Castlewood Canyon State Park, November 3, 2002


I first arrived in Denver on Wednesday, September 4th, and in that time I have been fortunate enough to take six other hikes. But winter has arrived in Denver and my days of hiking will end soon. Indeed, this may be my last weekend here. I was determined to get out at least one more time but I wanted to stay low to avoid snow and (worse) ice. I decided to visit Castlewood Canyon State Park, which is about forty miles southeast of Denver.

I took my time leaving the hotel because TV news said the roads were icy. I was, therefore, concerned about road and trail conditions. The day started cold (overnight low of 18 degrees.) I wore a fleece hat and sweater most of the trip, and mittens early on. But it became a beautiful day, and it was a very enjoyable hike.

I parked at Canyon Point and hiked the Lake Gulch trail (.80) to The Dam trail (.35) to Creek Bottom trail (1.70) to Rimrock trail (2.14) to Inner Canyon trail (1.16) to Canyon Point, for a total of 6.15 miles.

It is ironic that this was (perhaps) my last hike, as it would be a great conditioning hike for those who have just arrived in Denver. The park is located at 6600' elevation. If you want to give yourself a day or two to adjust to the altitude before attempting a hike in the Front Range, this would be a great way to spend one of those days.

Is this wilderness? No.    Is it worth saving? Yes!    Is it worth a visit? YES!

To get to Castlewood Canyon State Park from Denver, take I-25 south to Highway 86 east (Wolfinsburger/Wilcox exit, turn left) seven miles to Highway 83 south five miles to the park entrance.

The view from Canyon Point parking lot is not too promising...
Conglomerate abounds.
Descending into the canyon on the Lake Gulch trail.
Most of this hike parallels Cherry Creek. I saw many small pools which would certainly be inviting in warmer weather!
The trail winds past the ruins of Castlewood Dam, which was built in 1890.
The downstream side of the dam. Looks like a whole lotta work given 1890 technology!
According to one trail guide, "Working in a downpour, the caretaker was trying to relieve the mounting pressure on Castlewood Canyon Dam when he heard a rumbling noise. He drove immediately to the switchboard operator and gave the alarm as the dam burst. The 400-acre lake emptied in a deluge that swept away bridges for miles, doing a million dollars in damage and taking two lives. Without the caretaker's alarm, more lives might have been lost that August of 1933."
Looking up to the rim from Creek Bottom trail.
Poison ivy wasn't a problem, but I took a picture of this sign for the benefit of the reader who is unfamiliar with it.
Me at northern most point of the Rimrock trail. (I find I am much better looking from a distance!) The views from here were breathtaking - the Front Range to the northwest and Pikes Peak to the southwest.
The Rimrock trail is flat. It parallels the rim, usually quite closely. When the trail leaves the rim, the rim calls you back, beckoning you to take another peek. I really took my time on this trail.
I feel as though this tree has a story to tell.
These crevises are common along the rim. This one was only about two feet wide, but 30-40 feet deep!
When I saw this tree and the rock overhang behind it, I knew my friend Eric Stoskopf would make it his home if he were camping here. But camping is not allowed at this park.
A view of what's left of the dam from the Rimrock trail.
I encountered more snow as I climbed the Inner Canyon trail to the Canyon Point parking lot. Whereas the Rimrock trail was clear, north facing slopes still had snow. I think this park was a good choice for me today, as there would likely have been much more snow in the higher elevations of the Front Range mountains!
Copyright © 2002 by Bill Qualls. Last updated November 3, 2002.
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