Castlewood Canyon State Park

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We had picked up a brochure on the numerous Colorado State Parks, and marked the ones that we absolutely had to see. Castlewood Canyon State Park was one of our top picks, and not only because it is so conveniently located to the Denver metro area, but also because we’re definitely suckers for parks with rocky outcroppings, rivers, and canyons.

And the park certainly didn’t disappoint. We started off by checking in at the visitor center in the east section and browsing their exhibits about the park. Immediately across the street is the Bridge Canyon Overlook which is the place to see into the canyon from above and get a good introductory view before continuing along the rim on the Canyon View Nature Trail which is paved and has several side trails back up to parking lots. At the end of the road on the east side is Canyon Point which has pavilions and picnic tables with grand views of the Rockies. We definitely flagged this area to return to when it is a bit warmer for a picnic.

We also plan to return to do the Inner Canyon / Lake Gulch loop to see what it’s like down at river level. This trail starts from the Canyon Point parking lot and is 2 miles long. We’ll report back on this once we’ve done it but we anticipate it will be a good one.

On the west side of the park we drove by the Dam Ruins and parked at the Climbers trail to access the bottom of the cliffs and then hiked around to the top to check out the climbing potential. There are numerous routes with bolted anchors at the top or other options for setting gear. Routes are single pitch with a majority of top rope but also a few sport routes and trad options. We came back on another warmer day to climb and found the place to be pretty popular. The couple routes we tried we were not too impressed with and found the rock to really chew up your hands (The Grocery Store Walls, Gorilla Milk (5.7+) and some combo of Rainbow Bread (5.9+) and Pecan Pie (5.8)). But we haven’t written it off yet and will give it another go. It is awfully convenient.

The Basics

Who: Options range from a short jaunt from your car to an overlook or a picnic area, to much longer loop hikes at a consistent grade, to more challenging hikes down into and back out of the canyon, so there is really something for everyone. Rock climbers also have numerous boldering and route options here.

What: Colorado State Park. Entrance fees are $7 for a day pass or you can purchase an annual pass for entrance to all of the CO state parks for $70. We purchased this pass and anticipate that this will have been the most economical choice by the time we’re through.

Where: 2989 South State Highway 83, Franktown, CO 80116. From I-25 at Castle Rock, take Founders Parkway east, then turning left to continue east on Hwy 86 and south on Hwy 83 until you reach the park.

When: Really the only constraints we noticed and would point out is that the trail down into the canyon was extremely icy and slippery. We walked maybe 20 feet in and saw the traffic jam of folks laboriously making their way up and down the steep trail and decided to postpone this for another day. The park website does say that the East Canyon Trail is closed for the season, so be sure to be aware of any trail closures. For climbers, there are seasonal closures of certain rock walls due to raptor nesting. Information on this is available online or in the visitor center (where you can also purchase a climbing guide).

Why: Great combo of both mountain scenery in the distance and canyon views. Lots of variety of trails to try out. Easy access rock climbing.
How: Be aware that the park is split into two sections, east and west, and you cannot drive through from one end to the other. You have to essentially circle around out of the park to check out both sections. Make sure to reference a map on the park website. Parking lots are conveniently located for trail access.
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