First off, I will heretofore refer to Centennial Cone as The Cone.
Second, before you get too excited and jump in your car, remember that weekend days alternate between hikers (as well as runners) on odd days (like July 17th), and mountain bikers on even days. It’s easy to remember because well, hikers can be, umm, odd right? On weekdays everyone is welcome.
The Cone is my favorite Golden trail run. It’s one big loop, and being 12 miles minimum, it’s a distance commitment that keeps the trail on the quiet side.
You can start at pretty much 2 places to run at The Cone, the Bottom Lot or the Top Lot.
If you just want to do the main loop then park at the Top Lot here. It’s about a 25 minute drive to the top lot from downtown Golden or just run it and make it a 50 mile day (you’ll never catch me doing that).
I’d call the main loop rolling which I guess would be mountainous if you’re a flat lander (take that wimpy flat landers!) or indeed rolling if you’re a local. I like running it counterclockwise because I’m such a countercultural guy but it really doesn’t matter. Either way it’s pretty much net down the first half and net up the second half. I’ll describe the run if you run it counterclockwise. It will start out on a dirt road with a net downhill. Wide open with some nice views. Oddly, there’s one house that you go past that’s right on the trail. The big question is, how do they get to that house? I have no idea but someone should buy it and turn it into a bad ass AirBnb.
After the wide open opening miles, you’ll hit a descent that brings you into the forest with lots on Pine trees and a tiny creek crossing or two. Man I just love hopping across that little creek, it feels so good! If you run trails then you know what I mean. Then you’re around mile 4 and get into the meat of the run where you traverse high above Clear Creek. This really is spectacular with the creek and road far far below you.
A few miles of that and you’re back into the woods with some nice rollers in the shade into a proper descent to the big creek crossing with a huge wooden bridge. How did they get that thing there?
Off of that and you get into the big climb although there are a couple of way-too-short breaks. There worst part of the climb are a few big stone steps right at the end but that climb peaks right there and then it’s down. The pictured Christine was cursing those steps, I’ve never seen her so MAD! The climb really isn’t that bad but you’re just getting tired by this point and the ascent does drag on a bit even though it’s not very steep. Along this route will be a couple of offshoot trails but just always stay left and you’ll complete the main loop. With about a mile to go, you’ll have two options to get back to the Upper Lot. Go right if you want to do the offical Strava segment or you’re a toughguy and want more climbing. Left is more scenic and easy.
If you want to run longer than the main loop, or want to just run part of the main loop with a serious climb, then park at the “bottom lot” which is on Clear Creek/6 about 15 miles west of Golden. From there you run up Mayhem Gulch for 2.3 miles to connect to the main loop. It’s called Mayhem because if you start with a group, the group will immediately explode as soon as you start. It’s a quality climb, a bit over 700ft.
Check the official website, linked below, around late fall, winter, early spring as part of the main loop trail is closed for Elk mating.
Also note that my friend Justin saw a bear while running The Cone. I’ve never seen a bear around Golden so that’s notable.
Sunrise Patrol Official Specs
Distance of go-to run: 12.1 miles
Strava Overall Record: 1:24:33
Total Climbing of go-to run: 2209 feet
Maximum altitude: 7923 feet
Rattlesnake danger: 2/5
Official post run beer: GCB Clear Creek Gold Pale Ale
Official post run meal: Runners Choice – Gyro Sandwich at Ali Baba or Amir Grill
Official Website: http://jeffco.us/open-space/parks/centennial-cone-park/