Trail Running: Travois Trail at Centennial Cone Park in Golden, CO

I got the dates wrong the first time I tried to run here.

^^^ This was the road to the trailhead; the entrance is behind me.

Travois Trail is open to runners and hikers on ODD numbered weekend days and mountain bikers (and really ballsy drop bar cyclists) every other day. Even though I checked the date before I left the house and made the 45-minute drive to the mountains above Golden, CO a couple weekends ago, I still got it wrong. So this past Saturday, I checked and double checked before attempt number two. Let me tell you, it was so worth the wait.

I’ve been doing a lot of 13-milers lately and after I finished one a few weeks ago in May, I decided I’d do a trail half marathon each month on a new-to-me trail or a new route on a familiar trail. I’m not training for a running goal right now, but I like the idea of having something to work toward and check off each month. Strava also hosts a half marathon challenge each month, and each runner gets a badge when they complete it. June 1st seemed like a good time to get this one done on a new trail.

Now, the last few 13-ers I’ve done, I didn’t take any food or hydration with me; thirteen miles is basically my limit for that. On each of those runs, I was fairly close to my car the whole time and running at the same elevation I live at, so it didn’t feel necessary. But the Travois Trail in Centennial Cone Park is more than 1,000 feet higher in elevation and it gains even more over those 13 miles, so I brought my Camelbak hydration backpack. (Which came in VERY handy since it was a hot and sunny day on a mostly exposed trail.)

^^^ Bathrooms with a view.

On Saturday morning I got to the trailhead around 8:45 a.m. and was happy to see there was plenty of parking, a very clean bathroom, and detailed trail maps. Thanks to the AllTrails app, I already had a pretty good idea of where I was going and that a section of the trail was closed during elk mating season. I was prepared for an out-and-back long run, which isn’t always my favorite, but the miles seem to fly by when I’m not as familiar with the route. Truth: I also stopped a lot for photos and to soak in the view.

^^^ There weren’t many turn-offs or connecting trails that I could see, but when there were, they were well marked, which made it easy to keep heading in the right direction.  

I maybe also did something you’re not supposed to do on a long run: wear brand new shoes. My trail and road shoes are beat to hell and need to be replaced like yesterday, so I had no choice. Luckily, the Adidas Questar Trail shoe is very comfy and gave me no issues at all. (Fun fact: I also wore brand new shoes for my first marathon, too. Not like a new model of the shoes I always wore but like a COMPLETELY NEW shoe to my foot. For 26.2 miles. On pavement. That worked out, too, but my god, Lindsay.)

I shoved my phone in my Flip Belt, clipped on my backpack and took off. The first two miles of the trail were some of the most beautiful. It’s a singletrack dirt path that winds around the side of the mountain offering sweeping views of valleys and nearby mountaintops. They looked like green-blue mossy hills that rolled on into the distance forever.

Walt Disney said that one of his visions for Magic Kingdom in Orlando, FL was to transport people to a new land. The park was constructed in a way so that visitors couldn’t see traffic or buildings outside of the park; they were completely immersed in their experience in Magic Kingdom, without distractions from the outside world. That’s how I felt being up in these mountains. Aside from one or two main roads way down below, I felt totally secluded from any nearby city. It was magic.

^^^ Sweet shady relief. 

Five miles into my six and a half miles on the way out, I finally got some shade. I crossed a really lovely bridge and started climbing switchbacks under a thick canopy of trees. It felt like sweet relief after enduring direct sunlight for almost an hour.

All along the way the trail felt like it was either rising or falling; I had just over 2,000 feet of elevation gain when I was done. That definitely made it more fun, but very tough. My quads were screaming on Sunday, mostly from the pounding they took on the downhills.

At my halfway mark, I turned around and retraced my steps, completely in awe of the vistas all around me.

I saw tons of runners, too. Some were mega serious capital R Runners who moved over for NO ONE, some were college kids out on a long training run, and others were hobby joggers or walkers out with their dog or their spouse. It’s runs like these that make me feel like I’ll wake up tomorrow in my Tampa apartment realizing this was just a sweet dream.

One thing that helps distract me from the heat or salty sweat dripping into my eyeballs is podcasts. I listened to so many of them that morning; my favorite to listen to on long trail runs are cycling or running-related.

Just as I passed a familiar trail sign and rounded the corner back to the parking lot, thunder BOOMED above me. I guess I timed that run perfectly because the sky was slowly turning black and a thunderstorm was rolling in.

All in all, I LOVED this trail. It’s very well maintained, offers insane views, isn’t too far to get to from Boulder or Denver, and wasn’t too crowded, especially for a Saturday morning. I can’t wait to come back at the end of June when the rest of the trail will be open and I can do a loop instead of an out-and-back.

^^^ Golden has the cutest, most unique houses. This one was wrapped on all sides by greenery. Swoon.

After hot runs, I always crave ice cold drinks, so I stopped in Golden for an iced coffee and I strolled the busy main street while I sipped the sweet caffeine and caught up with with my mom on the phone. She’s the best. And that was definitely the highlight of my weekend.

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