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Cottonwood Creek, Cherry Creek Loop

Distance6.86 mi
Elevation Gain118 ft
My Time2 hr 19 min
DifficultyEasy
Closest TownAurora
Food NearbyRosie’s

Cottonwood Creek and Cherry Creek Loop

Cherry Creek State Park, located in Aurora, Colorado, is a wonderful nature respite surrounded by the city. There are activities for hikers, bike riders, pet owners, and a large reservoir for water activities. I was looking for an easier walk to possibly help those people who are looking to get started with a walking program. I made a loop out of Piney Creek, Cottonwood Creek and the Cherry Creek trail that should be great for beginners.

Getting Started

There are a couple of different spots to get started on this hike but I decided to get started at the Cherry Creek State Park off leash dog park. I started here on accident but it still worked out and I got to see a bunch of doggo’s! The dog park is a big loop of dirt trail so it isn’t very challenging.

What I did like about the park is that after about four tenths of a mile at the dog park you will make your way through a gate and across a field. The field is great for separating the activity of the dogs to the more reserved side near the creek. The easy path through the field is well defined and easy to follow. You may even get to see some wildlife like this, larger tan the picture shows, bird of prey.

a bird, I believe to be a hawk or falcon, sits in the tall tree branches staring intently at the prairie below from the Cherry Creek and Cottonwood Trail loop.
A falcon/hawk keeping an eye on the prairie

Cherry Creek Trail

The reason this hike should be good for someone just starting a walking program is that a lot of the hike takes place on the paved Cherry Creek Trail. This trail is great for walkers and bikers alike and is just a slice of nature surrounded by the cities. For the first section of the loop I took the trail north for about two and a half miles.

The walk is really easy and nothing technical at all. The views are really nice as you are traveling through some sparse woods and prairie but in the distance you can see the city of Denver and the mountains as well.

The mountains with white caps sit in the distance from the cherry creek section of the cherry creek and Cottonwood Loop
The view of the mountains from the Cherry Creek Trail

You can take as much time or as little as to enjoy the views and the walk. If you are up for the whole loop, you will find the connection at around the two mile mark. You will cross over East Lake View road where the trail will continue. However near the bathroom, you will find signs for the Cottonwood Creek Trail. That will take you back and finish the loop.

At the junction of the Cherry Creek and Cottonwood Trails the view of the mountains is clear except for a lone tree in the foreground.
The view of the mountains from the junction of the Cherry Creek and Cottonwood Trails

Cottonwood Creek Trail

The Cottonwood Creek portion of the trail is a dirt trail that is very well maintained and easy to follow. This again is a great starter hike because of how nice the trail it is. It will give a feel of a good nature walk to see if hiking is something you will like.

The trail heads to the southwest before looping around an area where the creek pools a bit. There are some benches and bridges around the water at this point of the hike. Follow the trail around the little pond and head to the south.

The small Cottonwood Creek has an area where it pools to form a small pond like structure.
The Cottonwood starts to pool into a small pond

Once you pass the small ponding section the trail will last another mile heading south but it is about to get a little more entertaining!

The Dog House

The mile or so walk south on Cottonwood Creek trail is very popular and not just with people. Prairie dogs have taken up residence on either side of the trail and there are a bunch of them.

A single prairie dog sits on its hind legs on the prairie looking for any dangers.
Trying for a better view a prairie dog stand at attention ready to send out a warning

For most of this trail you will have these little guardians chirping and standing guard around their series of tunnels. They are all over and kind of fun to look at. I did see some people walking their dogs almost lose a shoulder or two trying to keep the dogs from chasing after their rodent namesakes.

A prairie dog lies on the edge of the entrance hole to its tunnel looking intently into the distance.
Guarding his hole a prairie dog keeps an eye out

Seeing all of these little creatures made the mile long trek down the trail really fly by. Every few feet was another hole in the field and usually a pair of curious eyes poking out from it.

East Orchard Road

For the last leg of the trail take the dirt road back to the east to finish the loop. There are no signs for the road and it looks like a large dirt trail. Don’t worry there are plenty of prairie dogs on this one as well! The road is about eight tenths of a mile long has some decent views looking back across the park.

The road is a cut out of dirt between two sides that are brown and dead in the winter season.
East Orchard Road is more of combination trail and road

At the end of the road you will connect back with the Cherry Creek Trail to finish the loop. A good nature walk or first attempt at hiking in the books!

Video

I have put together a couple of videos of the hike. This first one is more of a narrative version of the hike:

Next up is a raw, time-lapse version of the hike that I like to call the hikers edit. The hikers edit is to give you a feel of what the trail itself looks like. If you enjoy either of these videos I would love it if you subscribe to my YouTube channel. It is free to subscribe and you will get notified when I upload new content.

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 6.86 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 118 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 5,685 feet. I was also moving for a total of 2 hours and 19 minutes.

Effort

This is a pretty easy hike other than the distance. You can also go as long or as short as you like if it the whole loop is a bit too far. The path is mostly paved and more of a nature walk than a grueling hike so it would be perfect for someone who is looking to get some exercise and get started in outdoor hiking/walking.

Terrain

This loop is a combination of paved walkway and very well manicured dirt trail. The dirt is packed down so regular gym shoes would be fine. Where I started is at the dog trail so there were a lot of dogs both on and off leash. You can access the trail at another location if that concerns you.

Access

There are several access points to the Cherry Creek trail and some small parking areas around the park. I parked at the Dog and equestrian area of Cherry Creek State Park. Cherry Creek has a daily vehicle fee of $11 or you can enter with a valid State Park pass. There was room for about 100 cars and pit toilets at this location.

Wrapping up Piney Creek, Cottonwood Creek , and Cherry Creek Loop

The Piney Creek, Cottonwood Creek and Cherry Creek Loop trail is a great way to get your first start in hiking. It is a combination of paved path and really easy to handle dirt path. There is even the bonus of having a community of prairie dogs to keep you company! So you can go as far as you like and enjoy some time in nature.

The only downfall of this hike is that it runs near a shooting range so that you will have the loud noise from the range for your entire hike. So not as peaceful as some of the hikes but still a great way to get to nature the first time.

I have added this hike and all of my hikes to my interactive map page that you can find here. If you have a suggestion or comment you can email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com. Or follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

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