Castlewood Canyon – Rimrock to Creek Bottom loop

Distance6.5 mi
Elevation764 ft
My Time2 hr 24 min
DifficultyModerate
Closest TownFranktown
Food NearbyAdriana’s

One of the first hikes that I did when I started my journey was at Castlewood Canyon and you can see some more pictures by following this link. I decided to give it another try and explore another trail. I am happy to say that it was much easier this time!

Starting out

I have parked at the main parking area both times. It is a little confusing because when you find the large parking lot it looks like you are on a prairie. The landscape is almost completely flat and there are some picnic tables and restroom. The fist time I showed up I was super disappointed. What I didn’t realize is that you are actually at the high point of the park at the parking lot.

There are a couple of ways you can go but I like to start by going on the Lake Gulch trail. This will give you a bit of an easier descent than the other option which starts with a steepish staircase. The Lake Gulch trail gives nice views of the surrounding farms as it descends down towards the creek. At the bottom there are some large rocks that you can use to cross over the creek and connect to Inner Canyon trail.

The view from the rocks you cross to get across to Inner Canyon Trail

After the crossing and making it up to Inner Canyon you can either take the quick loop and head to the right back into the canyon, which is really cool, or you can head to the left. If you go left like I did you will come to an intersection with Rimrock trail and Creek Bottom trail. Creek Bottom will take you towards the dam and a nice walk next to the creek. I took Rimrock.

Rimrock Trail

Rimrock trail has some of the steeper elevation gains I have seen in the park. If you enter from this point it is a little bit easier though. You will start with a little walk through some wooded area and then a fairly steep climb up to the top of the rock. It is about a total of 150 feet that you will incline in .3 miles. So not terrible but about the most you will have to do on this path.

This will put you on the top of the rim that goes around the park and you get some really nice views down into the canyon.

View from the top of rimrock trail.  There are mountains in the background, a forest of tall pines in the midground and another rock cliff face in the foreground

The walk on top is over a lot of rocky, but easy to traverse terrain and there isn’t much cover so you will be pretty exposed to the sun. It is also plenty wide and it doesn’t feel like you are walking on an edge or anything like that. It is a total of about 1.5 miles on the top with certain area’s that you are able to get closer to the edge and take some nice pictures.

After the mile and half you will start heading down. Now the people that were coming up from this side looked like it was a pretty tough incline but heading down it is pretty easy. When you get to the bottom you follow the trail that curves around and crosess a bridge to put you near the west gate parking areas. You will connect with the Creek Bottom trail and can take that back towards where you began.

Creek Bottom Trail

The Creek Bottom trail takes you through some more wooded area’s and you will actually start to climb a bit more in elevation before starting to descend back down to the creek. When you begin your descent you will have a nice view of the main waterfall.

The largest waterfall in Castlewood Canyon park.  The view is from 200 yards away and above on the Creek Bottom Trail

The only really disappointing part is that you never really get close to the main waterfall on this path. You do have a chance to follow some smaller trails that will take you nice and close to the water and depending on how high the water is you might get some smaller waterfalls.

After following the creek you will find yourself getting close to the dam. There is a cool dam trail that will take you back up to the top of the remnants of the dam but I didn’t take it today. It is relatively steep and you can see how high you will have to go up by looking at the dam. I stayed on the Creek Bottom trail which will take you back to a small bridge to cross the creek and climb a flight of stairs built into the trail and back to where you began.

Inner Canyon Trail

Coming back I took Inner Canyon Trail. I think Inner Canyon is my favorite trail. The hiking does get a little more challenging as you will need to walk on a lot more rocks on this trail. None of it is too technical but just keep it in mind if you are unsure of yourself.

Trees line the edge of the inner canyon with large boulders down near the creek and a path leading to a small bridge.

The Inner Canyon gives you great views of the creek with some large boulders down and a some really nice trees speckling the creek bed. There are several places on this trail that you can get down close to the water and I saw a lot of families with kids enjoying the area.

While the terrain is pretty rocky it isn’t too difficult to get around if you go slow. The difficult part comes at the end when you have to climb back up a staircase to get back to the car. Remember I told you that the parking lot was the high point! The last staircase is about 100 feet of elevation in less than a tenth of a mile. After that you end up on a paved area with some picnic tables and can make your way back to the parking lot.

Distance and Elevation

If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 6.5 miles and had a total elevation gain of over 764 feet including undulations. That put the high point at at 6, 610 feet. The odd thing about this hike is the high point is actually in the parking lot. I was also moving for a total of 2 hours and 24 minutes.

Effort

This is a longer hike but the elevation gains aren’t too bad if you go the direction that I did. When you do have elevation it tends to be steep but doesn’t last too long. As far a step count goes it was pretty good morning according to my fitbit.

The step count from today's hike according to my fitbit.  Today's hike was 15,170 steps.

Terrain

There is a lot of walking on rocks at this park. Inside the lower canyon and on the top ridge it is a very rocky surface. Now there is also a lot of sand and dirt trails as well but if you have any balance issues you should be especially careful. None of the rocks are really difficult to traverse but as apposed to other trails on the easier end there just seems to be more.

Access

Castlewood Canyon State Park is part of the State Park system which means that you will have to either buy a day pass for $9 per vehicle or have a yearly pass for $80. You can find more information on the fee system here. There are two entrances to the park, they are both off of HWY 83 in Franktown. There are also several parking area’s but the main area has restroom facilities and picnic areas.

Wrap up

This is one of my favorite parks in Colorado. It doesn’t have the huge inclines that a lot of the parks have and has some really nice scenery. A couple things to look out for is that there is not much shade on the trails and the footing can get a little tricky if you aren’t used to walking on rocks.

The park is also at a low elevation so it gets hot in the summers. When I came in the spring the trail was really muddy. In August, the trail is in good shape but the plants and brush around are really overgrown meaning you are probably going to rub up on some branches and leaves. I am going to rate this moderate for the reasons above but there are sections of the park that can be enjoyed by all.

I have added this hike and all the hikes on my interactive map that you can find here. If you have any suggestions for hikes or comments you can always email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com or follow me at any of the below social media channels. Happy Hiking!

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