Weather is fickle out here in Colorado, and it doesn’t always cooperate with your plans. It rarely rains, but when it does, it often pours, or hails. One moment it can be 80 and sunny and twenty minutes later it can be 60 and pouring. So, what does a hiker do when the weather isn’t playing nicely? They look for a rainy day hike, of course.
A few weeks ago I had a weekend all to myself and I promised Savannah Dog that I’d take her hiking. The forecast was 70 and sunny for both Saturday and Sunday, so we had big plans. Then the weekend came and mother nature delivered two days of 50 degrees and rain. After lounging around the house all day on Saturday, Savannah Dog and I were over it, and we pulled out our rain shells and headed out to Eldorado Canyon State Park for one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever been on.
I’d hiked Rattlesnake Gulch before on a clear summer day, and let me tell you, the views of the continental devide are spectacular. It’s an amazing hike in itself. However, on this particular day, the fog was thick and the distance views weren’t anything to get excited about. But hiking in the clouds with layers of thick fog between us and our steps ahead were jaw dropping. These views and the fact that we only saw 5 other parties, all near the beginning, are what makes this the best rainy day hike in Denver.
Note: Because this hike takes you up onto a beautiful ridge line, I would not recommend this hike when there are thunderstorms.
Rattlesnake Gulch Trail is 3.8 miles, round trip, and includes the Crags Hotel Ruins, the Continental Divide Overlook and another unmarked overlook, which was my favorite part. It’s a strenuous hike with over 1000 feet of elevation gain. My phone app showed 1084 ft gain, with a max elevation of 7215 ft.
This hike took Savannah and me an hour and 40 minutes. We walked at a pretty leisurely pace, and stopped for quite a few photo breaks.
In order to get to the hike, you pull into Eldorado Canyon State Park and drive west on the main road. After a short distance, maybe 1/2 mile, you will see a parking lot on the left for the Fowler and Rattlesnake Gulch Trails. Park here or at any of the near by parking areas. This is where your hike begins.
Note: There is an $8 fee to enter the park, or you can purchase a Colorado State Park’s Pass for $70.
Follow the trail east for a short distance, until you reach the intersection of the Fowler and Rattlesnake Gulch Trails. Follow the signs right for Rattlesnake Gulch and hike uphill. When you come to the wooden bridge on the right, take it and follow the trail as it climbs uphill. After about 1.2 miles from the start of the climb, you will come to the old hotel ruins. Make sure to read the sign and check them out, they’re pretty cool.
Next, take the trail on the left to continue up to the top of the Rattlesnake Gulch Trail. This is where Savannah and I were able to walk in the clouds and relax.
Once the trail starts heading down, keep an eye out for an unmarked trail on the left. This trail will take you up to an unmarked overlook. Be careful with small children and dogs in this area, as the other side of the rocky overlook is a huge drop off. The views are gorgeous though, and definitely worth a stop.
Soon after leaving this overlook, you’ll pass the continental divide overlook before returning back to the ruins and returning the way that you came.
As always, make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks on this hike. If you’re bringing your dog, make sure to bring water for him, waste bags and keep him on a leash.
Let us know about your experience on this trail by commenting below!
You can check out other Colorado hikes by clicking here.