There’s no reason to miss out on Colorado’s playground. Don’t know where to start? We share our favorite hikes with you – whether you’re looking for a stroll or a climb.
Castlewood Canyon, a small and beautiful canyon, lies at the northern edge of the Black Forest at the headwaters of the Cherry Creek. Ruins of the Cherry Creek dam, built in 1890 and destroyed by a flood in 1933, form a centerpiece of this 870-acre park. Dramatic canyon walls and barren rock outcroppings are juxtaposed by the lush farmland, gambel oak, willows, and cottonwoods at the bottom.
From the visitors center, you can choose from 13 miles of trail, ranging from easy to difficult. A loop combines the Dam Trail with the Inner Canyon and Lake Gulch trails, providing vistas of the entire canyon and access to the dam. (Walking on the dam is prohibited.)
From the west entrance, the Homestead Trail leads hikers down to connect with Rim Rock and Creek Bottom trails. For those who want to try their hand at rappelling and spelunking, follow the Climbers Trail to a section of the wall that rises about 60 feet. This merges with the Cave Trail, where you can explore several grottos featuring mosses, liverworts, and ferns still thriving since the last ice age.
The Colorado Trail The Colorado Trail passes through seven national forests and six wilderness areas, crosses five major river systems, and penetrates eight mountain ranges. And it was all created through a massive volunteer effort, linking newly built tread with existing game and Native American trails, and linking the ramblings of Spanish friars with old stage roads. The person who had the passion and the determination to make it happen, Gudi Gaskill of the Colorado Mountain Club, was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame this past March.
This guru of the Trail knows every inch of the 468 miles stretching between Waterton Canyon south of Denver and Junction Creek near Durango. Her favorite section remains the challenging terrain of the San Juan Mountains, the largest mountain range in the American Rockies.
“The peaks are so spectacular,” Gaskill says. “You see the Needles, the Grenadiers — all in the Weminuche Wilderness Area – and the views from there are just breathtaking. There are lots of crystal-clear lakes and steep narrow canyons with high towering walls on either side. You’re up above timberline probably 70 percent of the time. There are waterfalls at almost every turn that plummet over the Redstone cliffs. You follow streams most of the way with fields and fields of wildflowers. Every bend of the trail is another view and another scene – it’s an exciting part of the Colorado Trail.”