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greenBlue Waterton Canyon

  4.1 ( 17 ) Favorite

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13.9 mile 22.3 kilometer out and back
99% Runnable


Ascent: 579' 177 m
Descent: -579' -177 m
High: 5,984' 1,824 m
Low: 5,509' 1,679 m


Avg Grade: 2% (1°)
Max Grade: 15% (8°)


No Dogs
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Trail shared by Derek Griffiths

A great trail for fast running while enjoying the scenery along the South Platte River.

Derek Griffiths

Features Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildlife


A smooth and wide dirt road that winds along the scenic South Platte River.

Need to Know

The canyon offers a great respite in the winter as Denver Water always plows this road up to the Colorado Trail. The road can get hot and dusty in the summer as it is very exposed at midday, so prepare accordingly.

There is a bathroom at the parking lot at the trailhead, and one at the top of the trail near the dam. There is also a bathroom about half way up at a picnic area along the river.

Runner Notes

This is a dirt road that has a gradual incline on the way out. It is also the start of the Colorado Trail. This is the perfect route to do a long tempo run as the uphill on the way out is very gradual, and you are rewarded with a great downhill where you can roll on the way back.

The smooth surface and gradual incline make a perfect training ground for all types of workouts, from tempo runs to long runs to fartleks and anything in between.

Once you reach the shelter at the top of the trail near the dam, you can keep going past the buildings to continue on the Colorado Trail.


Waterton Canyon is the gateway to the Colorado Trail and is a great option for an easily accessible run along the South Platte River. The run 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. Be sure to look up and around at the hillside as you travel along the road, as you may see elk, big horn sheep, or other wildlife on the mountains. You'll also have a great view 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. This would also be a good place for fishing or sticking your feet in the river on a hot day. You'll also 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 run up to a small manmade 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. The turnaround point for this run is at the sign marking the continuation of the Colorado Trail. Take in the scenery and enjoy the well-earned breeze down to your car on way back!

Flora & Fauna

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


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Apr 28, 2019
Hannah Kellner
11mi — 1h 58m
Mar 24, 2019
Andrew G
Nice training run, mild grade with bighorn sheep spotting. 10mi — 1h 20m
Nov 23, 2018
rick s
No dogs! Should say in description
Sep 2, 2018
1,755 ft elevation gain. Indian Creek fork. Beautiful trail but busy. 19.3mi — 4h 00m
Apr 22, 2018
Drew Maraglia
Mar 10, 2018
Jessica Lit
Feb 17, 2018
Jay Watts
Little icepack when the singletrack starts just past the dam. Great views 8.5mi
Aug 19, 2017
Justin Wright

Trail Ratings

  4.1 from 17 votes


  4.1 from 17 votes
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in Colorado


405 Views Last Month
7,600 Since Oct 27, 2015
Easy/Intermediate Easy/Intermediate

6.5 miles down a dirt road with a little extra down the colorado trail before turning back. Beautiful scenery running through the canyon. I've come across the mountain goats quite a number of times. Sight up hill grade out is hardly noticable but the perks of the slight downhill on the way back is great. Mar 30, 2016

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