Waterton Canyon is mine and Mandy's go-to trail for an easy local day hike with the boys. The word hike might even be too generous. Maybe slightly inclined smooth walking trail would be better. Situated deep in the southern Denver suburbs in what is also known as Platte Canyon sits Waterton Canyon. Managed by Denver Water and the US Forest Service, it is also a starting/ending point for the Colorado Trail. The appeal of this trail can't be denied. We have walked it, we have ran it, we have biked it and we have pushed many a stroller through it. It never gets boring and never stops showing off it's beauty. For us, the perfect day hike is packing a lunch and heading over to the trail to see how far we can get. About two and half miles in there's a rest area with a bathroom and plenty of covered tables. This is our usual lunch spot. Keep heading up and you'll come upon a smaller dam and more of an incline. Then at about six and half miles in you reach the giant Strontia Springs Dam. Around this larger dam you'll have a much steeper incline. This is where the Colorado Trail begins and it actually the furthest we have gone, so far.
In the canyon you'll likely see all sorts of birds, deer, bighorn sheep, and other indigenous animals. It is also open to fishing and horseback riding. Don't be surprised to find a work truck or two coming down the trail, they go slower and we think they are actually considerate of the hikers. The one thing I always comment on is the wide range of people you see on the trail due to it's variety in skill level. From toddlers to seniors, Waterton Canyon really has something for everyone.
Getting There: From C-470 exit Wadsworth Blvd. and head south about four miles. The road will have a slight fork and you want to turn left onto Waterton Road. Your second left will be the parking area for the trail head. It's hard to miss.
In the summer during peak times, there is a small snack shack in the parking area open to visitors. It's a great place to grab water or snack in case you forgot. After you are parked you will have to cross the two lane road you came in on. Please use the crosswalk including the crossing lights, some people like to fly through this area. As you walk on you will notice there are bathrooms and picnic tables scattered all over the first half mile of trail.
Don't forget your trail etiquette and stay to the right. As I said you're sharing the trail with kids, bikes, and horses. Keep your eyes open at all times.
This is an example of one of the many covered picnic tables you'll find next to the river and never far from a bathroom. I'm sure Mandy would mention they are all vault toilets just in case you aren't on board with something like that.This is the smaller dam about three miles up the trail. I can't seem to find our pictures of the giant dam, but let me assure you it is massive.
For all you out of towners, we would suggest camping at Chatfield State Park in your tent or RV and then adventure through Waterton. It is about a five minute drive south of Chatfield and definitely worth a visit.
- The trail is open all year, basically sun up to sun down
- During peak times it gets busy fast! Go early or go late is our suggestion
- Bring lots of water for drinking
- Don't enter the river unless you're wearing waders
- Check the Denver Water website for closures before you go
- Do not approach the wild animals
- Throw your trash in the trash cans or pack it back out with you
- Respect the trail
This summer I am making plans to do an overnight backpacking trip for this first section of the Colorado Trail starting at Waterton Canyon. Once I finish I will be sure to share more about it here on the blog. You can find more info:HERE and HERE.