Continuing with my occasional series of local open space hiking, I’m focusing on Mt. Falcon. It’s not that far from my home, but interestingly I haven’t been there often. Part of the reason why is because when I approach the parking lot on the east entrance, it’s often overflowing with cars. Yet with their new parking lot and no cars allowed on the side road, this might alleviate some of that congestion.
Would Presidents spend summer in Colorado?
One of the reasons for Mount Falcon’s popularity is the curiosity to see the ruins of the Summer White House. I’ll be right up front with you – I’ve yet to visit it, even with my multiple visits. The main issue is time – it’s roughly 90 minutes to the top where the structure is. I will make it up there someday. But it’s still something that’s intriguing for many visitors, and it does have an interesting background story.
Here is what the ruins of the Summer White House look like, courtesy of Out There Colorado:
John Brisben Walker was a businessman and entrepreneur who began construction on the Summer White House in the early 1900s. He believed that US Presidents would want to stay at this “castle in the clouds” as a retreat. But he ran out of funding, and the whole idea was abandoned shortly thereafter.
Maybe a Presidential summer home in the Colorado mountains sounded like a great idea, but getting to this place would have been difficult. The trails are quite rocky and steep, and even if they cleared the way and smoothed out the pathways for stagecoaches, narrow-gauge railway or eventually cars to get through, road construction would have cost even more than the home itself.
Why you'll like hiking Mt. Falcon
With the few times I’ve been to Mt. Falcon, I’ve instead enjoyed the trails themselves and the spectacular views they offer, including those of Red Rocks to the north. On the east entrance, my favorite trail is Turkey Trot, because it’s only for pedestrians and horseback riders. All the other park trails are multi-use, which means mountain bikes have access to them. I have nothing against bikers, but if I’m going for a hike, I don’t like to spend half the time dodging them.
The Turkey Trot trail makes a gradual then quick ascent before going for an extended run through a heavily forested section on the backend of the mountain. It then meets up with the Castle Trail, which is the main path to the Summer White House and a better trail to see views of Denver and the Front Range.
To get to the Summer White House, take Walker’s Dream trail, which is about 1.2 miles from the Turkey Trot fork. It’s a jagged and steep half-mile climb to the top. It's an out and back, but just remember to go left to get back to the east trailhead, and right to return to the west.
As with the Walker's Dream trail, I haven’t gone on any of the trails going to and from the west entrance, but most of them are ranked at the intermediate or advanced difficulty level, so precede with caution.
Maybe seeing the ruins of the Summer White House will be worth the time and effort. And perhaps when I do, I'll understand how John Walker's dream wasn't such an impossibility, at least to him.
But if nothing else, if you come to Mt. Falcon, you'll absolutely love the views.