Looking for a steep, challenging workout without driving to the mountains? Head for White Ranch Park in Golden. Combining the Belcher Hill and Mustang Trails creates a hike of 8.7 miles with 2,000 feet of elevation gain.
The hike starts at the eastern trailhead of Highway 93 and 56th Avenue (directions below). The trailhead has a bathroom, sign board and maps. There’s just one trail here – the Belcher Hill Trail. Walk the path to the White Ranch sign, go through a gate and head downhill to a second gate. Sometimes there are horses wandering in this area, so be careful. Go through a second gate and take the dirt path that wanders through the rocks and trees. A short distance away, the path straightens out and follows a creek west to the foothills.
About 0.6 miles from the trailhead, the trail takes a 180-degree turn and drops down to the creek. Cross a bridge and begin the climb up to the first trail split.
About 1.15 miles from the trailhead is the turn-off for the Whippletree Trail. It’s easy to miss, but that’s OK because you’re staying on the Belcher Hill Trail. This next section gets pretty rocky and it’s also steep at times. At 1.9 miles, you’ll pass the turnoff for the Longhorn Trail and keep climbing up.
Hikers finally reach the Mustang Trail turn-off 2.4 miles from the trailhead. At this point, you’ll have gained 1,000 feet. There’s a bench here, if you’d like to take a break, then take the Mustang Trail.
Jefferson County Open space describes the Mustang Trail as a “steep, challenging trail” and it is, but it starts with some rolling hills. You’ll hike down and up a few times as the trail winds around the south side of the open space property. There are sections of trees and sections of meadows. When the trail turns south, look east and try to get a glimpse of Denver in the distance.
After hiking about 1.1 miles of the Mustang Trail, you may spot the remains of two collapsed buildings. A small one on the right, a larger one on the left. Both are now just a pile of wood, but it’s fun to make up your own stories about what might have been here. people have lived in the White ranch area since homesteaders first arrived in 1865. Read about the property’s homesteading, ranching and mining history here.
About a third of a mile later, the Mustang Trail enters a forested gulley or canyon-like area. The trail gets steeper, but take your time and enjoy the change of scenery. You’ll cross a bridge and hike up some wood planks placed here to here bikers and hikers on the steep terrain.
After hiking the Mustang Trail for two miles, you’ll come to a trail split. If you’ve had enough of a workout, you can turn right here and take the Sawmill Trail back to the Belcher Hill Trail. However, if you can push yourself a little more, the Mustang Trail isn’t done yet. There’s another 0.4 miles and 271 feet of gain to the top of the hill where the trail ends at Belcher Hill.
Note, the Belcher Hill Trail goes west and east here. If you go west, you can create a longer loop. At this point, you’ve hiked 4.9 and climbed nearly 1,900 feet in elevation — so this is a good time to turn east and head back toward the trailhead.
The Belcher Hill Trail winds through the forest and meadows, passing the Sawmill Trail, Maverick Trail, Round-Up Trail and the Mustang Trail where you turned off earlier as it heads back down the hill to the parking lot.
Details: The Belcher Hill-Mustang-Belcher Hill loop is 8.7 miles with 1,950 feet of elevation gain.
Looking for a shorter hike? Consider the Longhorn Trail, the Rawhide Loop or the Maverick/Sawmill trails. Get a park map and learn more about the park here. Find more hikes in Golden, Jefferson County Open Space hikes and Colorado hikes in this list of 400+ trails. Don’t miss any of my trip reports, sign up for an email alert by clicking on subscribe at the bottom of this article and follow me on Facebook.
Directions: From Highway 93/58/6 in Golden, take Highway 93 north. 3.1 miles to 56th Avenue. Turn west. Drive 1.1 miles to Pine Ridge Road. Turn right and drive into the large parking lot.