It seems that some of the others in the house have caught the adventure bug! Since the youngest of the family was off work today, we decided to take advantage of the situation and drive south to Castlewood Canyon, a state park located just outside of historic Franktown, Colorado. The beautiful 2,634 acre park has something to offer for everyone from easy paved scenic paths to difficult paths that climb over rocks and up cliffs.
Mom and the sisters were along for the adventure today, and none of us had been to this particular park, so it was an adventure for everyone. We started out on the Canyon View Nature Trail, an easy paved path that wove around the top of the canyon. With a very desert like climate the area was dry, full of rocks and dry climate plants, and had one too many rattlesnake warnings for my liking. The views were phenomenal though! The youngest is usually terrified of heights and so we were a little weary of some of the places we were dragging her, but there we no spots that she didn’t want to walk out and look! Truly a beautiful sight!
After about a mile at the top of the canyon, we took the Inner Canyon trail. A moderate dirt trail, the path went quickly down a number of steps and right into the heart of the canyon. Once there it was like being in the middle of a completely new world! Inside you could see just how deep the canyon truly was. Cherry Creek runs right through the middle of the Canyon. It was clear and cool, even in the middle of the summer, and there were a number of families playing in the water. We know for next time that a pair of water shoes will help to make the adventure that much more fun. Because of the creek and the amount of water running through the bottom of the canyon, the ecosystem at the bottom is completely different from that at the top. Flowers and trees grow abundantly and there is enough shade to cool the bottom off by an extra few degrees. You wouldn’t have thought that you were in the middle of a “desert” just a few minutes ago.
Just past the end of this trail is the ruins of the old dam that was responsible for much of the region’s formation. As my mom stated: “It seems that a lot of popular parks stared with a massive flood.” Cherry Creek has always run through the region, and in the 1800s, the residents decided to build a dam on it. The Castlewood Dam was finished around 1890. Many residents in the area stated that they had fears that the dam was not safe. They were proved correct on August 3, 1933 when after a heavy rain, the dam bust releasing a 50 foot tall wall of water that reached all the way to Denver (about 30 – 40 miles away). It was the second largest flood in the area to date. All that is left of the dismal history is one small section of the wall.
After checking out the historical site, we continued up Lake Gulch Trail. By this point everyone was hot and tired and it came to out attention that most of this trail was going to be back up to the top of the canyon. I would claim that the climb was totally worth it with the beautiful views of the valley that once was the dammed up lake and the beautiful Rocky Mountains starting to peek up over the horizon.
After making it to the top of the canyon we headed back to the car, but we didn’t leave the park without stopping by a couple of other popular sites in the area. We drove to the west side of the park and were able to see both the canyon falls and the Homestead historical site. Both were beautiful features, but with tired legs and a limited about of time we were only able to take a couple of pictures before heading out. The historical site is definitely on my list of hikes to make the next time I am there. Home to the Lucas family in the late 1800s (Yes, they were present in the home on the wrong side of the dam when it burst! Luckily everyone survived!) there are still a few ruins of the homestead they built on the property at the time. We were able to see a few of the buildings, but would have had to hike to see the others so we decided to save it for our next trip.
I will definitely be going back sometime soon. We didn’t get to walk the entire east side of the canyon. Not as popular as the other areas, the East Canyon trail goes out to Bridge Canyon Overlook! Who wouldn’t want to see that view?! (My sisters. They wouldn’t, but I’m trying to be more adventurous so let’s lean over a couple of railings!) Then of course there are miles of trails on the west side that we didn’t even get to touch! With beautiful waterfalls, the homestead, and even a cave at the top of the canyon wall the west side of the canyon is a full day on its own. I can’t wait! If you are ever in the area (Colorado Springs or Denver) this is definitely worth the day trip and the $7 parking pass. Now on to my next adventure – whatever that will be!