Waterton Canyon

Easy hike or jog beside a swift river in a forested gorge with plentiful wildlife.

Hiking Easy

Distance
20 km
Ascent
219 m
Descent
219 m
Duration
4-5 hrs
Low Point
1.7 km
High Point
1.8 km
Gradient
VIEW ON MAP
Waterton Canyon Map

Description

The South Platte River tumbles out of the Rocky Mountains in a deep gorge where trees grow thick and bighorn sheep roam. The canyon feels wild, even though it’s quite close to the urban area, and the scenery is an interesting juxtaposition of nature and infrastructure. The river flows its natural course through this section, but you’ll pass beneath a large pipe that carries water from a reservoir upstream. The path is a dirt road, but aside from service vehicles, it’s only open to hikers and bikers. Dogs are not allowed in order to minimize disturbance on wildlife.

You may see bighorn sheep, mule deer, rabbits, many kinds of birds, and maybe even a black bear if you are lucky. The bears generally avoid people and are not dangerous as long as you keep your distance. Fishing is a popular activity in the river as well.

You can hike any distance out and back along the wide riverside path. The farther you go, the fewer people and more wildlife you are likely to see. It’s just over 6 miles to the dam and reservoir, where narrower trails continue higher into the mountains. You may see backpackers and bikepackers loaded with gear as they perpare to embark on the Colorado Trail, a long-distance mountain trek from Denver to Durango. Waterton Canyon is its eastern terminus. Though the rest of the Colorado Trail is challenging, this first part through Waterton is level and easy. It’s the perfect place for a relaxed stroll through nature at any time of year.

Sources: https://www.denverwater.org/recreation/waterton-canyon-strontia-springs-resevoir http://coloradotrail.org/traveling-the-ct/starting-in-denver/

Difficulty

Easy

Walking along a well-kept trail that’s mostly flat. No obstacles are present.

Low Exposure

1 out of 4

The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.

Remoteness

1 out of 4

Close to help in case of emergency.

Best time to visit

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Features

  • Wildlife
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area