Crosier Mountain, Garden Gate, and Glen Haven Trails

Longs Peak as viewed from Crosier Mtn

Vistas of Longs Peak and Rocky Mountain National Park are available from Crosier Mtn

Nearby Towns: Drake / Glen Haven / Loveland / Estes Park

Elevation Gain: 2,250
Trail Type: Up and back or large loop depending on skills

Topo Map: USGS 7.5-minute, 1:24,000-scale Glen Haven quadrangle
Description: There are 3 trails that go to Crosier Mountian within 8 miles of each other along CR 43 which branches off at Drake and parallels US 34 to its north.

1. The Garden Gate trailhead is encountered first and is closest to Drake. There is no visible sign from CR 43 but you’ll see a patch of gravel just before mile marker 13 across from an Angus cow pasture where cars obviously park on the south side of the road and you’ll spot some signs on the other side of a wooden gate (i.e. The Garden Gate). From here it’s 5.1 miles to the top of Crosier Mtn or 5.8 to where all 3 trails meet together.

Crosier Mountain trail confluence

Crosier Mountain trail confluence

The Garden Gate trail cuts briefly across a grassy meadow and starts elevating via switchbacks in the trees until it rounds about a hill at the foot of a gully/canyon. Remains of the Bobcat fire of 2000 are seen across the gully along the ridges to the south and south east.

Then you’ll go in and out of burn patches all the way up to the foot of the final ascent. As you go up the canyon, views of anciently scoured rocks loom above to the north and eventually you start the steep series of switchbacks up through some trees that shade the trail (and keep it icy in Spring).

Once this levels out you’ll travel through more burn areas up to a set of boulders with great views of Longs Peak and Indian Peaks. Follow the remaining trail to the top of the mountain. You can either turn around here and head back the way you came or if you’re ambitious, return down the Rainbow/Gravel Pit trail 4 miles and then loop back another 3 miles along the private land trail (be sure and shut the gates) for a long 12 mile hike.

Or if you were smart and in a larger group and had two cars you could leave one at the Rainbow / Gravel Pit trailhead and take the other to Garden Gate.

Rainbow Trailhead sign

Rainbow TH sign from the ‘Gravel Pit.’

2. About halfway between mile markers 10 and 9 on CR43 you’ll find the Gravel Pit or Rainbow trailhead also on the left-hand side of the road as you’re headed toward Glen Haven.

Officially, Crosier Rainbow Trail No. 981, this is a pleasant 4 mile ascent to the top of Crosier Mountain and is pretty well forested with a variety of pines , spruces, and aspens along the way. A few miles in, you’ll see a small wooden sign labeling Table Rock which has good views of the CR43 valley and sites to the east and north and some snowy peaks to the west.

Aspens on Crosier Rainbow Trail

Aspens on Crosier Rainbow Trail

Soon afterward, there is a large aspen grove with very large old growth trees that would display nice golden leaves in the Fall. Continue onward about nearly another mile to a fork in the road where all 3 trails converge. The sign points to Crosier Mountain Trail no. 931 in both directions (left and right), it tells you that the Glen Haven trailhead is two miles to the west on your right, and finally that Garden Gate TH is 5.8 miles on your left.

Fortunately, someone penciled in that fact that the route to the peak summit is also to your left. From this point it’s a little over a mile to the top of Crosier Mountain. The trail in this area is very sunken and places with ground level frequently a foot above the trail bottom.

The trail trench was also narrow in some spots, which made walking difficult. Follow the lefthand trail (it also is the way 5.8 miles back to the Garden Gate trailhead so keep a close eye out for the Crosier Mountain ascent).

If you start heading down and east and then northeast through a canyon, you’ll know you’ve passed Crosier Mountain and are headed to Garden Gate trailhead.

Typical Crosier Mtn trail terrain

Typical Crosier Mtn trail terrain

3. In the town of Glen Haven you’ll find the shortest of the 3 trails, the Glen Haven route. Some folks suggest parking at the small Glen Haven post office. There is a dirt road/driveway leading south just past the red horse stable. There is also a brown sign reading, “Crosier Mountain TH”. The trail starts about 150 up this dirt road and is marked.

Once away from Glen Haven, the trail is on public land, but private land, some marked by barbed wire fence, is close by. From here, it is about 4.1 miles to the summit (8.2 miles round trip) with a starting elevation of 7,700 and ending once again, at 9,250ft.

The rocky trail leads up and to the right. This trail climbs generally south with some east thrown in for good measure. After awhile you’ll see Piper Meadows, then the trail climbs for about 2,000 and four miles to the summit of Crosier Mountain.

Piper Meadows, the expanse to the right of the trail about a mile up, is mostly private. Watch for elk along the trail near Piper Meadows. Not far above that, the trail switchbacks east into forest and soon reaches a saddle. There a trail comes up from the Barrow Pit Trailhead and you’re at the crossroads of the 3 trails. Follow the trail southeast until you meet up with the summit ascent. Again, keep a sharp eye out for the summit trail because if you miss it, you’ll be heading back to Garden Gate if you’re not careful.

Time drive from Denver: About an hour and 30 minutes depending on traffic and which trailhead you take.

Level of difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous to Difficult (the trail heads rate them difficult but as trails go, they’re not bad in terms of altitude or ruggedness), although the final hump up the mountain is steep as is the ascent from the Garden Gate meadow and canyon up onto the burned meadow just before Crosier Moutain.

Parts of the trail can also be icy in Spring. Near the top of the Garden Gate trail we found remains of a mountain lions meal and cat tracks but saw none.

Take I-25 S toward Loveland
Take the Loveland exit for US-34 West to Drake
Once out of Drake, take the right-hand fork known as CR 43 also known as Devil’s Gulch Road and follow the signs for Glen Haven.

Once you’re past Drake, look for the mile markers (they are small). Right around marker 13 is the Garden Gate trailhead, just past mile marker 10 a ¼ to ½ mile is the Rainbow Trailhead. And the final Glen Haven trailhead is in town behind the Post Office.

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