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On Walkabout On: Eleven Mile Canyon’s Overlook Trail

Basic Information

  • Name: Overlook Trail
  • Where: Eleven Mile Canyon, Colorado
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 497 feet
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: EasyModerateHardDifficult
  • More Information: US Forest Service website

Topographic Map of the Trail

Overlook Trail Map

Elevation Map

Overlook Trail Elevation Map

Narrative

After finishing our lunch at a picnic ground within Colorado’s scenic Eleven Mile Canyon Recreation Area, my 4-year old daughter, my wife, and I with our 1-year old son strapped to my back decided to hike up the nearby Overlook Trail to get a view of the Eleven Mile Reservoir.  We began our hike at the parking lot adjacent to the Eleven Mile Dam:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

There is actually parking closer to the trailhead especially if the nearby campground is open, but the Forest Service website recommends that hikers begin their walk from dam parking lot in order to save parking space for fishermen and campers.  So from the dam parking lot we set off down the dirt road towards the Spillway Campground where the trailhead is located.  Along the way we enjoyed some good views of the rocks we were about to hike up to our North:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

We next crossed over the South Platte River:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

After walking about half a mile down the road and crossing the bridge over the river, we reached the gate to the Spillway Campground:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

Since it was late Spring the campground was still closed for the season.  From the gate it was a short walk to the campground.  Here is a picture of my wife and daughter walking up the dirt road towards the campground:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

When we reached the campground we found it to be quite large and had restroom facilities that were locked for the season:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

At the campground the trailhead for the Overlook Trail was easily spotted:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

We headed up the trail and it wasn’t very long before the trail became quite steep:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

The trail was initially in pretty good shape, but it then became more difficult to traverse and required some moderate rock scrambling to get up:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

It was at this point my wife decided to wait for me here with my one-year old son while my daughter and I continued up the trail.  Here was the view of the South Platte River my wife would have to take in while she waited for us to return:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

The trail actually only stayed steep and rugged for only a short while longer:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

It then flattened out a bit though it was still quite rocky:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

I held my daughters hand for most of the way up because of the rocky conditions and we took frequent breaks whenever my daughter wanted to.  The going was slow, but by going at her own pace she does not get discouraged and pushes herself further:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

As we pushed on slowly up the mountain the summit came into view just a short distance away:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

This is the tree on top of the mountain that designates the end of the trail:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

The view from the lookout of Eleven Mile Reservoir was definitely worth the effort of hiking up the mountain:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

Here is a closer look at the Eleven Mile Dam down below:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

If the weather was clear we could probably see the Sawatch Range, but due to the cloudy conditions I was going to have to make due with seeing the 13,326 foot Buffalo Peaks out in the distance:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

The Buffalo Peaks are a beautiful sight to see when driving across the South Park area.  I definitely would like to hike them some day.  Here is a closer look at the scenic Buffalo Peaks:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

Here is the view of the rugged mountains bordering Eleven Mile Reservoir:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

There is no actual trail that access these rugged mountains, but for someone that wants to do some rock scrambling from the lookout, the climbing did not look to difficult.  Here is a panorama I took using my iPhone 5S of the reservoir and the adjacent mountains:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

Here is the view we had of the South Platte River down below in Eleven Mile Canyon:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

Here is another panorama picture I took, this time of the South Platte River and Eleven Mile Canyon:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

We spent about 20 minutes hanging out at the lookout before deciding to head back down the mountain:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

Once we came back to the steep section again I made sure to hold my daughter’s hand as we carefully descended the mountain:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

We linked up with my wife and son again and continued down the mountain.  This is where we made a wrong turn onto a different trail than the one we came up.  It ended up dumping us off at the dirt road instead of the Spillway Campground.  However, just like the campground the dirt road also has a trailhead sign:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

So we did not even need to walk to the campground, we could have just walked a little further up the dirt road and started our hike from this trailhead.  From this trailhead we walked back up the dirt road passed the Spillway Campground entrance:

Picture from 11 Mile Canyon, Colorado

Conclusion

A short while later we found ourselves back at the dam parking lot.  In total it took us 2 hours to cover the 2-miles of hiking.  Since I was moving at 4-year old speed I thought this was actually a pretty good time to complete the hike in.  I was quite proud of my daughter.  For those not moving at 4-year old speed this hike will probably take half as long.  However, due to the great scenery surrounding Eleven Mile Canyon, traveling slow is not a bad thing to do on this fun hike up the Overlook Trail.

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