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On Walkabout On: The Inner Canyon Trail, Castlewood Canyon State Park

Basic Information

  • Name: The Inner Canyon Trail
  • Where: Castlewood Canyon State Park
  • Elevation: 6,400 feet
  • Distance: 3.5 miles
  • Difficulty: EasyMediumHardDifficult
  • Cost: $7 for daily passs
  • More Information: Colorado State Parks website

GPS Map of the Trail

East Castlewood Canyon Hike

Narrative

On my four year old daughter’s birthday she wanted me to take her hiking.  So I tried to find a trail that was close to being four miles long for her four year old birthday.  I settled on a hike through Castlewood Canyon State Park that was close to four miles long and included terrain that she would enjoy.  The park is very easy to access since it is located about an hour drive north of Colorado Spring on Highway 83:


View Larger Map

Shortly after turning off of Highway 83 we were waved through the toll booth since I have an annual Colorado State Park pass.  For those without a pass it costs $7 for a daily pass.  After entering the park I then parked in the lot for the Canyon View Nature Trail:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

My intent was to hike the shorter 1.2 mile long Canyon View Trail and then connect on to the longer 1.96 Inner Canyon Trail to create a loop hike that was nearly 4 miles long by the time we walked back to the parking lot.  You can see a complete list of the various trails in the park at this link.  From the parking lot Canyon View Trail was paved the whole way and took us to the rim of the canyon where there was a nice gazebo to take in the views:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

The gazebo had a really nice view of the Highway 83 bridge that crosses over the canyon:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

The gazebo also had nice views looking west further into the canyon:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

From the Gazebo the trail follows the rim of the canyon where various picnic sites are available to use for those who brought food with them:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

Along the rim there was various viewpoints with good information markers that explained the geologic and natural history of the canyon:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

Castlewood was carved out over the centuries by Cherry Creek that flows through the canyon.  Here is a brief synopsis of the canyon’s upper rock layer:

The “icing” on the park’s rock layer cake of
Dawson Arkose and rhyolite, and its most
distinguishing geologic feature, is Castle Rock
Conglomerate. These 34 million-year-old rocks,
washed down from the eroding Rocky Mountains,
form the park’s canyon walls and caprock.
Conglomerate rocks are easy to identify–they’re
like cookie dough with bits of chocolate chips
sticking out. The “dough” is sedimentary rock
and the chips are pebbles and boulders that are
smoothed and rounded in ancient rivers and
cemented into the rock by the water’s high

concentration of silicates–nature’s concrete. [Colorado State Park website]

You can read more about the park’s geology at the link.  From the rim I had a good view of the Castle Rock conglomerate that forms the upper rock layer of the canyon:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

Something else I could see from the rim of the canyon was a number of really nice houses from what appeared to be a pretty posh neighborhood bordering the State Park:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

As my daughter and I continued to follow the paved path along the canyon’s rim we soon came upon the trailhead for the Inner Canyon Trail:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

Here is where the pavement ends and the path becomes more of as standard hiking trail.  It begins by first descending down steps into the canyon:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

Since the bottom of the canyon is shaded from the sun for most of the day, there was significantly more snow and ice to contend with on the trail compared to the path along the rim:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

It got noticeably cooler as well when we entered the canyon due to the shade:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

At the bottom of the canyon we came upon the first of the many bridges that compose the Inner Canyon Trail:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

Here is a picture from the bridge as we cross over Cherry Creek to the opposite side of the canyon and thankfully back into the sunshine:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

As we hiked down the trail we could see all the various boulders that have eroded off the walls of the canyon and slowly been pushed down the canyon over the centuries by flood waters that occasionally rush down Cherry Creek:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

Some of these boulders were impressively large such as this one that my daughter is standing next to:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

Here is a picture of another bridge we crossed; my daughter had fun counting all of the bridges:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

Some areas of Cherry Creek that were covered by the shade of nearby boulders were completely frozen over:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

Along the trail fortunately the State Park Service posted a sign warning hikers of poison ivy:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

As we hiked further into the canyon the surrounding forest became noticeably thicker with larger ponderosa pine trees:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

This created more shade and thus cooler temperatures again.  Then the canyon opened up nice and wide and let the sunshine back in warming us up yet again:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

Here is a picture of my daughter after she finished counting the number of steps on this section of the trail:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

Then she got to count yet another bridge:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

And another bridge:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

Here the canyon was wide enough that there was plenty of sunshine to ensure that Cherry Creek was not frozen over:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

We had now reached the point of the trail where we had to cross over Cherry Creek to get back to the other side to follow the trail back up to the canyon’s rim.  Strangely despite all the prior bridges we crossed had crossed, there was no bridge here.  We had to jump from rock to rock to cross Cherry Creek which my daughter was too small to do.  So I had to carry her and skip across the rocks.  It would not have been so bad if there wasn’t so much ice to deal with on some of the rocks:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

But we safely made it across Cherry Creek and here was the view looking back towards the opposite side of the canyon:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

Here is the view looking across a wide open section of the canyon that had a ranch located in it:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

From here we then ascended up a trail back to the canyon’s rim.  Along the way we could see the 12,367 foot Almagre Mountain and the 14,115 foot Pikes Peak rising up in the distance:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

You can read about my prior hikes up each these mountains at the below links:

By the time we reached the top of the canyon again my daughter was really tired so we sat down at a bench along the trail and took in some more views.  Another prominent mountain we could see out in the distance was the 14,264 foot Mt. Evans:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

You can read about my prior hike up this mountain at the below link:

After taking our break we followed the trail towards a large picnic area:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

The picnic area we found to be quite large and had bathroom facilities.  However, the picnic area had to be reserved to be used.  This makes Castlewood Canyon State Park a pretty good option for large groups looking for some place to hold gatherings at:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

From the picnic area we followed a paved path back to the trailhead parking lot.  Along the way we had a great view of another great mountain in the region, the 14,255 foot Longs Peak:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

Here is a closer look at the impressive Longs Peak:

Picture from Castlewood Canyon, Colorado

Conclusion

By the time we got back to the parking lot my daughter and I had hiked 3.5 miles over the course of 4 hours.  Overall my daughter and I had a great time at Castlewood Canyon State Park.  I think this is going to be a regular birthday tradition for us.  If I can get her to add one mile every year to her birthday hike by the time she is in high school she is going to be quite a fit and a able hiker.  Besides hiking, the park is also a good place to have a picnic and take in the views.  I may stop here sometime with my family after a trip to Denver just to have a picnic in the park once the weather warms up.  I highly recommend people who live in the region check this park out and hike at least one of its trails.  If my four year old can do it most other people should be able to do it to.

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