Eldorado Canyon State Park: The Complete Guide

Sign for Eldorado Canyon State Park

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

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Eldorado Canyon State Park

9 Kneale Rd, Eldorado Springs, CO 80025, USA
Phone +1 303-494-3943

Eldorado Canyon State Park boasts beautiful canyon scenery in a convenient location and has a rich history. The earliest signs of human activity date back to the Ute Indians who built their homes in the walls of the canyon and in the early-1900s, Eldorado Springs was turned into a luxury resort community that even drew celebrities. However, that was short-lived after a fire wiped out several of the hotels.

This is one of Colorado’s most impressive state parks, and because it offers so many great climbing routes and is a short drive from both Boulder and Denver, it is extremely popular and known for being quite crowded. Even if you don’t climb, there are still plenty of activities to enjoy here, such as picnics by the stream and hiking trails with dramatic views.

Things to Do

Climbing is the main attraction of the park, but there are also many hiking trails, some of which you can also go horseback riding or mountain biking on. Whether you spent the day climbing or just deserve a good soak, consider taking a dip in the nearby deep-blue hot springs pool, the closest hot springs to Boulder. The natural, artesian-spring-fed pool isn’t too hot, around 76 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 27 degrees Celsius), which makes it more appealing to families for a dip on a hot summer day.

Pack a lunch and spread out the blanket on South Boulder Creek for a scenic picnic. There are designated picnic spots in the park, which are first-come, first-serve. If you have a fishing license, you can fish in the creek, and in the winter, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are also common activities.

Eldorado Canyon

 Getty Images/Patrick Orton

Best Hikes & Trails

Eldorado Canyon State Park offers about 11 miles of trails of all levels, from easy to challenging and short to long. Some trails connect to the city of Boulder's trail system, providing a full day's worth of hiking entertainment and challenge. Different trails have different elevations, but you can typically expect between 6,000-7,000 feet above sea level. This is much higher than the 5,280-foot elevation in Denver so it may require some acclimatization.

  • Fowler Trail: This is an easy .9-mile one-way trail with great views and people-watching if you like to watch the daring rock-climbers do their thing. The Fowler Trail is the only fully wheelchair accessible trail in the park and also provides a great vantage point to watch the climbers.
  • Rattlesnake Gulch Trail: This trail is considered moderately difficult and travels 1.4 miles each way to one of the best historical sites in Eldorado Canyon State Park: the old Crag Hotel. This hotel, built in 1908, only ran for a few years (it burned down in 1912) but was considered a luxury destination for people at the turn of the century. It was accessible via an inclined railway from the canyon floor. You can also follow the trail past the ruins for about 0.8 miles, about 1,200 feet above the trailhead, to end at the Continental Divide Overlook, where you can see the point in North America where water flows in two different directions.
  • Eldorado Canyon Trail: Horses are allowed on this 3.5-mile trail that gains over 1,000 feet of elevation. It features a waterfall and can be snowshoed in the winter. Dogs are also allowed on this trail but must stay on a leash.
  • Streamside Trail: This half-mile trail is very easy, following the South Boulder Creek. The first 300 feet of the trail can be accessed by wheelchair users. It tends to be one of the busiest trails in the park but offers a great view of the canyon.
  • Crescent Meadows: This 2.5-mile trail looks out over the westward mountains and an open meadow that drops all the way down to the South Boulder Creek. From here, you can connect to the Boulder County Parks' Walker Ranch Loop, for a more difficult seven-mile loop hike.
Eldorado Canyon
Getty Images/John Kieffer 

Rock Climbing

Eldorado Canyon, Eldo for short, is considered one of the best places in Colorado to climb. It boasts over 500 different technical climbing routes. Here, you can find routes for different levels, but there are not as many beginner routes and only a few bolted "sport routes" in the canyon. Some of the cliffs jut up as high as 700 feet.

The canyon is known for its multi-pitch sandstone walls, intricate routes, irregular cracks, and more. Best to leave this to the climbers with experience, or book your climb through a tour company that can keep you safe. You'll have many climbs to choose from, such as the Bastille Crack, a 5.7-grade route that can be divided into the North and West face, and the Wind Ridge, a 5.6-grade route which is a good choice for intermediate climbers to test their skills. If you're a new climber or prefer to go with a guide, consider booking a tour with a climbing company like Colorado Mountain School.

Where to Stay Nearby

Despite the park's early history as a resort area, there are not many accommodation options near the park entrance of the town of Eldorado Springs. The best thing to do is to find a place to stay in Boulder, where you'll find a large selection of hotels to suit your travel style.

  • Hotel Boulderado: This downtown hotel was the first-ever luxury hotel in Boulder with a history dating back to the 1900s. The lobby even still has the original stained glass ceilings and a 1908-era elevator that still works.
  • St Julien Hotel & Spa: If you want to make sure you can rejuvenate your sore muscles after a long day of climbing, this grand hotel has a world-class spa that offers a variety of beauty and health treatments.
  • A-Lodge Boulder: This adventure-minded hotel is set up to facilitate any outdoor excitement your heart desires, including climbing excursions to Eldorado State Park.

How to Get There

The park is west of Boulder Eldorado Springs on CO-170. The state park is surrounded by Roosevelt National Forest to the west and mountains of the Front Range. The drive will take about 40 minutes from Denver and less than 20 minutes from Boulder.

From Boulder, take Broadway to CO-170. Then head west on CO-170. Take that for three miles through the town of Eldorado Springs. When you enter the state park, you will have to drive on a dirt road for about a mile through the canyon. You will cross a small bridge, too, but conditions are not extreme and you can follow the signs to the visitor center.

Tips for Your Visit

  • No overnight camping is allowed in the park. If you prefer to camp, you can find campgrounds at Golden Gate Canyon State Park which is just 30 miles south of Eldorado Canyon State Park.
  • The 885-acre Eldorado Canyon State Park has two different areas. The Inner Canyon is the more developed area, and Crescent Meadows is undeveloped.
  • Keep your eyes (and camera) ready for wildlife, even the big guys: black bears and mountain lions.
  • The visitor center is handicap-accessible with water and restrooms.
  • There are also restrooms near Supremacy Rock, as well as designated picnic sites available on a first-come, first-serve basis. You can use grills or cookstoves in the picnic areas.
  • Because the park is so convenient to get to, it's usually very busy. If you can avoid visiting Eldorado Canyon during the peak season (May through September on weekends), you'll avoid some of the crowds.
  • The parking lot quickly reaches capacity during peak season, and staff won't let you in if the lot is full; it's a one-out, one-in situation. To avoid congestion visit in the springtime or on weekdays.
  • The park opens at sunrise, so it's best to get there as early as possible if you want to secure a good parking spot.
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Eldorado Canyon State Park: The Complete Guide