Lichen Peak, Golden

North Table Mountain is the centerpiece of a 2,000-acre Jefferson County park in Golden, commanding the view in town along with its twin, similarly lava-formed mesa of South Table Mountain. It’s a go-to for residents before and after work, a scenic respite on foot, bike or horse. It’s popular for visitors, too, who from a distance can’t quite make out the true high point of the flat top.

That would be Lichen Peak. And along the main loop trail atop North Table Mountain, it’s well worth the brief detour.

At last visit, we ascended the mountain by taking the wide gravel path to the right facing the park signage. No matter your mode of travel, make sure you stretch; it’s a rather brutal start to the trip, rising close to 500 feet in about a mile. Stop to catch your breath and admire the cliffs that came into shape some 60 million years ago.

At the top, Tilted Mesa Trail veers to the left. And soon, to the left of it, begins the hiking-only, quarter-mile trail to Lichen Peak.

The trail meanders through a meadow where wildflowers pop in spring, combining with the colors of lichen clinging to the otherworldly rock garden. “Peak” seems a lofty title; Lichen Peak is more a pile, with steps ascending less than 100 feet. However modest, the views are grand. The foothills surrounding town roll out to Boulder’s Flatirons, with Longs Peak seen to the north and, on a clear day, Pikes Peak to the south. Back to Tilted Mesa Trail, continue the loop along the grassy mountaintop, the open-air expanse where the Eastern Plains appear to meet the sky. Ahead, we hung left for Mesa Top Trail, starting the descent back to the parking lot.

Trip report: 3.58 miles round trip (loop), 562 feet elevation gain, 6,562 feet max

Difficulty: Moderate

Getting there: Going west on Colorado 470 toward Grand Junction, keep left for U.S. 6 west, which becomes Colorado 93 in Golden. Continue north on the highway. After passing Pine Ridge Road, see the trailhead parking lot to your right.

FYI: Park open one hour before sunrise and one hour after sunset. Dogs on leash.

Seth Boster, The Gazette