Dramatic red-orange sandstone hogbacks, spires, and monoliths slice through the foothills of the Rocky Mountains at Roxborough State Park. Meandering beneath these behemoths feels definitively prehistoric, and taking an afternoon to enjoy this 3,500-acre Colorado Natural Area promises to deliver show-stopping views year round.
If you only swing in for an afternoon or are with kids, the Fountain Valley Trail hike is an excellent middle-of-the-road choice in terms of length and difficulty compared to the other hikes within the state park. It’s even ADA accessible most of the time—when the weather is fair and the ground is dry, it’s fairly easily navigable, and it’s always very well maintained.
This 2.3-mile loop meanders through prairie grasslands, scrub oak meadows, and evergreen forests, and it serves up an excellent sampling of both the stunning geology and the impressively varied ecology of the park. At the height of the loop sit the preserved remains of Henry S. Persse’s 1903 vision to convert what was then Washington Park into a premiere tourist destination, complete with a golf course, a well-stocked lake, quaint cottages, and a state-of-the-art electric train to transport its patrons from nearby Englewood. The second level of the house that’s built into the hill is what remains of his own private quarters—guests would dine in the kitchen below.
Several years after he set out to realize his vision, he and visiting guests were addressing the ethical implications of marring the magnificence of the landscape with human infrastructure. His guest book made it into the historical records, and one prominent and influential Denver man wrote, "A park made by Nature's hand alone—the arts of man could only mar it." Eventually, Persse’s work was put on hold, and after his death, his family sold the Colorado State Division of Parks a 500-acre swath of land that was later expanded to become the 3,500-acre park it is today.
Thanks to Persse’s family and the work of various state park organizations, the park is home to a remarkable variety of plant and animal life, and visitors can almost appreciate it for how it looked before Persse first took it over. Deer, elk, prairie dog, and rabbit are among the most common mammals to be spotted. The park is also home to over 150 species of birds, 11 species of reptiles, and elusive mammals like mountain lions, coyotes, and black bears.