Tag Archives: Colorado Trail

Waterton Canyon – We chose safety this weekend- Hiked 9/14/13

16 Sep
The Start of Waterton Canyon

The Start of Waterton Canyon

I don’t know if you have heard about it or not, but there has been some flooding in our beautiful state.  When the rain started on Tuesday/Wednesday, all I thought was “yay!  It will finally cool off around here.”  Then Wednesday night when I was coming home from work, I started thinking, hmmm this has been pretty intense for quite some time.

Thursday morning was crazy, I woke up late for work and while getting ready I learned about all that was destroyed during the night .  It is devastating!  So many of the hikes I have written about here are now inaccessible and who knows how long it will be before they can be reached again and then if they will be in any condition to hike….. maybe for years.

The Green Space at the end of my block- normally there is no water visible ....EVER

The Green Space at the end of my block normally there is no water visible ….EVER

As I headed to work that morning I was actually a little scared at how much rain was coming down, how much water was sitting on the streets and how much was raging through drainage ditches along streets and neighborhoods.  I live and work in one of the areas hard hit, but was fortunately spared any real damage or flooding near my home.  My heart is aching for all those that have lost everything, homes and neighborhoods we would admire as we drove to our next trailhead are now completely gone.  It is staggering.

Needless to say, I was also thinking about my original planned hike this weekend.  It seems like the town it is closest too has not been destroyed or at least did not see enough of the flooding to be mentioned, but I know there are other towns not being mentioned that have been completely leveled.  I was also hopeful that the destruction would not carry over into the weekend and then that kept getting extended and extended. In fact, it is Monday and most of the front range still has flood and flash flood warnings in effect.

Friday night we talked about what was smart to do and what we wanted to do, even the smart option had me questioning if we should even walk outside our door Saturday morning.

We were up bright and early Saturday morning and made our way over to Waterton Canyon( hike details here), I had a friend who lives close tell me that it had been pretty quiet in her neighborhood and that she didn’t think there were any flooding problems over there.  I had decided that we would go there and if the trail looked bad we would turn around and head back home.

The parking lot was mostly empty, which is very unusual at 7AM on a Saturday morning but it wasn’t closed.  As we were walking along the path, at an excellent pace I might add,  we saw some debris piles from obvious issues earlier in the week but otherwise it was in great condition.  Before we knew it, we had gone past our furthest point previously hiked  and so we decided to try for the Strontia Springs.

What I once thought was the big dam

What I once thought was the big dam



This is when I learned that everything I knew about this hike was a little wrong…. I guess I thought the trail actually went to the springs and that it ended in this picturesque setting that was super beautiful with the Colorado trail a beacon of opportunity  taunting you near the springs.  What we found was that the Big Dam everyone asks if you made it to,  is in fact at the end and is crazy big….like Hoover Dam big!  Then it goes into some residential housing and up a little ways is the Colorado trial.

Big dam 2


I honestly almost missed the super huge dam because I was looking at the trial map just before we turned around, trying to not be nosy (totally not succeeding) while 2 bikers were talking about how crazy the amount of water coming out of the Dam was.  I was like, huh?  Walked over to the construction area and there is was… ENORMOUS!  I mean how did I not know it was that big and here of all places!  One of the bikers pulled up next to me and said (clearly he didn’t notice me ease dropping a few minutes earlier) that normally the water is only flowing out towards the bottom in a small jet no big deal, he had never actually seen the top release ducts used like they were on Saturday.

Big Dam

The sign at the end

The sign at the end

In the end we did the entire 12.6 miles up and back at Waterton canyon and even jogged a couple of miles down so we finished in just 3.5 h ours.  The day was insanely beautiful, if a little humid and we had it mostly to ourselves on a perfectly normal-seeming day.  I was so glad we chanced it and headed out when we could.

The view on the way back down

The view on the way back down

We got home just in time for the next wave of insanity to begin, which started out with an awesome hail storm that flooded our backyard in just 3 minutes as we watched with bated breath…. praying “please don’t go over the edge into the window well”….. We totally lucked out!

Hail starting at my house

Hail starting at my house

Find out how to help those affected by floods in Colorado, including ways to donate, what to donate and locations of donation centers, through our local NBC affiliate : www.9news.com

Waterton Canyon, Littleton 1/12/13

12 Jan
A view of the mountains along the canyon

A view of the mountains along the canyon

Waterton Canyon/ The Colorado Trail Segment 1:

Starting elevation:  5550 Ft

Highest Elevation: 5721 Ft ( total gain of 171 ft but strangely I got 90 flight of stairs on my fitbit….)

Trail Length: We did a total trip of 8.5 miles, 4.25 in and back.  This is a trail with endless possibilities given it is part of the Colorado Trail all the way to Durango ( approx. 500 total miles).  One day I would like to connect with the Carpenters Peak Trail in Roxborough State park or better yet do a multiple day hike on the Colorado trail…..

Trail Uses: Hiker, Biker and horses.

Degree of Difficulty:  EASY

Bathrooms: Yes and plentiful.  However this is a heavily populated trail in spring, summer and fall so it might not hurt to have a roll of toilet paper along for the journey just in case one of the many restrooms along the trail is out when you have need to use it.

