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

Roxborough State Park

Roxborough State Park

As part of my time away from work, I’ve been able to do some exploring around the local state parks… here are a few pictures from Roxborough State Park. I’m starting to have a large collection of these, so I might create a new gallery.

These photos are from the Fountain Valley Trail — its a pretty easy trail, worth checking out if you’re in the area.

Here is some information on the Fountain Valley Trail from the Roxborough State Park website:

Fountain Valley Trail

The Fountain Valley Trail begins at the main trail head next to the Visitor Center. It is considered easy to moderate for hiking difficulty and consists of approximately 2.5 mile loop that winds through the Fountain and Lyons rock formations with a moderate change in elevation.  ADA accessibility is minimal, though most wheelchairs can maneuver the Fountain Valley Trail with little or no difficulty during good weather conditions. The average hiking time is 1 hour to 1.5 hours.

The Trail includes 2 overlooks (Fountain Valley Overlook and Lyons Overlook), and a Historic Site (The Persse Place).

  • Fountain Valley Overlook
    • The Fountain Valley Overlook is only 100 yards from the Visitor Center and provides spectacular views of several beautiful rock formations, including the Fountain Formation, Lyons Formation, and the Dakota Hogback. The Fountain Valley Overlook features a viewing platform approximately 10’x8′,and includes 2 benches. 
  • Lyons Overlook
    • ​The Lyons Overlook in approximately 1 mile from the trail head and sits on top of the Lyons Formation, providing a view of the Fountain Formation. Both Overlooks can be reserved for special events and are often reserved on weekends throughout the summer.

Hiking Roxborough With Tommy

As part of a new series on this site, I’ll be posting reviews/reports of hikes around Colorado that are at least minimally stroller friendly.  There are no good resources for these sort of hikes online.  Hopefully someone else in my situation will somehow stumble upon this site.  A lot of trails have a good bit of elevation gain, and typically have some sort of “natural stairs” or are very narrow and difficult to maneuver a stroller through.  There are some resources for wheelchair friendly trails in the area, however these are usually low elevation gain paved trails.  The trails I’m looking for are a superset of these.

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Google Maps view of the Fountain Valley Trail

Recently I decided on visiting Roxborough State Park just outside of Littleton, CO.  The Fountain Valley Trail is located adjacent to the visitor center and seemed to be the most favorable place to go for a hike in the park.  The trail is a nice loop that takes you through the north side of the park.  It is a 2.3 mile hike that takes 1.5 to 2 hours and is rated Easy to Moderate.  There is a lot of wildlife in the park, with a large concentration of deer, rattlesnakes, and even mountain lions.  I will only visit the park in winter to avoid coming in contact with an angry rattlesnake.  On this hike, I only really saw some birds, but there were all kinds of strange noises in the brush along the trail side.

From the trailhead, there is a short walk to a fork in the trail, this is the beginning and end of the loop.  I would strongly suggest taking the right side of the fork.  Not being familiar with the trail, I took the left.  On the day we went for the hike, the conditions were pretty good.  The temperature was increasing steadily to almost 60 degrees, but there were still some snow/ice in parts.  This was a bit of a challenge to get through, but Tommy went to sleep right at the start of the loop and didn’t seem to mind at all.  This side of the loop had the best views.

At roughly the midpoint of the trail, there are some buildings that were constructed in the early 1900s by Henry S. Persse.  It looked like the stone house was open, but I decided to just look in from the outside.  Seems like a good place for danger noodles to stay warm in the winter.

On the way back, which should have been the way forward, there was a steep incline to walk up while pushing the stroller.  This was the only real strenuous part of the hike.

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Walking uphill for the remainder of the trail.

It’s hard to tell from the picture, but this was a bit of a challenge pushing Tommy and all his support equipment.  The folks in this picture got a pretty good laugh at watching me struggle to push a sleeping baby up a hill.  It was clear that this was my first time on the trail.  This side of the trail didn’t feature any red rocks, but did have some secondary trails to view points.  These were impassible with the stroller, so I had to skip them.

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The start of the Fountain Valley Trail Loop

After the climb, there was a slight decent back to the end of the loop, which really ought to have been the start.  This is where Tommy woke up and took in some of the scenery before heading back to the parking lot.