If you enjoy an impressive mountain view, don’t miss Panorama Point at Golden Gate Canyon State Park. The park’s website says, “Panorama Point is famous for its views of 100 miles of the Continental Divide.”
Panorama Point also has two trails – the 9.1-mile Mule Deer Trail and the 2.5-mile Raccoon Trail. Because I had a beginner with me, I decided to try the Raccoon Trail. One warning though, while the Raccoon Trail is “only” 2.5 miles, it is not easy. When we finished, my beginner said the trek felt more like 10 miles. That may be because the hike/snowshoe starts downhill on an icy trail and ends with a 400-foot elevation gain.
We started our adventure by walking around on the Panorama Point deck, taking pictures of the view and reading the signs. When you’re done, it’s time to start the Raccoon Trail. However, you may notice signs for the Raccoon Trail on both sides of the main walkway to the viewpoint. Don’t worry, you can go either way. The two trails meet on the other side of the observation deck. If you take the trail on the right/east, it winds down to a second observation deck that may have fewer people than the big one up top.
Because you’re starting at the high point of the loop, the hike starts downhill. This trail can be icy so I highly recommend bringing poles and traction devices or snowshoes. If you come to a trail split near the start of the trek, you may notice the signs call this the Mule Deer/Raccoon Trail, that’s because the two trails use the same trail for the beginning of this snowshoe. Just follow the signs for Bootleg Bottom.
After a steep downhill, the trail winds through the forest, heading up and down, going southwest. About 0.7 miles from Panorama Point, you’ll come to another trail split. This is where the Mule Deer Trail to Bootleg Bottom splits off. You want to turn right and follow the Raccoon Trail toward Reverend’s Ridge campground.
After dropping more than 200 feet, this next section of the trail is very nice. While it’s still goingdownhill, it’s not steep. It’s a nice, pleasant, wide trail in the forest.
About 0.4 miles from that last turnoff, you’ll come to another trail split. Ignore the turnoff for the campground and stay on the main trail. You may see a sign here that points the way toward Panorama Point. You want to go that way.
Just a short distance away, the trail turns, crosses a stream and enters a meadow. Follow the trail through the meadow, back into the forest and begin your climb back up to the trailhead.
You’re going to gain about 400 feet of elevation in the next 1.1 miles so take it easy. If your hiking partners, or you, need a break, stop, enjoy the scenery and take some pictures.
About 0.4 miles from the trailhead, you’ll come to a confusing trail split. Just follow the arrows/signs to Panorama Point.
You may notice some road noise here, that’s because the trail is not very far from the road. But don’t worry, it doesn’t last long. Soon you reach one of my favorite sections of the trail — where the trail winds around a hillside through rocky outcroppings in the forest. When the trees open up, you’ll once again get that impressive view you saw from Panorama Point.
Soon the trail is back by the road again and a few steps later, the trail ends at Panorama Point, next to the bathroom in the parking lot.
Details: The Raccoon Trail is 2.5 miles with 500 feet of elevation gain.
Admission: Admission was $7 in 2015. Get the latest on admission fees on the Golden Gate Canyon State Park website.
There are lots of trails at GGCSP, for beginners, consider the Snowshoe Hare Loop or the Buffalo Trail to Forgotten Valley. Also in the park, don’t miss the Mountain Lion Trail to Forgotten Valley, the Windy Peak loop, and Frazier Meadows. Find more hikes at Colorado State Parks and across the state in this list of 200+ Colorado hiking trail. Don’t miss any of my trip reports, sign up for an email alert by clicking on subscribe at the top of this page and follow me on Facebook.
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, go back out to Golden Canyon State Park Road and turn right. Take Highway past Kriley Pond about five miles to Highway 119. Turn north (right) and drive about 3.3 miles to Gap Road/Gilpin Road 2. Turn right/west. A short distance away, veer right. Drive about 1.6 miles to the Panorama Point trailhead. If the trailhead is full, take Gap Road another 0.8 miles to another trailhead for the Mule Deer Trail, then hike the trail or the road up to Panorama Point. You can also try googling 2207 Gap Road for directions.