Mount Goliath Natural Area and Dos Chappell Nature Center


Rainbow above bristlecone pine trees.

Mount Goliath Natural Area

Elevation:  11,540’ (3,517 m)


The Mount Goliath Natural Area was established to highlight the northern most significant grove of Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine (Pinus aristata).

Management of the area dates back to 1932, when the Forest Service designated 320 acres as a “Nature Study Area.”  The site was officially registered as a “Natural Area” in 1950 and the acreage was reduced to160 acres to eliminate a portion separated by the road.  In 1970, the designation changed yet again to “Research Natural Area,” which focused management efforts on research, study, observations, monitoring and education.  A second designation was created in 1980, making it a State Natural Area.

The Forest Service's overall plan for the Mount Goliath Natural Area is to maintain natural conditions by allowing ecological processes to prevail with minimal human intervention. Please respect this area by not damaging or removing anything from the site.

M. Walter Pesman Trail

This trail was aptly named in honor of M. Walter Pesman, a renowned Denver landscape architect and author of Meet the Natives, a popular wildflower guide.  There are two trail access points.  The lower trailhead is located behind the Dos Chappell Nature Center.  The upper trailhead is located two miles up the road (Mile Marker 5) at a small parking area called Upper Goliath.  This is a 1.5 miles one-way moderate hike.

Partnership Power

Since the Mount Evans road opened in 1931, the Mount Goliath RNA has been a popular visitor stop.  In 1958, the Pesman Trail was created through a cooperative project between the Forest Service and Denver Botanic Gardens.  The Garden Club of Denver, Denver Botanic Gardens and the Forest Service joined hands in 1996 to rehabilitate and improve the area, which included portions of the Pesman Trail and the grounds where the Dos Chappell Nature Center sits today.

Dos Chappell, the founder and Executive Director of Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, made developing this area the group's main priority.  In 1998, the second tier of the overall vision was implemented.  Denver Botanic Gardens spearheaded the effort that would create the highest rock gardens in the world.  The gardens were designed to showcase various sub-alpine and alpine plant communities. Under the direction of Chappell, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado completed significant trail work by closing off many social trails for re-vegetation and erosion control.  In only two days, the volunteers constructed 1,200 feet of trail, 400 feet of which are accessible within the rock garden. 

Once the trail work was completed, Dos Chappell was instrumental in obtaining a construction grant for a nature center. Unfortunately, Mr. Chappell unexpectedly passed away during the construction, never was able to see the completion of his efforts.  Then nature center was named in his honor due to his dedication and devotion to the site.  The Dos Chappell Nature Center was completed in 2003, thanks to many contributions and grants made in his name.

Dos Chappell Nature Center

Immediately upon entering the Dos Chappell Nature Center, you are greeted by the old soul of a bristlecone pine that lived for 1,052 years.  The center contains exhibits that interpret the remarkable life, like bristlecone, that thrive in the extreme high mountain environment.  In addition to the natural history information, there is Mount Evans information concerning the history of the road construction, tourism and wilderness.  The Dos Chappell Nature Center is open daily from 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. and staffed by Forest Service employees and volunteers.