Castlewood Canyon State Park is that breathtaking canyon you’ve probably passed many times on your way to Denver on Highway 83 and gasped at its beauty and then just like that, it was gone. (Well, the beauty isn’t completely gone, but the picturesque canyon is in view on second and gone the next!)
Well, you should stop next time! Castlewood Canyon truly is a beautiful park with quite a variety of features: old homestead ruins, a waterfall, the remains of a dam that burst in 1933, and of course miles of hiking trails and beautiful views.
On our first visit, which took place last summer, we parked at the main parking lot off Highway 83 and did a few miles of hiking to the dam and waterfall.
The Castlewood Dam
The Castlewood Dam was built in 1890 and collapsed in 1933, sending a “fifteen-foot wall of water” into Denver. (The Denver Public Library has some of that history here.)
The Lucas Homestead Ruins
On the west side of the park there are the remains of the old homestead of Patrick and Margaret Lucas. It was fun to explore this and imagine how the house must have been put together originally and what the various walls must have been.
It took until our third trip to the park to finally get to the homestead. The first time, we intended to hike from the main park entrance to the homestead, which is on the other end of the park – about 3.5 miles one-way, which was more ambitious than I realized! On a future trip we parked at the Falls Lot and did about a .7-mile hike to get to the homestead. Once we got to the homestead I realized that there is a parking lot right in front of it, but hey, we wanted to hike. (Obviously, my map-interpreting skills are lacking.) The Falls Lot is a nice mid-way point between the homestead, the falls, and the dam.
We visited once in winter and enjoyed seeing the waterfall frozen over.
This is the Highway 83 bridge that you’ve probably driven on. The little pavilion you can see from Highway 83 is the Bridge Canyon Overlook, which somehow I didn’t get a picture of that day. (It was cold!)
When we were there in April, we observed many raptors soaring above the canyon, which was really fun to watch! Certain trails and climbing areas at Castlewood Canyon are closed during part of the year to protect the raptors during their nesting season – be sure to check the website for closure information.
A sign for Cave Trail caught my eye last time we were there, but we didn’t have time to take it. It looks like it’s a short hike that might be worth it, because of course it’s a cave!
Note that there are two entrances to the park: the main entrance off 83 and then the west entrance off Castlewood Canyon Rd., which can be access off Lake Gulch Rd. if you’re coming from the Springs. I probably would recommend the west entrance if you are interested in the homestead, falls, and dam but don’t want a long hike. The main entrance has the visitor center and quite a bit of paved trail if you need wheelchair- or stroller-accessible.
A state park pass is required to visit Castlewood Canyon – you can purchase a day pass for $7. Bring cash, especially during the off-season, as there may not be a ranger at the visitor center. (There are self-pay stations at both entrances to the park.)
Be sure to check the Colorado Parks and Wildlife site for official information on Castlewood Canyon State Park. I hope you are able to get out and enjoy some of our state parks!
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