Roxborough Park MagicOverview
Topo of the Area
At 7,166 feet, Carpenter Peak is the high point in Roxborough State Park. Roxborough was the name of the Irish family estate of Henry Persse. He and Julius Carpenter were homesteaders in this area. Thus, the name Carpenter Peak.
Henry Persse and Roxborough State Park
Excerpt from History Colorado
Henry S. Persse (pronounced like "purse"), would-be developer of Roxborough Park, was a steward of both the built and natural environment. Persse, a native of New York, visited Colorado in 1882 after reading an article describing its mountains and mineral wealth. In 1889 he acquired land south of Denver in an area then known as Washington Park. Named for a distinctive rock that resembled the first U.S. president's profile, the land included spectacular red sandstone formations nestled among prairie grasslands, scrub oak meadows, and evergreen forests. Sometime later Persse renamed the land Roxborough Park after his family's estate in County Galway, Ireland. In 1902 he and two other men formed the Roxborough Land Company to develop the property into a premier tourist destination.
In 1907, the Denver Republican reported Persse's plans to build a "splendid resort" with "a first class 200 room hotel, golf links, a club house, a well stocked lake, charming driveways, and comfortable cottages all placed in surroundings said to be the most beautiful." Visitors would travel there from Englewood via a state-of-the-art electric train.
Although Persse never built the hotel or golf course, the simple amenities that he did construct attracted Denver's high society and put Roxborough Park on par with other Front Range getaways. He erected a two-story stone house set into a hillside, various farm and ranch structures, and several guest cottages near the famous presidential profile. Guests met their proprietor in the stone house's second-floor parlor and took their meals in the kitchen below. And though plans for the electric train short-circuited, visitors could hop aboard the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad for the short jaunt from Denver's Union Station to Kassler, near Roxborough.
Excerpted entries from Persse's guest book show how early twentieth-century visitors appreciated Roxborough Park's beauty and understood the need to find a balance between economic development and the preservation of natural resources. Edmund J. Churchill of Denver wrote, "A Park made by Nature's hand alone - The Arts of Man could only mar it." Denver Mayor Robert W. Speer opined that the park "should be owned by the city for the free use of the people."
Persse died on Monday, August 26, 1918, when a tramway car struck him as he crossed the intersection of Milwaukee and Twelfth Avenue in Denver. And though his plans to build a hotel in Roxborough Park died with him, his desire to share the area's beauty with family, friends, and the general public were realized. In 1975 the Colorado State Division of Parks purchased five hundred acres of the Persse family property, forming Roxborough State Park. Since then, the park has expanded to 3,319 acres.
More than 1.2 billion years of geologic time are represented by red-rock formations found within the park. The area's geological structure has resulted in microclimates that have produced seven distinct plant communities in a unique mixture of prairie and mountain species. As a result, Roxborough is home to abundant wildlife, including white deer, black bear, coyotes, mountain lion, bobcat, and 145 species of birds.
Early native people inhabited the area between 4999 BC and 1000 AD and again from 1900 to 1924 AD. Roxborough State Park is the only state park designated by the U.S. Department of the Interior as a National Natural Landmark (1980). Roxborough State Park Archaeological District was added to the list of National Register of Historic Places in 1983. It is also a State Historic Site and National Cultural District because of the number of archaeological sites. It was Colorado's first state park to be designated as a State Natural Area.
Within the park, "there are excellent examples of exposed geology from the Precambrian to Late Mesozoic, including hogbacks of Cretaceous, Permian, and Pennsylvanian age. Erosion of steeply dipping monoclinal sedimentary sections has resulted in the series of three major hogbacks and strike valleys, exposing highly scenic dipping plates, spires, and monoliths. Precambrian gneiss and biotite-muscovite granite are exposed on Carpenter Peak.
The westernmost hogback is Paleozoic Age Fountain Formation sandstone, originating from an accumulation of sediments that eroded from the Ancestral Rocky Mountains. It is conspicuously red due to oxidation of iron minerals. The central hogback is Permian Age Lyons Formation, which formed from windblown sand and stream deposits following erosion of the Ancestral Rocky Mountains. The easternmost hogback, Cretaceous Age Dakota Sandstone, is composed of Lytle Formation floodplain deposits and Platte Formation beach and shallow ocean deposits." - from the Roxborough State Park website
American Discovery Trail
The Carpenter Peak Trail is a segment of the American Discovery Trail
, which runs coast-to-coast from Delaware to California. According to their website, the Carpenter Peak Trail is designated as an "affiliated trail." I have not personally verified this information and welcome input regarding this segment of the American Discovery Trail, specifically, where it starts and ends.
