After years of trail building on North Table Mountain, there’s now a trail to the very top of the mesa– Lichen Peak. This is a fun spot to visit and it has great views.
The hike starts in the park’s main parking lot, just off Highway 93 (directions below). The hike begins with a walk up a wide and steep gravel road. Expect about 450 feet of elevation gain in the first .6 miles. This ascent can be tough, but after that, the hike gets much easier.
As you arrive at the top of the mesa and the trail begins to turn east (left), you’ll notice a quarry to the south. A sign here says North Quarry Climbing Area. Walk toward the quarry and look for a set of stairs going up the small hill on your right. Note this spot, we’ll be coming back. For now, continue back on the main road a short distance to a trail split.
At the trail split, you’ll see signs for the Tilting Mesa Trail and North Table Loop Trail. Don’t turn on the North Table Loop, walk east a short distance on the Tilting Mesa Trail, until you see a trail branching off to your left. Walk over the rock border to the entrance and you should see the “Lichen Peak Trail.”
A sign here explains, “this is a fragile environment of lichens, slow growing organisms made up of both fungi and algae.” The sign asks hikers to stay on the trail and to keep their dogs on leash to protect the area.
This is a very short, .2 mile trail. Follow the single-person wide path as it winds across part of the mesa and climbs to the top of a small, rocky peak. Up here, there are great views of the mesa top and even across the city to downtown Denver and beyond to the eastern plains.
Notice the rock up here. You should see the green lichen made up of fungus and algae. The rock here is actually lava. Table Mountain was created 60 million years ago by lava flow. The steps here came from a quarry that once operated on the mesa top.
Enjoy the views, but do not walk or sit on the lichen. They are very fragile and grow at a rate of just 1mm per year.
After your visit, return to the main trail. You can continue on a loop of the park or start heading back to the parking lot. On the way back, I like making one quick loop around that quarry we saw earlier. Go back to the quarry and those steps I had you look for. As you walk up the stairs, you may see a sign in the grass that says, “Pinnacle Area, Crater Crag.”
At the top, walk south and you’ll come to a big hole. I’m not sure if this was part of the quarry, but it’s interesting to see the rock wall here. I like to continue around the quarry lip (not the skinny one to your right, but the wide path on your left). Go across the top of the quarry to the other end, then loop back around the quarry to where you started and return to the parking lot.
Details: The hike to the top of the mesa, to Lichen Peak, and around the quarry is about 2.3 miles with 600 feet of elevation gain. If you want more, consider the North Table Loop or Rim Rock Trail. Find more hikes on this list of 200+ great hikes in Colorado.
Don’t miss any of my hiking articles, click the “subscribe” button (under my name) at the top of this article and follow me, Denver Hiking Examiner on Facebook.
Directions: The trailhead is north of Golden on State Highway 93, just north of Pine Ridge Road. Google 4758 Highway 93, Golden, Co. 80403 for directions.