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CT - Segment 1: Waterton Canyon to South Platte River

Intermediate/Difficult
 4.3 (12)

A great trail beginning with South Platte views and finishing in a more alpine region.


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Map Key

16.3

Miles

26.2

KM

Point to Point

7,506' 2,288 m

High

5,506' 1,678 m

Low

2,512' 766 m

Up

1,902' 580 m

Down

5%

Avg Grade (3°)

35%

Max Grade (19°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Birding · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Section Of

Description

For the first portion of this section of the Colorado Trail, you'll follow Waterton Canyon, which is the gateway to the CT. While other portions of the trail end up being remote, this section offers easy access and beautiful views of the South Platte. The route starts at the parking lot off of Waterton Road where you'll find plenty of parking even on a busy weekend and restrooms. Cross Waterton Road at the pedestrian crossing to access Waterton Canyon.

The first mile of the road is through open space with grasslands and cottonwoods along the Platte River. After this, you'll enter the canyon where the road winds alongside the river. Wildlife abounds here and you may see elk, big horn sheep, or other critters scattered through the mountains. You'll have great views of the Platte River as the road meanders along its banks for about six miles.

Around the three mile mark, there is a small pull-out with restrooms and a picnic spot. You'll see numerous mountain bikers along the way, and you may encounter a few Denver Water vehicles, but this is rare as the road is closed to motor vehicles.

Around 4.5 miles, the slope gets a bit steeper as you make your way up to a small man-made dam and reservoir. The road narrows here, and the rock outcroppings are a bit more pronounced than along the earlier miles of the road. Past this point, the road gets a little bit steeper (compared to the barely noticeable incline you were on previously) as you wind your way up past the Strontia Springs Dam.

You'll continue on past a sign marking the continuation of the Colorado Trail. Take in the scenery as you continue on the more narrow trail. Soon, you'll be climbing through singletrack trails, and will make use of various switchbacks. Be prepared for changing weather conditions, as you'll end your journey nearly 2,000 ft. higher than the starting point. The temperatures might drop quickly, and weather changes quickly.

Flora & Fauna

Deer, elk, big horned sheep, rabbits, coyotes, foxes, and a variety of birds and snakes (including rattlesnakes) all make this area home. You'll also see signs posted for bears and mountain lions although you hopefully won't encounter them on your outing.

Mixed pine and aspen forest, along with scrub brush and wild clover are dotted along this trail.

Contacts

Shared By:

David B with improvements by K Keiter

Trail Ratings

  4.3 from 12 votes

#5503

Overall
  4.3 from 12 votes
5 Star
42%
4 Star
42%
3 Star
17%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Trail Rankings

#407

in Colorado

#5,503

Overall
227 Views Last Month
4,513 Since Nov 6, 2015
Intermediate/Difficult

0%
0%
73%
0%
27%
0%

Photos

Snowy canyon hike
Jan 4, 2020 near Roxboro…, CO
One of the many bighorn encountered in the canyon
Jan 4, 2020 near Roxboro…, CO
Strontia Springs Dam - Waterton Canyon
Oct 28, 2015 near Roxboro…, CO
Sometimes, big horn sheep can be seen on the trail.
Oct 27, 2015 near Roxboro…, CO
A great view of the Platte River.
Oct 27, 2015 near Roxboro…, CO
View along Waterton Canyon.
Oct 28, 2015 near Roxboro…, CO

Weather


Current Trail Conditions

Update Conditions
Minor Issues 4 days ago See History
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Check-Ins

May 3, 2020
Rachel Pierstorff
Mile 10.5 to 16.8 6.3mi
May 2, 2020
Rachel Pierstorff
Mile 8.3 to 10.5 2.2mi
Jan 20, 2020
Rachel Pierstorff
Trail is dry the first 3 miles 6mi
Nov 9, 2019
Ciorbyn Small
Jul 20, 2019
David Orner
Jul 1, 2019
Matt Kohn
May 3, 2019
Colin McKinley
Beautiful! Hiked out and back from Waterton canyon, spent the night near S. Platte trailhead. Clear conditions, no ice, snow or mud on the trail. 34.6mi — 30h 00m
Oct 6, 2018
Karin Wuhrmann
Via alt start from Indian Creek trailhead 12.8mi