Castlewood Canyon State Park has the word canyon in it for a reason. If you want, you can hike down into the canyon and back out, for some unique views.
Or if you would rather just enjoy the view from the top, there is a paved trail that follows along the top of the canyon. It includes several overlooks, as well as some informative signs that tell you all about the area.
Before I tell you any more though, here are the directions to Castlewood Canyon State Park: from Denver, follow I-25 south to Castle Rock; then take the Founders Parkway exit eastbound. Follow the Founders Parkway to Hwy. 86, then go east on Hwy. 86 four miles to Franktown. Next, turn south on Hwy. 83, (which is S. Parker Rd.), and go five miles south to the main entrance of the park. It's on the right side of the road.
Or, if you'd like to enter the park's westside entrance, (where the waterfall is), here are those directions: follow the above directions until you reach Hwy. 86. Follow Hwy. 86 and turn right onto Castlewood Canyon Road, (County Rd. 51), before you reach the town of Franktown. Castlewood Canyon Road will lead you straight to the park.
As you enter Castlewood Canyon State Park, (main entrance), one of the first things you'll see is the visitor center, and as I've said in other pages of this site, I highly recommend visiting it. That's where you'll find brochures about the park, (including trails), hiking-related books, a board that lists wildlife that has been seen in the park, and a very helpful staff.
Speaking of wildlife, some of what you might see here includes: red fox, coyote, bobcat, mule deer, elk, porcupine, and the occasional rattlesnake, among others.
This Colorado State Park is a day-use only park, (no camping), and is open from 8 a.m. to sunset. Although Castlewood Canyon is the main attraction here, you can also picnic, hike the 12 miles of trails, and if you're a bird person, there are plenty of birds to be seen here. (Over 100 bird species exist here.) We saw chickadees, mountain bluebirds, a steller's jay, and a scrub jay, among others.
Castlewood Canyon State Park is another of the state parks that allows dogs, so do bring them with you. But if you do, make sure you keep them on a leash. Also, it would be a good idea to bring extra water for them since it can be hot here in the summer.
One other useful piece of information is the park fee which is $7.00 for a daily park pass. Or if you want an annual pass, (which is good for all the Colorado State Parks), that's $70.00 and it's good for 12 months from the month you buy it. (These are 2017 prices.)
Anyway, if you're ready, here's a description of the first trail we hiked here, which is accessed from the main park entrance:
1) Canyon View Nature Trail
Start: Bridge Canyon Overlook parking area
End: Canyon Point parking area
One-way distance: 1.2 miles
Difficulty level: easy
Approximate one-way hiking time: 30 minutes-I was stopping for pictures!
This is a paved trail that follows along the top of the canyon which was formed by the waters of Cherry Creek. You'll find several scenic overlooks along the way, so remember that camera! We were here in mid March so the snow was melting and there was water everywhere...on parts of the trail, next to the trail, and even running across one of the park roads.
There are also a good number of picnic tables scattered along the trail. Some of them are situated under trees, so if you brought a lunch, make yourself at home. While you're doing that, see how many birds you can see or hear. As I mentioned earlier, there are plenty of them at Castlewood Canyon State Park. Have fun!
This next hike is also accessed from the main entrance to Castlewood Canyon State Park:
2) Inner Canyon and Lake Gulch trails
Start: Canyon Point parking area
End: Canyon Point parking area
Roundtrip distance: about 2.0 mile loop trail
Difficulty level: moderate
Approximate roundtrip hiking time: 1 hour and 10 minutes
This trail starts out by meandering through a meadow before heading towards the canyon and down to Cherry Creek. In June and July, the meadow is graced by a colorful variety of flowers, including the Orange Paintbrush.
Once you reach Cherry Creek, you need to cross it by jumping from one rock to another. Use caution here since the rocks become slippery when wet.
On the other side of the creek, the trail leads along Cherry Creek most of the way back to the parking area. This portion of the trail is rocky so do watch your step.
As you near the end of the loop, you'll see a few picnic tables scattered around. They are a great place to stop and eat your lunch if you brought one. Or just a nice place to sit and relax.
The following hike is accessed from the park's west entrance:
3) Castlewood Canyon State Park waterfall
Start: Homestead trailhead
One-way distance: about 1.6 miles
Difficulty level: easy to moderate
Approximate one-way hiking time: 30 minutes
From the Homestead trailhead, follow the Cherry Creek trail to the right. (If you're facing it from the parking lot.) You might hear chickadees along the way since we heard plenty of them. If you happen to be here in mid March, be prepared for mud and leftover snow. Although it doesn't make for the best walking, it does make for the best time to see the waterfall!
At one point, you will see a picnic table and a restroom area on your left. Turn left at that point and you'll see the sign for the Westside trailhead. As you walk towards the Westside trailhead sign, you'll see the sign that says: Creek Bottom trail. Follow the Creek Bottom trail until you see the sign that says: Falls trailhead.
From there, just follow the Falls trail for a relatively short distance until you see the falls on your left. You'll hear it before you see it. You can actually drive most of the way to the falls, (as far as the Falls trailhead), so if you're short on time, you can always do that. But if you have the time, and would rather hike it, start from the Homestead trailhead.
By the way, I'll be adding more trails to this Castlewood Canyon State Park page at some point, so be on the lookout for them.