Weekend Trail Running: Blue Grouse to Mule Deer Trail, Golden Gate Canyon State Park

This run was sort of my return to weekend long runs after doing big rides every Saturday and Sunday and putzing around on the trails in between. But since taking a couple weeks off the bike for a mental refresh, and to give my legs a break, I decided to run some more trails I haven’t explored yet. 

A couple weekends ago, I got on my AllTrails app (it’s the best; I need to figure out some sort of partnership with them) and discovered the Mule Deer Trail in Golden Gate Canyon State Park above Golden. I was familiar with the area (kinda) since I had biked through there a month or so ago, but I wasn’t exactly sure where the trails crossed.

The reviews of the trail said the lot filled up fast, so I got on the road early and after an hour or so, I was happy to find several spots still available when I pulled into the lot around 8:30 a.m. I had my national park pass with me, but didn’t realize I also needed a state park pass to park there without paying the daily fee. Needless to say, I returned to a warning ticket on my windshield after my run. Whoops!

Blue Grouse to Mule Deer Trail is at 10.2-mile loop with about 1,500 ft. of climbing hovering around 9,000 ft. above sea level. The trail starts out going UP and going up for awhile, but nothing as steep as the Ouray Perimeter Trail, which made me feel like I should’ve been climbing on my hands and knees. Eventually it eases up a bit and the trail weaves throughout densely wooded areas with lots of awesome shade.

There aren’t many amazing views until mile 5 or 6 when you reach Panorama Point in GGCSP. There’s an amazing overlook–the same one I stopped at on my rides. That’s also where the trail gets a little confusing to follow because Mule Deer turns into Raccoon and that’s what you need to follow for a mile before it turns back into Mule Deer.

My phone had lost service when I got to Panorama Point, so I had to rely on a super old trail map at that parking lot, cross my fingers, and hope I didn’t go out of my way following the wrong trail. From Panorama Point, if you take Mule Deer Trail counterclockwise like I did, you enjoy a very flow-y descent in the shaded woods with pretty good views. I think that was my favorite section because that’s when I really started to feel the elevation.

The section of dirt amidst thick forest then turns into single track weaving through lush green meadows (not shaded at all), with mountain views in the distance.

It was so gorgeous and not that busy. I pulled over a couple times to let mountain bikers and big groups of hikers pass (and to give myself a break) but I didn’t feel like the trail was overly crowded, especially for a sunny mid-morning weekend day.

On the last mile and a half, I was extremely ready to be done. I was hot, very thirsty, and I had fallen face first after clipping my toe on a big rock.

When I saw the parking lot on the final descent, I couldn’t wait to get in my car and go get food and something ice cold to drink, so I headed straight for Golden. Like I said in my last post, I could definitely live there if the rest of my social and work life wasn’t so far away.

I got lunch at the Windy Saddle Cafe and sat right underneath the Welcome to Golden sign on the main road. They closed it down for the summer so businesses could spread out and I’m LOVING it.

Trail rating: 7/10
Loved: the shade, the varying landscape, the fact that it wasn’t too crowded, great views halfway.
Didn’t love: I’m an idiot and didn’t have a state park pass, I tripped (haha), the drive felt kiiiinda long.

I would definitely run it again when I want a more chill day, so I think I’m going to get a state park pass so I can check out even more trails in GGCSP. It’s a lot less trafficked up there, which was nice, especially during the COVID times.

Where’s the best place you ran/hiked/explored lately?

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