Cultural Resources Goshawk Ridge Historic Trek
This area has long been cherished by nature lovers for its variety of wildlife, abundant wildflowers and precious solitude....but it also holds a treasure trove of resources through which we can learn much about our history. This 1.2 mile trail was completed in January 2009 and affords a great chance to enjoy both natural and cultural resources!
Trailhead: This trail can be accessed from several points, including Flatirons Vista and Doudy Draw Trailheads. The most direct route is from the Fowler Trail access at the end of Boulder County Road 67. To get there, drive about three miles south on Eldorado Springs Drive from the intersection with Highway 93. Turn left at BCR 67 and follow the dirt road until it ends. There are only a few spots along the side of the road to park so you may need to start your hike at one of the other two trailheads.
Distance: 3.1 miles round trip from Fowler Trail access; 8 miles round trip from Doudy Draw trailhead; 9.5 miles round trip from Flatirons Vista Trailhead.
Difficulty: Moderate. Make sure to take water and sunscreen as the trail is mostly exposed to the sun.
Amenities: There are no amenities at the Fowler Trail access. Amenities at Flatirons Vista and Doudy Draw include restrooms and horse trailer parking.
Know before you go: The Goshawk Ridge Trail is within the Eldorado Mountain Habitat Conservation Area (HCA), meaning hikers must stay on trail unless they have an Off-Trail Permit. Although this trail can be accessed by multi-use trails, dogs and mountain bikes are not allowed on the 1.2 miles of the Goshawk Ridge Trail. Mountain bikers who would like to take the hike may do so by walking their bike along the trail. Horseback riders are allowed but must stay on trail (horse trailer parking is available at both Doudy Draw and Flatirons Vista Trailheads).
History: Hikers can learn about a range of topics important to Colorado including geology, city development, railroads, agriculture and recreation.
Let's start hiking!
For the purpose of this cultural resources hike, directions begin at the Fowler Trail access at the end of Boulder County Road 67. Through the gate, you will see a regulation board at the beginning of the Fowler Trail. The trail, which is actually a gravel road, climbs steadily but at a moderate grade for about a mile. When you reach the intersection of the Spring Brook North and Fowler Trails, turn left (south) and proceed up the Spring Brook North trail.
Just as you begin uphill on Spring Brook North, make sure you watch for the "ripple rocks" on the right (west) side of the road. These are actually exposed cliffs of Dakota Sandstone. 100 millions years ago, this area was a sandy beach and waves caused the ripples in the sand. Herds of dinosaurs trod these sands, leaving footprints still visible near Dinosaur Ridge near Golden, Colo. Over time, the land subsided and the beach was swallowed by a sea that once stretched across North America from the Gulf of Mexico to the Hudson Bay. Please admire these fascinating walls and capture them with your camera, but remember that artifact collection on city land is prohibited by city ordinance.
Continue up this trail until you reach the Denver Water Board Canal. You will see the new bridge over the canal to your right (west). After crossing the bridge, you are officially on the Goshawk Ridge Trail! This new trail was completed in January 2009.
The trail begins to climb gently into a beautiful ecotone where Ponderosa pines and cactus coexist. A few yards from the canal brings you to some interesting stones in the ground near the trail. If you look closely, you can see that they were obviously placed there by humans. This is the location of one of the boundary lines of a planned townsite that was to be called "Forest Park." In 1907, this property was platted by the Traction Land Co. and stone alignments were laid out to mark the locations of the future streets. In fact, some streets were named, although the town never materialized. The company sold the land in 1918 to nearby rancher Richard Beasley.
From here the trail continues to meander in the beautiful Ponderosa pine forest until it begins to descend into Spring Brook. The gentle descent will take you right up to the ruins of a stone dugout. There are several in the area (don't forget though, that you are not allowed to veer off-trail in this HCA without a permit). Historians know this area as "Bob's Railroad Camp" (although I haven't found a reference explaining who Bob really was - if any reader sees this and knows, could you please get in touch with me?). There are remnants of a road bed which eventually connects with the railroad, leading us to believe the site was a construction camp for the railroad bed constructed circa 1900.
The new trail will take you, via newly constructed switchbacks, to the other side of Spring Brook and to an interesting feature. A small, stone lined pit will be on the left (west) side of the trail as you top the hill. The pit is believed to have been a well to provide water for the railroad workers.
Follow the trail as it leaves the Ponderosa forest and opens to a very pretty meadow.
In the spring and summer, this is a great spot to enjoy a wide variety of wildflowers and you will hear the calls birds all around you. The trail is fairly steep (downhill) for a short time, and then connects with what was once a railroad grade.
Coming up on your left (west) you may see the top of a buck and rail fence that protects the Red Rock Cola Cabin, so named for the metal signs used as roofing. This area used to be popular for running cattle, and it is believed that the cabin provided overnight shelter for herders in the 1920s and 30s.
At this point you are hiking north on the Fowler Trail, named for the family that ran the famous swimming pool in Eldorado Springs for several generations.
You can look down the canyon on your left and see the historic town. On a clear, hot summer day you may even be able to hear children playing in the pool! Eldorado Springs is now a small town at the entrance of Eldorado Springs State Park, but the swimming pool and several other historic buildings serve as reminders that this was once a very popular summer resort which attracted people from all over - including Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower who spent their honeymoon here. One of the town's most popular summer attractions was a circus daredevil named Ivy Baldwin who walked a tightrope over 500 feet above the canyon much to the delight of on-lookers!
As the trail proceeds down the hill, it leads you through a narrow cut in a rocky hogback. This cut is believed to have been made by investors who started construction on the Denver, Utah and Pacific Railroad in the early 1880s. David Moffat (of Moffat Tunnel fame) and crew laid about 2 miles of grade in his attempt to link South Boulder Creek to points farther west. You'll notice the cut in the rock is fairly narrow -- the grade was originally prepared for narrow gauge rail. At the time, narrow gauge was considered most suited for mountainous routes as trains required less room on the grade (thus less rock had to be moved) and could make steeper climbs than standard gauge. The project was scrapped in 1882, however, and sold to cover debt. That didn't keep David Moffat from building a railroad that would link the flatland of the east to the Rocky Mountains - what was originally known as the Moffat Road links Denver with California and is currently owned by Union Pacific. The tracks above Eldorado Springs now carry freight and passenger trains.
The trail will bring you back to the intersection of the Fowler and Spring Brook North Trails. Take the trail left (downhill) as it goes back to the Fowler Trailhead. You can turn right at Eldorado Springs Drive to head back in to Boulder, or turn left and go explore Eldorado Springs!