Sunday, October 2, 2011

Golden Gate Canyon Run

Saturday I thought of driving west for some aspen viewing near Vail/Minturn (either run at the ski resort or some of the trails at Holy Cross), then bounce around in towns the rest of the day relaxing, and come back late when the traffic thins.

However, as I drove over it was obvious the weather was not going to cooperate, so I turned around and went north on 119 to Golden Gate Canyon State Park, where skies were still partly blue.

I knew this park would have lots of fall color, and I had run there once before. All I can say is the trails I took were RUG-GED.

My GPS track in yellow

And the leaves were SPEC-TACULAR. You are now about to see way too many aspen images, because I took 332 photos, and I had a hard time choosing.

This is some nice trail running:

There are two main ridges on this route, with meadows in between. The trails in the meadows are pretty smooth, but the ones in the hills are pretty rugged, with constant ups and downs and rocks. I have a feeling this is not reflected in the corrected gain numbers on, so I included both at the bottom of the post.

This profile isn't to scale, but it gives you some idea of the terrain:

From my starting point at Bootleg Bottom (aid station 2 during the Dirty Thirty) I ran down to the Visitor's Center (center of profile) to fill my bottles and to check if the park or any of the gates close at a certain time. For example, Roxborough closes at 6 PM. Turns out Golden Gate doesn't close.

Then I ran back up to my car, starting with the 1,100 foot ascent from the road, passing some of the same hikers again. I hiked a fair amount myself on the way back up, but felt OK considering my lack of recent running.

Some of the trees near Bootleg Bottom were distinctly orange verging on red-orange. It probably had the most foliage variety of any spot on my run.

As you can see the weather went from sunny to overcast, and it started sprinkling right as I hit the parking lot at the end. Perfect timing.

This is from Panorama Point on the northwest side of the park. The sunset was lighting up the undersides of the swirling storm clouds:

I took Gap Road back, which I didn't even know existed, and leads into Coal Creek Canyon (Highway 72). It's a quick way to the west side of the park if you're coming from the east.

Distance: 11.46 miles, moving time 2:39 (total 4:11!), elevation gain 2,669/3,271 feet (corrected/uncorrected).

I don't know how anyone raced 30 miles over this under 5 hours, it's ridiculous. I'm going to have to eat my Wheaties if I ever run the 1/2.

Did a bunch of deep tissue work on my quads in particular in the evening, and it seemed to alleviate some of the tightness on Sunday. I've been doing A LOT of that lately (I'm going to have huge thumb muscles). I'm gradually working out all the knots that have been there for... who knows how long?


  1. awesome :)

    loved running there last fall... the colors are amazing

  2. I go crazy for the bright orange aspens.
    Looks fantastic, thanks for sharing! I have to stop being so cheap about paying entrance fees.

    The best spots in the state are on the trails, but sadly everyone drives up and down the roads. We tried going through/around Estes yesterday, and it was nuts.

    Looks like you saved yourself I-70 headaches, and I heard there was thundersnow in Summit Co.

  3. Thanks!

    solarweasel - If I were there I'd be hitting Castle Rock on 550. Not a super long trail to the top, but LOTS of color up there, and links to other trails.

    Mike - It took me 5 years to get the state pass, when I drove over to hang out at this year's Dirty Thirty. I like that it encourages me to go places, to get my money's worth. Seems I need that push.

  4. I was up in the high country on Mon/Tues this past week and am about ready to post a billion yellow Aspens, too. LOVE THEM! My favorite time of Colorado! But I didn't scale the side of a mountain on my leaf-turning adventure...I was gagging on a lung climbing 900' in 1.5 miles and called the climbing quits after that. ENOUGH for this out of shape body! Nice job on the climbing and run!! And you have some spectacular foliage pics - so pretty!

  5. Jill - Thanks.

    >900' in 1.5 miles

    That's pretty steep! Those are the fun trails.

    There are definitely worse things than having to sort through too many aspen photos :)

  6. I moseyed over here from Wild Child's blog. Your CO photos are beautiful! We've worked in CO (helicopters) and about 1-1/2 years ago I was bitten by the "I want to move to CO" bug.

  7. Great weekend to be on the trails. I spent a lazy weekend up in Grand Lake and it was incredible up there.

    Great pics and nice to see you having some fun out there!

  8. Sorting through that many sweet photos is a worthwhile chore, right?? It's the time of year to make the Canon earn its keep!! Nice stuff - never been to that park, though. Another one of hundreds still on "the list"!

  9. Thanks, all. Great weekend and time of year.