Castlewood Canyon State Park is a little-known spot that is sure to please any wildlife and nature enthusiast. This Douglas County state park, located south of Parker off Colorado Highway 83, is home to not only some of Colorado’s most magnificent plants and wildlife, but provides families with recreational opportunities.
Among activities to be enjoyed in the park are birding, hiking, biking, horseback riding, rock climbing and picnicking.
Pets are welcome just about anywhere (as long as they’re on a leash), excluding the East Canyon Preservation Area trail. This trail is home to many sensitive species of plants and animals that can easily be disturbed by our furry friends. The trail is also closed during the winter season due to muddy and icy conditions.
For good views and interaction with the surrounding nature, take the Creek Bottom Trail. It is an easy-to-moderate hike that takes visitors along Cherry Creek and past a cascading waterfall. The Canyon View Nature Trail is 1.2 miles of easy hiking and offers more excellent views of the canyon.
Those who crave to see the remnants of Colorado history can take a trail that winds past the Castlewood Canyon Dam ruins. The dam burst in 1933, sending a 15-foot wave of water into Denver.
The Lucas homestead and ranch is another historical attraction discovered by hikers and bikers along the canyon’s trails.
Castlewood Canyon State Park is located at the northernmost extension of the Black Forest, also known as the Palmer Divide. This divide is a unique ecological system that borders the Front Range Foothills and plains grasslands. The forest consists of Ponderosa pine, Douglas firs, shrub lands and wetlands.
Cherry Creek cuts through the bedrock that forms the canyon, where walls of caprock and alluvium are exposed, creating a geologist’s dream and an interesting attraction for novices.
Elevations range between 6,200 and 6,600 feet. Aspens thrive far below their usual elevation here in grassy meadows dotted with wildflowers, greeting Colorado visitors.
Castlewood is also home to “critically imperiled” plant species, with fewer than five populations in the entire state. These species include Richardson’s alumroot, American current, New Mexico cliff fern, Sprengel’s sedge, giant bur-reed, grass fern and carrion flower.
This unique location also provides for many animals. Mule dear, cottontails, squirrels, black bears, mountain lions and elk can occasionally be spotted in the park. Reptiles and amphibians, including rattlesnakes, garter snakes, eastern fence lizards and Woodhouse’s Toads, also make their home in the canyon.
Bird watchers who visit the park will enjoy numerous sightings of golden eagles, hawks, falcons, larks and sparrows.
More of the state park’s offerings include the Bridge Canyon Overlook gazebo, which invites visitors to gaze over the edge to the canyon floor. It’s the perfect location for weddings and other ceremonies. The amphitheater provides a magnificent view of Pikes Peak and can hold up to 120 people. Other facilities include conference rooms and a visitor’s center.
The Friends of Castlewood Canyon State Park have raised $100,000 and convinced the Colorado Division of Parks and Great Outdoors to commit to $1.35 million for the purchase of 397 acres surrounding the park. Come enjoy this unique, protected piece of Douglas County and enjoy the great Colorado outdoors.
If You Go
Castlewood Canyon State Park
2989 South State Highway 83
Franktown, Colorado 80116
Daily park passes cost $7 per person and annual passes cost $70. Park hours are from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.