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May 12, 2016

Castlewood Canyon State Park
Fees: $7/day $70/Annual Pass
Website: http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/CastlewoodCanyon
Elevation: 6,200-6,600 feet
Distance: 6+ miles
Hours: 8am-9pm

So our regular group of five ladies on our Thursday hikes dwindled down to two folks this week, but that is ok. We had an excellent adventure. The adventure started with just getting to the park south of Franktown. Diana was sick and I had a migraine so following directions proved to be difficult with our foggy heads, though it didn’t help with the road being closed by police for a short while either. We passed right by the entrance of the park that appeared more like a driveway into a ranch.

After we organized ourselves at the visitor’s center, we moved over to the parking lot by the Bridge Canyon Overlook. We walked out to the overlook which provided a lovely view of the canyon and the bridge that spanned it. We thought from the overlook that we would continue on to the East Canyon Trail, but we were wrong. Lost, we turned back toward the parking lot and noticed we had passed right by the trailhead despite the large sign!

We started down the non-descript trail. At first, it just appeared like we were walking through a grass-less field. Soon we realized, we’d be following cairns on the entire four mile loop in order to find our way. Without the cairns, we would have taken more wrong turns! After crossing through the gravel area, we soon turned down a section with a defined dirt trail with surrounding brush. As we rounded the bend while descending toward the canyon floor, a group of hikers on the ridge above hollered, “Ladies, there is a bear in front of you!”

Surprised, we stopped in our tracks, looked 30 yards down the trail, and spotted a black bear. The undulating terrain kept us from having a good view, and the bear promptly disappeared from our sight. Diana, with wide eyes, turned to me and questioned, “What do we do?”

The curiosity and photographer in me wanted to race up on to the hill to snap a photo, but logic prevailed and we stayed put a while longer. I knew we were supposed to remain calm and back away slowly if need be, but boy did I have to contain myself from scrambling forward. Soon, the hikers above gave us an all clear signal.

Without a bear photo in hand, we continued on, though I began to wonder what other obstacles we might have to overcome as we seemed to have such a hard time just getting to the trail! Never in a million years would I have guessed I’d see a bear in this park. The rocky terrain, scrub brush and grassy prairies seemed far more suited to antelope, deer, coyotes, and mountain lions. Little did I know that the park is part of Colorado’s Black Forest region and sustains seven eco-systems.

Our hike along the lollipop loop took us through a variety of terrain. We descended beneath the bridge, followed a dirt path through the trees, admired a few wildflowers and a lovely view of Pikes Peak, enjoyed walking along the creek, and took careful steps over all the rocks. This trail, we thought, could definitely be an ankle twister.

The East Canyon Trail is only open seasonally, so we were happy to be able to hike through the preservation area that doesn’t allow dogs. Upon finishing up these four miles, we decided we wanted to add on a few more miles, so we walked to the other side of the parking lot and followed the Canyon View Nature Trail which was a paved sidewalk. Fortunately, the pavement didn’t last too long as we connected the path to Inner Canyon Trail and later Lake Gulch Trail.

These trails led us in and out of the canyon as well as along the river. Though all rated easy to moderate, there were places we had to climb over rocks and even jump from one spot to the next. While the low altitude is nice, some of the trails didn’t seem like the best for an inexperienced visitor. As we were discussing this, we came upon some rangers who were helping a woman who had sprained or broken her ankle.

This is the second time I have visited this park. The first time, I entered the west side and enjoyed hiking by all the historic buildings. This time, we enjoyed a variety of terrain. This park really has a lot to offer. There are several places to picnic and cookout too. We enjoyed it. ETB

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