From Wadsworth: Take Wadsworth south past Chatfield State Park. Turn left on Waterton Road (just before the entrance to Lockheed Martin.) Continue on Waterton Road—crossing the South Platte River, until it ends at North Rampart Range Road (1.6 miles) Turn right (south) on North Rampart Range Road. Continue south past Roxborough Village and the Foothills Water Treatment Plant. (2.3 miles) At the intersection of North Rampart Range Road and Roxborough Park Road (just before the entrance to Arrowhead golf course), turn left onto Roxborough Park Road. Take the next right (about 50 yards away) to enter the park.
From Santa Fe: Head south on Santa Fe (Highway 85) to Titan Road. (4.2 miles south of C-470 intersection) Turn right (west) on Titan Road. Continue heading west on Titan Road. It will curve and begin to head south—becoming North Rampart Range Road (3 miles). Continue south on North Rampart Range Road past Roxborough Village and the Foothills Water Treatment Plant (3.5 miles). At the intersection of North Rampart Range Road and Roxborough Park Road, turn left onto Roxborough Park Road. Take the next right (about 50 yards away) to enter the park.
* After you enter the park, drive about 2 miles to the parking lot at the visitor center. The trail starts just west of the visitor center and is clearly marked.
Comments: The trail to Carpenter Peak is a 6.4 mile round-trip hike of very easy terrain. Its summit is a surprising rocky outcrop and is the highest point in the park, providing a spectacular view in all directions. The .07-mile Elk Valley Link near the beginning of the Carpenter Peak trail connects to the Douglas County trail system via Douglas County Road 5. You can also hook up to Waterton Canyon via a 3 mile connecting trail.Permitted uses: Foot
Miles paved: 0
Miles non-paved: 6.4
Total distance: 6.4
Degree of difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 7,160 (at peak)
ADA accessible: No
Many deer make Roxborough State Park their home.
Red TapeTo preserve Roxborough's natural state, no rock climbing, camping, mountain bikes, pets, or horses are permitted in Roxborough State Park.
You must purchase a daily pass ($7 per car as of 9/2015) or possess a valid Colorado State Park Pass. The Colorado pass system is complex, so I have copied the information here:
All Colorado State Parks have entrance fees. All vehicles are required to have an entrance pass and Roxborough may have walk-in fees.
- Daily Parks Pass - $7-9 per vehicle
- Tow Vehicle Pass - No fee for vehicle under-tow at time of entry. Motor home still requires paid parks pass.
- Annual Parks Pass - $70 per vehicle. Our Annual Pass can now be purchased at any time of year and is valid for a full 12 months of use. The pass is good through the last day of the month, one year from purchase. Can be purchased online.
- Annual Multiple Pass - $35 per vehicle. After purchase of Annual Pass, vehicles in same household are eligible for a discounted multiple pass.
- Aspen Leaf Pass - $60 per vehicle (CO Residents 64 years or older). The Aspen Leaf pass is available for purchase at any time of year and is valid for 12 months from date of purchase.
- Aspen Leaf Multiple Pass - $30 per vehicle. After purchase of Aspen Annual Pass, senior must be in whole or part owner of additional vehicles to be eligible for a discounted multiple pass.
- Aspen Leaf Lifetime Card - $300 (purchase of card allows for one Aspen Free Pass each year when card is presented. Card itself does not provide entry)
Where can you purchase your park pass?
- Walk-in Pass - $3 per day or carry annual pass receipt for entry (Lory, Arkansas Headwaters, Eldorado, State Forest State Park)
- Columbine Pass - $14 (Disabled CO Residents)
- Colorado Disabled Veterans License Plate - no cost. See our Military Benefits page for more information.
- Centennial Pass - $14 (Income Eligible CO Residents)
- Lifetime Aspen Card - $300
- All State Parks and Region Offices, Denver Office, and Littleton Office.
- Annual park passes only are also available at most Gander Mountain, REI, Sportsman's Warehouse, City Market, King Soopers, and Safeway locations. Please call your local retailer to verify availability.
When To Climb
Roxborough State Park is open year round. Park hours are typically 8am-7pm but may be seasonal and vary. Please check the Official Website
prior to your trip.
Roxborough State Park
4751 N. Roxborough Drive
Littleton, CO 80125