Pets: Dogs are NOT allowed because there are actually herds of long horned sheep in this canyon.

Waterton canyon Map and rules

Waterton canyon Map and rulesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After my crud finally let up last Sunday-ish, I was able to start working out again.  It was a slow week and I only got in about half of my usual workouts or working out time.  I knew my lungs and body weren’t up to too much so I decided an old standby was in order.  Waterton Canyon is very easy, when we started getting into shape last March this would often be our second hike in a weekend and then it would be our easy hike.  There is almost no elevation gain but you can make it LLLOOOONNNGGG.  Plus it is close to Denver and one of Aaron’s favorite features is that we can walk side by side ( he still likes to hold my hand occasionally, I am such a lucky girl!).  The trail itself is the width of an almost 2 lane dirt road and every time I have walked, at least 2 cars have driven up it.  Mostly the Denver Water treatment people as it runs along the Platte River and eventually to one of the reservoirs that is part of the Denver water system.   While it is insanely crowded almost every time I have used it on a weekend day, today was a bitterly cold day which is actually unusual in the Denver area, so we were almost completely alone the whole hike.  My first January/February here it actually averaged around 60 -70 degrees a day, sure it would go down to 20-ish at night but who cares, it was 70 in January during the day!  Today though it started out at a bitter 1 degree and a wind chill of -13….when we started it had warmed up to 11 with a wind chill of -1 and when we finished 3 hours later it had only gone up just 2 degrees.  Needless to say, we bundled up the most we have to date and did not peel off one layer for the duration of the hike.

The first mile is partially paved and a little industrial, which makes it Aaron’s least favorite of all the hikes we have done so far.

Water treatment pipes for Denver Water

Water treatment pipes for Denver Water

After these pipes the only industrial aspects are the various dams and river crossings you could work your way through.  The restrooms seem to hit between 1-2 miles apart which gives you a lot of options, I did feel bad for the scantily clad runner who had to wait for me today while I pulled all my layers back up during one of my pit stops….


These picnic/rest areas also having learning signs to help newbies learn about the wildlife in the area, which was incredibly helpful to us in the beginning.

Black Bear Information

I love it because surprisingly, there is the opportunity to see a ton of wildlife along this trail.  I have walked through a huge herd of mule deer, long horned sheep and a family of beautiful red foxes before.  My girlfriend said one day she even saw a black bear on one of the mountainsides.  Don’t even get me started on all the varieties of birds that hang out around here.  In this way it is a very special trail and one every Coloradoan should check out.  Today we saw a few mule deer and one beautiful long horned sheep, a ram.  Unfortunately, we only brought our tough Olympus cameras because of the extreme cold, so our limited zoom made it impossible to capture them from today but here is a picture of a herd of long horned sheep I caught in April a few years ago.

Long Horned sheep

Today we walked up a little past the main dam, I only call it the main dam as when someone asks you if you made it to the dam, this is the one they are talking about even though you pass a smaller one earlier…. it is about 3.1 miles up

The dam

We actually walked almost to where you cross over the river, but the wind picked up and we had been in shadows for a while by this point it was getting COLD so at 4.25 miles we turned around.

Ice forming on the Platte river

The trail after we turned around....

The trail after we turned around….

It took us longer then we expected, about 3 hours, when we have cleared 12 miles in 3.5 hours in the past on this trail.  The cold was an unexpected factor to Aaron’s blood sugar, the poor guy was eating sugar every 15 minutes for more than half the hike and still we had to stop a lot to wait for it to rise. We have learned a lot over the past 10 months on how to manage it at different altitudes but the cold was a new wrinkle.  He is such a trooper and kept at it until he felt better.  Being a type 1 diabetic has added challenges we never thought we would have to work through, but I am so thankful it has brought us closer together and taught us so much about ourselves and each other.  I don’t mention it much because it is still relatively new and painful for us but one of the side effects for us of moving to Denver was that it triggered that type 1 diabetes gene in Aaron so at 32 we had to learn a new way of life.  His sister is also a type 1 diabetic so it wasn’t completely foreign, but it has been incredibly hard.   He is amazing in his determination to make it work and continue to do the things he loves, but he goes through a lot every single hike and so do I…… If you know a type 1 diabetic, hug them ….hard, what they have to go through on any given day  for the weirdest reasons is awful but they keep on keeping on.  This week the barometric pressure was changing quickly and for no reason he almost passed out in a meeting with his coworkers because it shifted, imagine doing everything he could to stay at a good blood sugar only to have the weather make it harder for you.  It is freaky to be on the other side of that, fortunately the one blessing is once his blood sugar goes extremely high or low he often has no memory of what happens, if only I could get that same blessing…..

Kathy n Aaron at the DamA super cold Kathy and Aaron

Any-who, I digress.  This hike is a great gateway hike to help you figure out if hiking Colorado is for you and a great way to build stamina.  Like I said before, most of the time there are a zillion people out here and the huge parking lot on those days is hardly enough, so come early.

Directions:   From Denver, take I70 West to C470. Take C470 East to the Wadsworth Boulevard exit. Go south (right turn) off this exit and travel about 4.2 miles. Turn left onto Waterton Road and the parking lot will be about 0.2 miles on your left. It is a big open parking lot and is hard to miss.