Waterton Canyon Trail
Waterton Canyon Trail

Waterton Canyon Trail

View Photos
Waterton Canyon Trail

Waterton Canyon Trail

Distance: 12.4mi
Elevation: 689ft
Time: 4-6h

Difficulty Rating:

User Ratings:
No ratings yet

The Waterton Canyon Trail is an epic hiking excursion near Denver, Colorado. Hike the Waterton Canyon Trail alongside the South Platte River up to the Strontia Springs Dams. The trail’s wide dirt road guides its adventurers through the steep cliffs amongst bighorn sheep. This is an awesome trail, and though it is long, the well-maintained terrain and gradual grade can be managed by most!

Waterton Canyon Trail Map

Getting there

The Waterton Canyon Trail departs from the trailhead off Waterton Road.

I’ve done this 0 people have done this
I want to do this 0 want to do this route


Backcountry Campground


When to do


Pets allowed


Family friendly

Older Children only

Route Signage


Crowd Levels


Route Type

Out and back

Waterton Canyon Trail
Elevation Graph

Waterton Canyon Trail Description

The Waterton Canyon Hike is a popular expedition among outdoor enthusiasts and there is no doubt as to why. The impressively scenic adventure presents endless opportunities to spot wildlife, it guides hikers through a river canyon and up to an impressive dam. The trail up to the dam is wide and well-maintained because the Denver Water team needs to be able to access the dam! This means that the path is almost entirely exposed, so wear sunscreen and a hat on summer days to avoid too much sun exposure. Dogs are also prohibited to safeguard the bighorn sheep that populate the area! Note that parking fills up fast, so if you must park in the Chatfield State Park, you will have to purchase a permit.

The Waterton Canyon Trail is one of our favorite hikes near Denver, and we think it could be yours too. The easy-to-follow, well-maintained path can be ventured in various ways! Hike it, walk with a stroller, mountain bike, snowshoe, or cross-country ski! This adventure is great for those seeking a lengthy journey without too much elevation gain. This path is also perfect for families! Kids will love the bighorn sheep, and the beauty of an out and back trail means you can turn around at any time-personalizing it your abilities and needs. Hike amongst wildlife and alongside a stunning running river on the Waterton Canyon Trail.

Embark on your adventure along the Waterton Canyon Trail from the trailhead off Waterton Road. From here, track the South Platte Canyon Road southwest. The initial section of the trail will have many merging paths and intersections, ignore these, and maintain along the South Platte Canyon Road. Eventually the route will guide you along the riverbanks. Follow the mildly undulating path alongside the South Platte River nestled amongst towering cliffs. As you hike along the exposed path, we can almost guarantee you will spot dozens of bighorn sheep.

Note this path is part of the Colorado Trail, which many adventurers bike, so don’t be surprised if you hear a bike bell or two before they whiz by! The route will gradually ascend as you travel further into the wilderness and towards the dam. Revel the grandeur of the encompassing craggy cliffs and the blue hue of the rushing waters. Follow this path, and you will eventually meet the bighorn sheep picnic site that overlooks the impressive dam. Admire the sight of the immense dam towering above and the cascade. From here, you will also get an up-close and personal view of Turkshead Peak in the northwest.

Appreciate the grandeur of the Strontia Springs Dam and the stunning Colorado wilderness before beginning your return. If you still have some gas left in the tank, consider hiking further up the Colorado Trail Segment 1, if not, retrace your footing along the path all the way back to the trailhead.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I camp along the Waterton Canyon Trail?

No, camping is prohibited along the Waterton Canyon Trail, but you can camp past the Strontia Springs Reservoir.

Is Waterton Canyon part of the Colorado Trail?

Yes, the Waterton Canyon Trail is the eastern gateway to the Colorado Trail.

Is Waterton Canyon open year-round?

Technically yes, Waterton Canyon is open year-round, but it can be subject to spontaneous closures.

Are electric bikes permitted on the Waterton Canyon Trail?

No, electric bikes are prohibited on the Waterton Canyon Trail.

Insider Hints

  • Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep, they are abundant in this area!

  • Head out early to secure parking and get back before sunset

  • Charge your camera, because you are going to want to snap a few photos of the bighorn sheep that block your path

  • Pack provisions and have a picnic overlooking the Strontia Springs Dam



Similar hikes to the Waterton Canyon Trail hike

Singletree and Mayhoffer Trail Map

Singletree and Mayhoffer Trail


The Singletree and Mayhoffer Trail is a scenic adventure that will guide adventurers through the lush meadowlands that reveal sights…

Mount Galbraith via Cedar Gulch Trail Map

Mount Galbraith via Cedar Gulch Trail


The Mount Galbraith via Cedar Gulch Trail is a charming adventure near Golden, Colorado that reveals the beauty and diversity…

Belcher Hill and Whippletree Trail Map

Belcher Hill and Whippletree Trail


The Belcher Hill and Whippletree Trail is an exciting adventure—how could it not be with a name like that? The…