Way back in 1933, the Castlewood Canyon Dam in Franktown burst and sent a 15-foot wave of water all the way to downtown Denver. It was a bummer at the time, but it also helped establish one of the most unusual hiking and rock climbing destinations in the state. And besides, we never liked dams anyway.
Just 45 minutes from downtown Denver, the 2,136-acre Castlewood Canyon State Park is a great weekend getaway for the Mile High crowd (and it’s even better for hikers in Colorado Springs). Read on for our favorite Castlewood hikes.
Short Day: Canyon View Trail
Canyon View Nature Trail is a short, pleasant walk well-suited for families with small children or visitors from sea level. The 1.2-mile paved trail is handicap accessible, and stays near picnic grounds, restrooms, and the visitor center.
Canyon View connects to a 12-mile network of hiking trails that criss-cross the park’s east side. If you’d like to cover a little more ground, we recommend connecting the Inner Canyon Trail to the Lake Gulch Trail for a two-mile loop.
Getting there: From the East Facilities Visitor Center parking lot, head northeast on the clearly marked paved trail. The Canyon View Nature Trail and the Inner Canyon Trail can also be accessed from the Canyon Point parking lot. Leashed dogs are permitted, and park day use fees are $7/vehicle.
Long Day: Creek Bottom Loop
More challenging hikes can be found in the less developed western end of the park. We recommend connecting the Creek Bottom and Rimrock trails for a four-mile loop that winds past both the scenic Cherry Creek Falls and the Dam Ruins Historic Site (where the dam actually burst)
This side of the park is also home to most of Castlewood Canyon’s rock climbing terrain. Many of the climbs are shorter that 30 feet, making it an excellent area for both the acrophobic and the inexperienced lead climber.
Getting there: Take the Creek Bottom Trail north from the Westside Trailhead, then join up with Rimrock Trail after passing Cherry Creek Falls (which can be ice climbed in the winter). After crossing the Dam Ruins Historic Site, connect with Creek Bottom once more and head back to the trailhead. Leashed dogs are permitted, and park day use fees are $7/vehicle.
Words by Camille Miller.