Best trail to see Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep. They share Waterton Canyon with outdoor enthusiasts. Waterton Canyon is an area for anyone who enjoys a day outside. A winding dirt road along the South Platte River is mesmerizing as you go deeper into the canyon walls; spotting Bighorn sheep, mule deer, or even an eagle soaring above is one of its highlights. So many options that you can make this simply a short hike in and have a picnic or go all the way to the end and have a 12.4-mile out and back. Hiking, biking, and fishing have brought all ages here to spend the day.


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Entering Waterton Canyon does not look like much initially but keep going. Soon the canyon walls and river will be your only surroundings, and you will forget you are not far from the city and deep into nature. 

I hike here often with family and friends, especially in spring, while waiting for the snowmelt on the higher mountain peaks.

Famous for biking, too, for kids and adults. They share the trail, so be mindful. The bikers tend to go fast when heading back down the path.

Waterton Canyon is Toasty Warm in Summer

Six Moon Designs Hiking Umbrella – Sun and weather protection!

Nathan Lite Hydration Pack – My go-to for short, easy hikes

Nuun Sport Electrolyte Tablets – Add to your water.

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Today is a lucky day! A roadblock of Bighorn Sheep. Other times I’ve hiked here, I usually spot 3-6 sheep, but today it’s 30 sheep. So, chances are you might also.

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Waterton Canyon is a safe haven for the > Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. For that reason, dogs are not allowed in the Canyon. It is rare to spot them when hiking in Colorado’s highly rugged areas, so this is a treat to wander near them.

They are wild; keep your distance.


 Just before the 2-mile marker, you will find an area with a bathroom, picnic tables, and an expansive shore area for kids and adults to fish, skip rocks, eat snacks, and hang out.

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The picnic areas and shelters are named after Colorado wildlife who live within the Canyon. Mule Deer, Great Blue Heron, Black Bear, Mountain Lion, Rattlesnake, and Bighorn Sheep Rest Areas.

Starting in early May until September, black bears can be spotted occasionally in the Canyon as they forage for 20 hours a day. 

Keep going for another 4 miles; as you go, it gets better, more wild, and rugged, but the trail stays the same. Easy hiking. You will pass the Marston Dam and find the river getting wide, the landscape filling with more pine trees, and the canyon walls steeper. This is my favorite part of the trail. 


For an exceptional article on types of birds found in Wateron Canyon > The Front Range Birding Company

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Just before mile marker 5, there is a picnic table hidden in the brush and a bathroom not much farther down.

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At 6.2 miles is the Strontia Springs Dam and the end of Waterton Canyon. From here, several more trail options are leaving the road behind. One is going to the Roxborough State Park connector section of the Indian Creek Trail #800. I’ve often thought of leaving a car at Roxborough State Park and one at Waterton Canyon Parking Area and hiking from one to the other. But instead, most turn around at Strontia Dam and hike back.


Waterton Canyon is also Section 1 of the famous Colorado Trail, (A 567-mile thru-hike to Durango, CO) and will lead you out of the canyon and on to Lenny’s Rest where you can camp if desired. There is no camping within Waterton Canyon.

Want to get outside for a day – Waterton Canyon is perfect for all ages. 


12.4 miles out and back

Rated: Easy

Perfect spot for families

Not much shade – bring sunscreen & water!

Great bike ride

No dogs allowed – to protect wildlife

Popular for fly-fishing

No camping

Free Parking



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