Waterton Canyon

What an incredible experience! Hiking through Waterton Canyon was absolutely remarkable. The landscape is rugged and mountainous and by the end of the day my neck hurt so much simply from looking up at the mountains in awe. I have no regrets though.

The Waterton Canyon trail is well used by both hikers, runners and also bicyclists. For the purposes of this hike, I hiked all the way through the canyon and up to Bear Creek on the Colorado Trail. The hike through the canyon is done via a road operated by Denver Water with it being a fairly level and family friendly trail. Here are some more details about my hike:

Date of Hike: February 10th, 2019

Total Miles Hiked: 17.5 Miles

Trails Hiked: Waterton Canyon Trail and Colorado Trail to Bear Creek

Time Spent Hiking: Around 7 hours

First and foremost, the trailhead is relatively large and features some picnic tables off to the side. From here, you have to cross a somewhat busy two lane road that has a significant amount traffic that connects Wadsworth Boulevard to Roxborough Park. However, cars actually do stop for you as a crosswalk is present to safely cross the road.

Upon crossing the road, you will find yourself walking up the dirt access road that is used by Denver Water to reach the Strontia Springs Dam as well as several other buildings. Make sure that you take enough water with you too because you will not have any access to fresh water while on the trail. This trail is used so frequently year round because of the fact that the road is plowed immediately after snowstorms. Although you might just think that it’s just a plain old canyon, the views are simply magnificent as you can feel the mountains hugging you.

No more than a mile or two into Waterton Canyon.

Something else that makes this a cool hike is the nearby South Platte river. Even in the middle of winter, it still had that serene feel to it. I’m also really looking forward to how lush it will be once spring arrives. Shortly after that, I was hiking along when I noticed that some small rocks were beginning to slide down the mountain. Sure enough, several bighorn sheep were foraging for food on the rocky slopes of the canyon directly above me!

The Bighorn Sheep foraging for food. Several more are out of the frame to the right too.
Keeping guard of the others!
Waterton Canyon and the mostly frozen South Platte River.

After taking some photos, I was once again on my way. With only some runners and several mountain bikers passing by, I soon enough reached the Strontia Springs Dam. That too amazed me!

The Strontia Springs Dam.

After passing by the dam, it was time to head onto the Colorado Trail. This part of the hike was pretty splendid because it was just a single track trail through the woods. Nothing but nature and solitude really does make you feel better. With that being said, this portion of my hike featured some deep snow but amazing views of the surrounding mountains.

The sign marking the beginning of the Colorado Trail that goes all the way to Durango.
Nice view of the surrounding mountains.
The snow covered and serene Colorado Trail before reaching Bear Creek.

After reaching the vicinity of Bear Creek, I made the decision to turn around and head back due to both the snow depth and the abrupt change in elevation. At the point where I turned around, the trail was about to go directly up a steep mountainside. I decided right away that I wanted to come back once the snow melted later on in the spring.

And before long, I was back on the Waterton Canyon trail. But before too long, I found myself face to face with some Bighorn Sheep! And what a remarkable experience it was!

Encountered these curious onlookers on my way back! Quite friendly though!

These next several photos I never expected to happen. They literally walked no more than five feet in front of me to begin eating grass on the other side of the trail.

Still can’t believe I was this close to this Bighorn Sheep!
Looking into the eyes of a Bighorn Sheep!

After this encounter with this small group of Bighorn Sheep, the rest of the hike back to the trailhead proved to be rather uneventful. It started to get dark fast in the canyon and I made it back about half an hour before the sunset.

Overall, Waterton Canyon proved to be an excellent choice for a hike that I would recommend for anybody looking to get that up close mountain experience but yet remain close to Denver. I thoroughly enjoyed it for the hike itself, the scenery and also the wildlife. Can’t wait to do it all again soon!

Author: David Higham

Spending time in nature calms my soul.

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