Waterton Canyon is an area for anyone who enjoys simply 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.
I’m here with my daughter’s family today but have actually hiked Waterton Canyon many times. As you can see (above photo) it does not look like much in the beginning 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.
One spirited child is off and climbing with Dad. Not recommended but if you’re careful it’s a big kid and little kid paradise!
Great area and popular for mountain biking too. There is on the trail to share but be mindful when hiking the bikers tend to go fast when heading back down the trail.
BIGHORN SHEEP ROADBLOCK!
Today is our lucky day! A roadblock of Bighorn sheep. Other times I’ve hiked here I normally spot 3-6 sheep but today it’s 39 sheep. We hiked about a 1/2 hour past the water conduit pipe that goes across the river and around the bend. I mention this because this is where I have spotted sheep on every hike. Hopefully, you will too!
Much to our delight, this one was very curious and enjoyed having his picture taken.
Keeping our distance and thrilled to be part of watching as this entire herd of Sheep lounge around the river. Slowly we ventured away heading for a spot I knew for an excellent picnic.
FAVORITE PICNIC SPOT
Now it’s getting more rugged and the scenery more spectacular. Just before the 2-mile marker is an area with a bathroom, picnic tables, and an expansive shore area for kids and adults to fish, skip rocks, eat a snack, and just hang out.
Keep going for another 4 miles and as you go it gets better, more wild, more 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. Just before mile marker 5, there is a picnic table hidden in the brush and a bathroom not too much farther down.
At 6.2 miles is the Strontia Springs Dam and the end of Waterton Canyon. From here there are several more trail options leaving the road behind. One going to 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. Most turn around at Strontia Dam and hike back.
THE EASTERN START OF THE COLORADO TRAIL
Waterton Canyon is also Section 1 of the famous Colorado Trail, (A 500-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. Need more hiking ideas? 23 Awesome Trails in Colorado!!
12.4 mile out and back
Perfect spot for families
Not much shade – bring suncreen & water!
Great bike ride
No dogs allowed – to protect wildlife
Popular for fishing