The Trading Post Trail is very easily accessible from downtown Denver by way of I-70 and serves up a fabulous and quick sampling of Red Rock’s incredible sandstone formations. Check the Red Rocks Amphitheater’s website before you go—congestion is unbearable during concert evenings.
330 million years ago, this area was an inconspicuous blip in a massive ocean floor. Thanks in part to a sediment-spreading alluvial fan, iron oxide accumulated over what is thought to be a 200-million-year period and was buried, only to be uncovered by relentless weathering and erosion hundreds of millions of years later.
The Ute Native American tribe were the first known occupiers of the area, and they deem it a sacred place along with 31 other native tribes. The Utes were displaced in the early 19th century by settlers to the area who commandeered it as a tourist destination.
This short 1.4-mile loop showcases 10 of the most park’s most iconic spires and monoliths. Though short, it does gain about 500 feet of elevation, so be prepared for a bit of an incline. Park near the south entrance to Red Rocks, and be sure to take a minute to soak in the magnificence of Ship Rock. Some early developers actually proposed carving it to become a full-sized replica of the Egyptian Sphinx. From there travel the few short steps to the trailhead and begin.
Hiking it counter-clockwise seems to be the more favorable choice, as views over sweeping valleys are enhanced by the vantage points, and the stunning rock formations prettily frame the Denver metro area and high-rises. Mule deer abound, as do prairie dogs and over 150 different species of birds. Keep an eye out for the elusive peregrine falcon—the fastest bird in the world—as it dives for its flying prey. Lucky hikers also have a chance to see red fox, though the population has been decimated in recent years due to mange. Also be aware that there are rattlesnakes in the area. Though this shouldn’t deter anyone, it’s imperative to keep a sharp eye out for these sunbathers.
Before you head out, make a quick stop at the visitor center to get a quick peek at the cultural history and a brief sampling of the numerous stars that have graced the amphitheater stage.