Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Hiking In Waterton Canyon

My wife and I are always looking for new hiking trails to try.  With little kids it can sometimes be difficult to find trails that can accommodate the whole family.  Obviously trails with low vertical altitude gains are easier for little legs.  We decided to try a hike at Waterton Canyon, knowing that it follows the river, which means there isn't a lot of altitude gain.
Welcome to Waterton Canyon

Waterton Canyon is a 6.5 mile trail that ultimately ends at Strontia Springs Reservoir.  The reservoir is a water supply for the city of Denver.  The "trail" to the dam is actually a gravel road that allows construction access.  The city of Denver has been rebuilding the Strontia Springs Dam, and is aiming to complete the project by the spring of 2012.

Waterton Canyon Map

While there is a lot of parking at the Waterton Canyon trail head, it can still fill up pretty quick during the weekends.  If you want to get a parking spot, try to arrive early, or if your schedule allows, go for a hike during the week when there are fewer people around.  As with any trailhead, make sure that you lock up your vehicle and take valuables with you.  If you can't take them with you, at least hide them in the vehicle so that they aren't visible from outside.  It would be a shame to have a wonderful hike ruined by someone breaking into your car!

Waterton Canyon parking lot

One great thing about the Waterton Canyon hike is the wildlife.  As you start up the trail you will see signs that let you know that there can be Bighorn Sheep near the trail.  When we went, we weren't disappointed.  Within a mile of the trailhead we saw a herd of over 20 Bighorn Sheep!  When it comes to the Denver Metro area, I cannot think of any other open space or park where you can see Bighorn Sheep so low in the foothills.  I'm used to driving to the area between Dumont and Georgetown on I-70 before I see any Bighorn Sheep.

Herd of Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep 

We only ended up going up the trail about two miles, so there was still a lot left to explorer.  While I'm calling it a trail, it is really more of a gravel road, as mentioned above.  That means that whether you are hiking or biking, there is plenty of room on the trail to get past other people.  You shouldn't have to worry about the cyclists getting too close to you or your family as they go by. 


We also decided to look for some geocaches while we were out and about.  We ended up not looking for any of the caches near the parking lot, but we did look for one near a rest area along the trail.  It was a fairly large one and was supposed to have a travel bug in it, but unfortunately the bug wasn't there.  There was plenty of room to exchange swag though.  If you decide to find this cache, make sure you bring something to trade.
A large geocache, plenty of room for swag!

Want to find out more about geocaching?  Check out these articles:
Geocaching definitions
Geocaching with children
Hiding geocaches

Getting There:

Check out the map below to see where Waterton Canyon is located.  I would highly recommend it for anyone that is looking for an easy trail to hike/bike or if you want a chance to see Bighorn Sheep without driving deep into the mountains.  Or you could use Waterton as an easy hike to start preparing your legs and endurance for your more difficult hikes this summer!
View Larger Map

Looking for more hiking near the Denver Metro area?  Check out these other great places:

Chatfield State Park
Lair O The Bear

Are there any local trails that you would like to see some more info or pictures of?  Let me know in the comment section below and I will try to add them as well.


  1. I'm so glad you wrote about Waterton and I love the mountain sheep photos.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed it. It is pretty cool that you can see Bighorn Sheep so close to the city of Denver. It's definitely worth the hike. Don't forget to take your camera!

  3. This is a very wonderful place.. specially those sheep's..

  4. Waterton Canyon is a wonderful place to hike! However a special note, no dogs are allowed in Waterton Canyon. This is in order to protect the wildlife, specifically the bighorn sheep.

  5. Excellent point! If you want to take your dog for a hike, you will have to choose a different trail.

  6. Awesome photo’s and awesome location. Really a very good article thank you for sharing this with us.

  7. Thanks for the comment! Enjoy the hike!