White Ranch Open Space Park near Golden is a rarity. It has two trailheads — one in the foothills and another at the base of the foothills.
The east entrance, near Golden, allows hikers to hike into the park. It’s a steep hike up, but hikers can get to the east parking lot faster and the hike provides a workout with a chance to get into the rolling foothills. From the east side parking lot, hikers use the Belcher Hill Trail to access the park.
The first section of the Belcher Hill Trail winds through a neighborhood of horse ranches and mansions. Go under the park sign, through a gate, over a road, through a second gate, then turn west in a rocky and sandy area under some trees. After you leave the trees, the trail continues west, along a mostly dry creekbed.
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 I recommend staying on the Belcher Hill Trail and getting most of the elevation gain out of the way. However, this next section of trail gets pretty rocky. It’s also steep at times as it gains another 300 feet in the next 0.7 miles to the turnoff for the Longhorn Trail.
The Longhorn Trail is a long trail that crosses the park, then goes west up a beautiful ravine to the main parking lots in the center of the park. However, for this hike, we’re only going to stay on the Longhorn Trail for 0.4 miles.
The Longhorn Trail starts with a short, steep climb. At the top of the hill, there’s a tree. While you see lots of trees when you hike in Colorado, the Belcher Hill Trail didn’t have many along the trail, so I like this spot. Take a moment and enjoy the view from up here. This is the high spot along the trail at about 6,900 feet.
Now the Longhorn Trail goes up and down as it winds toward the Shorthorn Trail. It’s 0.4 miles to the trail split. Turn right here and take the Longhorn Trail downhill. One warning, in the winter, this spot can be dangerously icy. This section of the Longhorn Trail is scenic and winds in and out of the trees as it drops about 425 feet in 0.7 miles.
About 2.9 miles from the start of this hike, the Longhorn Trail appears to dead end at a T. However, this is not the end of the Longhorn Trail. The Longhorn Trail actually turns left here, drops into a forested ravine, then climbs up to the center of the park. But, this is where we turn off and head back toward the parking lot.
Turning right puts us on the Whippletree Trail. The trail is just two-thirds of a mile, but it’s not easy. It has several ups and downs until it ends back at the Belcher Hill Trail. Now, turn left and head back down the trail you started on. It’s about 1.1 miles and a drop of 350 feet back to the trailhead, with a short climb at the very end, back to the parking lot.
Details: The hike up Belcher Hill to the Longhorn and Whippletree trails back to Belcher Hill is about 4.65 miles with 950 feet of elevation gain.
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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.