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Distance: 5.4 miles round-trip
Cost: $9 daily vehicle pass or free entry with an annual state parks pass ($80 to $120)
Castlewood Canyon’s west parking lot is relatively quiet because it sits on the opposite end of the park from the main entrance, which makes it an ideal base for a COVID-era jaunt. From the parking area, you’ll begin on the easy Homestead Trail before coming to a fork about 0.5 miles in. Flow left to cross off Rimrock Trail first. The overgrown route snakes up roughly 400 feet in elevation to the canyon rim over about a mile. Bear left at the top and pause for photographs at the edge; the steep rock walls drop down into Cherry Creek and a valley covered in Douglas fir and ponderosa pines. Don’t get too distracted, though: The signage disappears here, but if you keep an eye out for cairns (man-made stone piles that demarcate trails) and generally follow the line of the ridge, you’ll work your way past lots of cacti to a sign for the Dam Trail. Follow it down a rocky switchback to an eroded dam, which failed in 1933 and shot a 15-foot wave into Denver. The trail leads you around the structure to a set of stairs and the aptly named Creek Bottom Trail. From there, it’s a straightforward walk past dense brush and a small waterfall, with some elevation gain, back to Homestead and your car.
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Who Will Love This Trail: Families; history buffs
Don’t Miss This Along The Way: Homestead Trail’s namesake—the one-time home of Patrick and Margaret Lucas, an Irish couple who were among the first to settle in this area—sits at the start of your hike. It’s been unoccupied since 1941 and is only partially intact after a fire destroyed much of the concrete structure. Spot other Lucas family artifacts, like a livestock loading chute and milking parlor, along the brief connector trail.