Colorado is not necessarily known for its caves, but at Castlewood Canyon, just an hour from Denver, there are an abundance of them hiding throughout the underrated 2,136-acre state park. The official Cave Trail is less than a quarter of a mile long but connects to many other fabulous trails with much to explore, including creeks, meadows, canyons, cliffs, a waterfall, and (you guessed it) caves. The park is also home to a historic homestead and the Castlewood Canyon Dam, which represent a unique era of our state’s history. Hike anywhere from 1/4 mile to 4 miles (up to 12) and enjoy the environmental diversity that Castlewood Canyon has to offer, while making it your mission to find and explore each and every one of these rare hidden caves near Denver.
There are many hiking trails (and parking areas) at Castlewood Canyon so be sure to consult the park map and draw up a route that works best for you. We suggest parking at the northwest end of the park and setting out on the Homestead Trail. (Note: This route will loop through the park before ending at "the" cave, but there are MANY unofficial caves along the way, so keep your eyes peeled.)
The Homestead trail is a short 0.4 miles that will lead you to the old Lucas Homestead, built in the late 1800s.
Take your time to view the picturesque ruins from all vantage points, then continue on to the Rimrock or Creek Bottom Trail.
The 2.2-mile Rimrock Trail is a solid choice for views of the valley and the geologically unique landscape of this canyon carved out by the waters of Cherry Creek.
Once you complete the 2.2 miles of Rimrock, again you have choices, but we suggest continuing on to the Inner Canyon Trail to get the full park experience.
The short and fairly easy 1-mile Inner Canyon Trail will lead you through diverse terrain, alongside intriguing rock formations, into the inner canyon, and down to Cherry Creek, where you'll meet up with the Lake Gulch Trail.
Remember to always be on the lookout for crags and caves hiding in nooks and crannies! (Pretty sure I see a few to the right.)
As you meander along the Lake Gulch Trail, be sure to explore Cherry Creek and do a little rock hopping or find a nice place to sit, lunch, and relax along the water.
During the summer months the meadows along the trail are bursting with colorful wildflowers so be sure to bring your camera!
The vibrancy of the orange paintbrush will stop you dead in your tracks!
We are all part of the web!
Another optional trail add-on is the paved 1.4-mile Canyon View Nature Trail for an elevated view of the scenic canyon carved out long ago by Cherry Creek.
Back on the Lake Gulch Trail, you'll connect to the Dam Trail, where you'll experience what remains of a little piece of Colorado's history.
The Castlewood Canyon Dam was constructed in the late 1800s but would meet a disastrous fate in just a matter of decades.
Hanging out on the dam wall in 1909...before disaster struck.
In 1933, the Castlewood Canyon Dam burst, sending a 15-foot high wave of rushing water that flowed all the way to downtown Denver and resulted in a flood.
Today you can explore the area around the remains where tragedy struck, but for your own safety and the preservation of the ruins: Keep off the dam!
Once you've gotten your fill of the dam remains, continue on to the Creek Bottom Trail and to the Falls spur, which will lead you to this small but lovely waterfall on the canyon floor.
Here's an old chap just hanging out at Castlewood in the early 1900s with a waterfall and a rifle.
Finally you'll come to the Cliff Base and Climbers Trails (each at just 0.3 miles) with the 0.1-mile Cave Trail spur between them.
Be on the lookout for more intriguing canyon flora!
But most of all, be on the lookout for caves! The Cave Trail leads to one official cave but there are MANY more peppered throughout the Cliff and Climbers Trails and the park at large.
Imagine all the cavernous possibilities on the 12 miles of hiking trails and 2,136 acres at Castlewood Canyon State Park!
Castlewood Canyon is a true geological wonder and a fantastic place to explore with friends and family! Do you know of any secret caves near Denver that we ought to explore? Share your stories in the comments!