hike may be difficult for children.
Hikers follow the Burro Trail 0.75 miles to the Mountain Lion Trail. Turn left on the Mountain Lion Trail. The Mountain Lion Trail starts as a wide trail and quickly becomes an old Jeep road.
Pass the turnoff for the Burro Trail and continue straight ahead a short distance to the turnoff on your left for City Lights Ridge. At this point, you’ve hiked about a mile and gained about 300 feet in elevation. The hike is about to get harder.
City Lights Ridge starts in the trees, then passes through wide-open meadows with great views. As you hike up the ridge, there are views of the surrounding peaks above and the valleys below you. If you need to take a break, just find a rock to sit on while you take in the scenery.
The City Lights Ridge Trail is only about a half of a mile long, but because of the 500 foot elevation gain, it can take your breath away. Follow the trail as it winds to the top where it ends on a rocky outcropping. Now the views get even better.
Look north and you may spot a pond and some buildings below you, that’s the Tallman Ranch. The valley below you is Forgotten Valley. We’re going there next.
After taking in the views, head down the trail. Back at the main Mountain Lion Trail, turn left on the old Jeep Road. After the big climb to the top of the ridge, the Mountain Lion Trail drops a bit before climbing up to Forgotten Valley. It’s about a half mile to the the Tallman Ranch. You’ll know when you get there, because after hiking in the forest, suddenly the view opens up and you will see a large pond and several buildings in the distance. This is the Tallman Family Ranch.
In the 1870s, as Colorado was becoming a state, families from Sweden were settling in the valleys of this area, about 10 miles from the mining fields of Black Hawk and Central City. One of those families was Anders Tallman and his children. Tallman bought a one-room school house, moved it to this valley, added a porch and kitchen and had his home. Over the years, he added several buildings, two of which are still standing, along with the house.
A sign here explains some of the history of the buildings including how the family channeled the creek into their milk house to keep eggs, butter and milk cool and fresh.
While you can turn around here, it’s worth the short walk over to the ranch buildings. Hike just past the house to the barn and another structure. Then return to the main house. You can look in the windows, then have a seat on the porch. Enjoy a snack or lunch as you look over the same pond Andres Tallman looked at. According to the book, Walking Into Colorado’s Past, Tallman suffered a stroke in 1890, but would spend his days sitting on the porch with a gun shooting elk and deer that strayed into his potato field.
After you’ve explored, you can return the way you came or hike another two miles to Windy Peak.
Details: The hike to City Lights Ridge and Forgotten Valley is 4 miles roundtrip with about 1,000 feet of elevation gain. Add a little mileage to explore the ranch buildings.
Get trail maps, current admission fees and other information on the Golden Gate Canyon State Park website. At Golden Gate Canyon State Park, you may also want to visit Frazer Meadow, Horseshoe & Black Bear, Snowshoe Hare (including Dude’s Fishing Hole), the Buffalo Trail to Forgotten Valley, the Upper Mule Deer loop, the lower Mule Deer loop or the Raccoon Trail.
Find more hikes in Colorado State Parks in this of 400+ Colorado hiking trails.
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Directions: From Highway 93 In Golden, take Golden Gate Canyon State Park Road about 13 miles to Crawford Gulch Road. Turn right, then take the next right into the Visitor Center parking lot. After paying the entrance fee at the Visitor’s Center, take Crawford Gulch Road about 2 miles to the Bridge Creek Trailhead.