The headwaters of Cherry Creek lie in the low hill country about 35 miles south of Denver. The creek is an important source of water... more » for the farms and ranches between Castlerock and Denver, and eventually flows into the Cherry Creek Reservoir on Denver’s east side. One hundred twenty years ago, in 1890, local farmers arranged to have a dam built across the creek for irrigation purposes. On 3 August 1933, the dam broke, sending a 15 ft high wall of water into downtown Denver. Thanks to Elsie Henderson’s quick action many lives were saved, as people responded to her telephone call and pulled their families out of the torrent’s path.
Today Castlewood Canyon State Park contains the ruins of that old dam and offers you the opportunity to hike along the banks of the river. The main park entrance is off of Hwy 83 about 30 miles north of Colorado Springs. You can also reach it by driving south from Denver on the same highway, or east from Castlerock on Plum Creek Pkwy, connecting with South Lake Gulch Rd, then north on Hwy 85.
The park is open from 0800 – 1700 daily; entrance fee is $6/car. While there are about 12 miles of hiking trails in the park, I’ve loaded a 6 mile long hike that takes you from the Lake Gulch trailhead in a figure eight loop track. The track begins by dropping down to the shore of what was formerly the lake created by the dam. Then it crosses Cherry Creek just south of the dam and follows the Rimrock Trail up the east side of the canyon. At the north end of the canyon, the trail drops down to the creek bed and returns south along Creek Bottom Trail. After the trail crosses the creek again, you’ll return to the trailhead via Inner Canyon Trail along the north side of the creek.
Dogs are allowed in this part of the park on a leash. The trail is great for kids with lots of opportunities to climb around on the rocks in the upper part of the creek (Inner Canyon Trail).