If you want to marvel at the destructive (and at the same regenerative) force of nature then Raleigh Peak is a great destination.
If you do not fancy walking through miles of scorched land, this hike is not for you.
In May 1996 the Buffalo Creek Fire swept through the valleys and ravines between Raleigh Peak and Long Scraggy Peak. It ran 11 miles in less than 5 hours and burnt 11,900 acres of land. Subsequent torrent rain storms caused massive flash floods.
These natural disasters left behind a ghostly landscape. For miles the hills, ridges and valleys are covered with the remains of thousands of burnt trees. It will take centuries until this area is covered again with a mature forest. However, life is returning to this Mordor like landscape on rapid speed. Patches of aspen trees have popped up in sheltered parts of the valley bottom. Agaves and oak scrub are starting to cover the hillsides and ridges. You will see (and hear) an abundance of birds.
Raleigh Peak is a pretty reclusive mountain. Unlike its neighbor Long Scraggy Peak it is not visible from the surrounding river valleys apart from a very short stretch of a couple feet along the South Platte River.
Its twin summits, however grant sweeping 360 angle views of the Front Range and the Lost Creek Wilderness.
Despite its closeness to Denver – the trail head is less than 50 miles from downtown – you have a good chance to have the peak all to your self.
Travel South on US 285 - west bound (Hampden Av. within city limits)
14.5 Miles to Foxton Road (Kennedy Gulch)
Take the exit and travel under the highway due south 8.2 Miles
Once at Platte River Rd (RD 96 = valley bottom of North Fork South Platte) turn left and travel along the waterfalls and rapids of the North Fork.
Cross the bridge at the confluence of North Fork South Platte River and South Platte River.
About 0.5 mile after the bridge you will see a big parking lot and a wooden bridge crossing the South Platte River to the right. This marks the trailhead for the Colorado Trail - which also serves as trailhead for Raleigh Peak.
The mountain can be climbed year round
During summer it will be very hot on Raleigh Peak because of the low altitude and the complete lack of any shade for a large part of the hike -
you might feel like getting fried.There is no water along the way.
Spring and Fall are the best time to hike, but Raleigh Peak is also a great destination for a winter trip.
Lots of dead trees around you - sooner or later all of them will fall. If you camp be careful what spot you pick.
Spring Creek valley and its tributary ravines are prone to flash floods.
The dry and scrubb covered ridges are prime habitat for rattle snakes - watch where you step or sit.
The forests north of Raleigh Peak are very popular with hunters - wear something colorful during hunting season and do not try to look or sound like a deer...
Raleigh Peak is part of the Pike National Forest - please abide to all rules, regulations and restrictions.
If you think about rockclimbing on Raleigh (South/East Face) contact the South Platte Ranger Station to verify that cliffs are not closed for rapture nesting:
South Platte Ranger Station
19316 Goddard Ranch Court
Morrison, CO 80465
West of the West Summit is a patch of private land (house is clearly visible from summit) - please do not trespass.
The Top of the World Rd (Forest Road 538) is closed to public motorized use since the fire.
The Top of the World Campsite did not survive the fire - it does not exist anymore.
Camping in the valley bottom of South Platte River and North Fork South Platte River is NOT allowed in the immediate vicinity to the trailhead - it is a day use area only.
Campgrounds in the South Platte Ranger District:
Campgrounds South Platte Ranger District
More information on the Buffalo Creek Fire:
Buffalo Creek Fire