Castlewood Canyon State Park Hike

Castlewood Canyon State Park Hike

We hiked around Castlewood Canyon State Park this year on my birthday. This is one of my favorite State parks in Colorado. There are nice mountain views, canyons, and a creek. This park has been called the best for accessibility in Colorado, since there is pretty extensive paved trail which goes through a good bit of the park.

Castlewood Canyon Dam

The park has two separate entrances, on this day we arrived at the East entrance, and hiked from the farthest parking lot. We started on the Lake Gulch trail, which is a nice mostly declining walk that takes you from the top of the park down to the creek that goes through the entirety of the park. There are some cool views along the way of the Rocky Mountains. At the end of the trail you reach the creek, which as far as I can tell is only passible in the Winter time. I haven’t hiked this area any time other than winter because of my fear of rattlesnakes, which this place has a ton of.

The Lake Gulch trail eventually leads to the creek, which was one of the icier parts of the trip. Tommy and I both fell, and went sliding just short of the water. After crossing, there is an overlook on the other side of the creek, which has a nice view to watch others do the same fall you just did. It seems like every 4/5 people lost their footing in that area. Stacey and Lucy somehow managed to navigate the icy areas without falling all day.

Overlooking the creek

Across the creek, the trail forks and you can choose to go visit the dam, or take the Inner Canyon trail. We opted for the dam trail, to go see the old Castlewood Canyon Dam. I wrote up some history behind the dam here. After the dam trail, we headed back towards the Inner Canyon trail. This trail goes up and down the canyon following the creek. There are a few nice cave-like rocks to explore along the way. This trail also conveniently brings you back to where we had parked. Overall it was great hike, icy at times, muddy at other times, but a very enjoyable way to start the year.

Tommy standing in front of a small cave

The trail info for what we hiked, from the Castlewood Canyon State Park website:

Inner Canyon and Lake Gulch Trail

  • Overall:1.16 miles, moderate
  • Lake Gulch trail: 0.80 miles, moderate
  • Inner Canyon/Lake Gulch Loop
  • Permitted uses: Foot only
  • Miles paved:  0
  • Miles non-paved: 1.96
  • Total distance: 1.96
  • Usage: High
  • Degree of difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Elevation: 6400
  • ADA accessible: No
  • Comments: Takes visitors into the canyon by the creek and back out for nice views
  • Pets: Yes-on a leash

​​The Dam Trail

  • Overall: 0.35 mile, moderate
  • Permitted uses: Foot only
  • Miles paved: 0
  • Miles non-paved: 0.35
  • Total distance: 0.35
  • Usage: Medium
  • Degree of difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation: 6400
  • ADA accessible: No
  • Comments: Takes visitors around the Castlewood Dam ruins.
  • Pets: Yes-on a leash

Castlewood Canyon Dam

Castlewood Canyon Dam

CRUMBLING AWAY IN A VERDANT state park, the ruins of the old Castlewood Canyon Dam hardly looks like the remains of a sturdy industrial water wall that released a torrential flood on the surrounding area when it finally broke. Built in 1890 and leaking for years after that, the Castlewood Canyon dam collapsed on August 3, 1933. A storm raged on that day, filling the dam’s reservoir to bursting. When the crumbling stone barrier finally failed, over a billion gallons of water were released, traveling over 40 miles of surrounding wilderness before eventually flooding Denver. Huge logs were floated through train stations, bridges were washed away, and by the end of the torrent, the whole city was sitting in four feet of water. Luckily (and tragically) only one person was killed, but the property damage of the catastrophe was immeasurable. While it was likely just age and a lack of maintenance that caused the dam to give way, some residents who still remember the disaster claim that it could have been the local muskrat population effecting the integrity of the dam. No matter the cause, the ruins of the dam remain in Castlewood Canyon State Park. Either side of the structure still remains and the track through which the water broke through is now a dry, grassy thoroughfare. Source: Atlas Obscura