If there’s one thing I like about the winter its that there’s more holiday time involved, which means more time to get out and do things! This year I decided to use my holiday time off to get outside and enjoy the crisp winter air.
Mount Falcon Park is managed by Jefferson County and has some great trails for being so close to Denver. I usually hit up this park in the transitional months when getting up to the high country is a little more difficult. I’ve hiked the main loop that takes you from the west parking lot past the old lookout towers, but I never made the hike up to check out the Summer White House.
So with an entire day to kill and the sun shining overhead, I loaded up my bag and hit the trail. I was a little worried about the trail conditions considering that I still don’t own a pair of microspikes (I seriously need to do something about this, anyone have any recommendations?) but luckily on this day the snow was all packed down and easy to walk on. I love my boots, but I swear once I get on ice those puppies might as well be roller skates.
The Castle Trail is the main artery through the park and leads you to its main feature, the Walker Castle ruins. From the west parking lot the trail is nice and wide and generally flat, not really a whole lot of incline to tackle on this section. Which to tell the truth, I was completely okay with, I love tackling mountains but today I mainly just wanted to take it easy and enjoy the day off.
After some easy hiking you soon come to John Brisben Walker’s estate. Walker was a rags-to-riches story who eventually bought up all the land from Red Rocks to Mount Falcon. It was here where he built a magnificent home for his wife and family. Sadly the house burned down, some think a lightning strike was the cause, but all that remains are the stone walls and the foundation.
There’s one thing I will say, the view from his living room must have been spectacular. Dude sure knew how to pick out a place for a home.
From here I continued on, the trail map indicated that the Summer White House site was only 0.8 miles away. Less than a mile??? *Scoff* Piece of cake.
The entire way you are treated to amazing views both to the east and to the west. Shockingly I think I only encountered three other groups on this day, but hey, more trail for me! Eventually you reach a picnic shelter overlooking Denver and a spur that leads you up the Walker’s Dream Trail and the site of the Summer White House. Ahh… clever name, Jeffco Open Space, clever indeed.
John Brisben Walker was a bit of an innovator. The guy built Denver’s first amusement park by present day Union Station, he erected a hotel and casino in Morrison, and was responsible for the creation of Red Rock Park & Amphitheater! Many thanks, ol’ John, there are plenty of people here in Denver and Colorado that are appreciative of your vision.
He even had plans to build a summer retreat for President Woodrow Wilson on his land on Mount Falcon. He recruited prominent Denver architect Jules Jacques Benois Benedict to design a grand castle for the Commander-In-Chief, modeled after the castle built by King Ludwig of Bavaria. If you do this hike, definitely stop to check out the interpretive sign, they have photo’s of the architect’s illustrations. That castle would have been one massive palace, that’s for sure.
Despite his best efforts, the castle only got as far as the foundation and the cornerstone. World War I broke out and the funds moved toward fighting the Kaiser. Still though, the man had vision, eh?
I spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the view from the top of Mount Falcon, the hike is definitely worth the reward I will say that much. Jefferson County was even kind enough to build a log bench up there, smart thinkin’, Jeffco. *fist bump*
With the day starting to come to a close and with the temperature rapidly dropping I hustled back to the parking lot. Thankfully my camera had juuuust enough juice to snap off some sunset photos. Those low digit temps can suck your batteries quick that’s for sure.
Anyway, next time you’re looking for a hike close to Denver I would highly suggest you check out Mount Falcon Park, you won’t be disappointed.
Interested in doing this hike? Check out the trail profile here at The Outbound to get directions as well as things to know for your adventure. As always, when entering the wilderness, be prepared for the elements and follow Leave No Trace principles. Learn more about Leave No Trace Ethics here.