Castlewood Canyon State Park

Trail Length: 7 mile loop
Trailhead Elevation: 6,200’ – 6,600’
Difficulty: Moderate

Trailhead Location:    5 miles south of Franktown on Hwy 83 (S. Parker Rd) to the East (main) Park Entrance.

Saturday was another beautiful day here on the Front Range so we took advantage and headed out for a hike.  Temperatures were expected to be in the high 50’s today with cloudless blue skies.  We made it a point to get an early start so we could go on a longer hike.  I chose Castlewood Canyon State Park located about 40 miles southeast of Littleton.  It had been several years since I had hiked here and Lisa and a friend of ours who joined us on this hike had never been to the park before so I thought it would be a good choice and provide some different scenery.  We headed out around 9:15am and arrived at the park around 10:15am.

Castlewood Canyon State Park encompasses 2,300 acres offering hiking that traverses four ecosystems – Grasslands, Montane Shrublands, Montane Forest and Riparian.  Logging and gold brought the first white settlers to the Castlewood Canyon area in the 1860s. They called it Wildcat Canyon. Homesteading began in the 1880s, as ranchers and farmers, including the family of Patrick and Margaret Lucas, were lured to the area by the promise of readily accessible irrigation water from the Castlewood Canyon Dam, completed in 1890.  The park has 12 miles of trails covering a variety of terrain.

We headed down the Lake Gulch Trail around 10:30am.  The trail soon offered great views of Pikes Peak to the south and the Front Range to the west.

Castlewood Canyon-PIkes Peak View

Castlewood Canyon-Front Range View

Some of the interesting rock formations as we continued on down the trail.

Castlewood Canyon

The shaded areas of the trail still had some snowpack.

Castlewood Canyon-Trail

After about a half hour we crossed Cherry Creek.  There was still snow and ice on the creek.

Castlewood Canyon-Snowy Rock

After crossing the creek (0.8 miles from the trailhead), we took a left onto the Dam connector trail.  After a short 0.35 miles on this trail we came to the Rim Rock/Creek Bottom Trail loop at about 11:15am.

Castlewood Canyon-Trail Sign

We took a right onto the Rim Rock Trail and decided to do the loop in a counter-clockwise direction.  From here we could see the remnants of the Castlewood Canyon Dam.

Castlewood Canyon-Dam

The dam was constructed in 1890.  It was 600 feet long, 70 feet high and 8 feet wide at the top.  It only took 11 months to build. The dam had two walls set several feet apart. The wall facing the reservoir was masonry laid up with cement. The downstream wall, acting as a brace, was angled at 45 degrees, creating a pleasing “step” appearance. The space between the walls was filled with large stones laid in place by hand. Broken rock and dirt were hammered into spaces between the big stones. At its base, the dam was 83 feet thick. Eight valves in the center of the wall could be opened to release water for irrigation, or to relieve pressure on the dam when the reservoir was full.

On August 3, 1933 after several days of hard rain the dam burst, sending a wall of water that flooded downtown Denver, causing the second worst flood in Denver’s history.

Castlewood Canyon-Dam

In this picture, you can see the step appearance mentioned above.

Castlewood Canyon-Dam

We continued to climb up the canyon.  A shot of a tree that caught our eye.

Castlewood Canyon-Tree

A view looking out across the canyon with the snow-covered peaks of the Front Range off in the distance.

Castlewood Canyon

Looking out across the canyon rim in the direction we were heading.  You can see some other hikers on the rim edge.

Castlewood Canyon-Rim Trail

A rock wall along the rim I decided to check out.

Castlewood Canyon-Natural Wall

A view through one of the holes in the rock wall.

Castlewood Canyon-View Thru Wall

A look along the trail that followed right along the canyon rim.

Castlewood Canyon-Rim Rock Trail

After hiking 2.14 miles along the Rim Rock Trail, we dropped from the canyon rim down to the inner canyon, crossed Cherry Creek, and came to the Homestead Trail.  We took this 0.35 mile spur to check out the Lucas Homestead, arriving at the homestead site around 1:20pm.

Castlewood Canyon-Home

The Lucases began homesteading 160 acres of land in 1894.  The Lucases moved into their original wood frame house in April of 1895  In the 1920’s they built a larger home out of concrete, remnants of which still stand today.

Castlewood Canyon-Home

Castlewood Canyon-Home

Castlewood Canyon-Home

Castlewood Canyon-Home

Castlewood Canyon-Home

Castlewood Canyon-Home

After a lunch break at the homestead site, we got back on the trail around 1:45pm and headed back down the Homestead trail to hook back up with the Creek Botton Trail to continue our loop around the canyon.

A picture of a colorful rock wall that was part of one of the outer buildings of the Lucas Homestead.

Castlewood Canyon-Rock Wall

Looking back up to the other side of the canyon to the Rim Rock Trail, the trail we had come from.  You can see some other hikers up on top of the rim.

Castlewood Canyon-Rim

We continued along the trail, following Cherry Creek.  A view of the steep creek walls in the canyon.

Castlewood Canyon

A view up the inner canyon creek bed.

Castlewood Canyon

A little over 0.5 miles up the Creek Botton Trail, we came to some falls.

Castlewood Canyon-Falls

Castlewood Canyon-Falls

We continued to hike along the creek.

Castlewood Canyon-Cherry Creek

Castlewood Canyon-Cherry Creek

We arrived back on the other side of the dam around 3:15pm.  Some more shots of the stair-step portion of the dam.

Castlewood Canyon Dam

Castlewood Canyon-Dam

After hiking along the Creek Botton Trail for 1.7 miles, we arrived back at the Dam connector trail and then took a left onto the Inner Canyon Trail.  We followed the Inner Canyon Trail for 1.16 miles back to the parking lot.  We completed our 7-mile loop around the canyon around 4:10pm.

A bench near the parking lot.

Castlewood Canyon-Bench

We headed back to Littleton after a great day in Castlewood Canyon State Park.

2 thoughts on “Castlewood Canyon State Park

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