Castlewood Canyon was created by thousands of years erosion dictated by Cherry Creek. Stone walls consisting of conglomerate sandstone now line the canyon, while dense ponderosa pine and douglas fur slope towards the canyon's drainage. Though the area looks arid, Castlewood collects an average of 19 inches of precipitation every year. The winters are cold allowing ice to form on the surrounding walls and in some cases on the creek itself. At times ice is thick and plentiful enough to allow climbers a quick escape on the Front Range. During the warmer months, hiking is very popular. All of the trails in the park are less than two miles in length but can be combined to make for a very long day. In fact, up to 13 miles can be traveled within the canyon. Expect to see a variety of wildlife. Snakes are very common and one should be cautious of this as there are rattlesnakes in the area. In addition, a hiker can see bobcats, bats, lizards, deer, many species of birds, butterflies, flowers and much more. Beware of poison ivy, as it can be found along all trails in the park. Another popular aspect of the area is the rock climbing potential. Castlewood Canyon's walls are typically around 40-50 feet tall. Some of the routes can be lead with natural protection, others have been bolted, while many, many more can be climbed with a toprope setup.
In addition to directions and red tape, this informational piece will give a brief description of the trails, a background of the canyon's technical climbing, and general information about the rock climbing areas. I contemplated adding a table that listed routes, ratings, and protection info but decided not to. Tom Hanson, an imperative contributor to the development of the area, already did this in his guide book (available at the visitor’s center). Mountainproject.com is also a great resource.
Castlewood Canyon has two main ports of entry: the West entrance and the East (main) entrance. The West entrance gives access to many of the rock climbing areas. It also gives access to some of the more popular trails as well as photo opportunities like the falls area. The East entrance allows visitors to view the canyon from a beautiful lookout point or to explore historical areas like the dam ruins which created a massive flood in Denver in 1933. Check with the vistors center for a detailed map of the park's trails.
From the West entrance:
Homestead Trail: 0.35 mile, easy
Climber’s/Cave/Cliff Base Loop: 0.46 mile, moderate to difficult (each can be done separately)
Creek Bottom Trail: 1.7 miles, moderate
Cherry Creek Trail (concrete): 0.24 mile, easy
Cherry Creek Trail (natural): 1.0 mile, moderate
From the East entrance:
Canyon View Nature Trail: 1.2 miles, easy
Inner Canyon and Lake Gulch Trail: 1.16 miles, moderate
The Dam Trail: 0.35 mile, moderate
Rimrock Trail: 2.14 miles, moderate to difficult
This piece was written by Tom Hanson, a very valuable member of the climbing community:
I have found evidence of early lead climbing in the canyon, in the form of old outdated fixed pitons on some of the crags, as well as a very old homemade hanger attached to a bolt on the north end of the east rim. Legend has it that Bill Forrest used to use The Wood as a practice area, though this has not been substantiated. Aside from the Colorado Mountain Club’s development of The Grocery Store Wall, the technical climbing history at Castlewood is sketchy at best. Castlewood has been the practice ground for The Colorado Mountain Club since at least the early seventies. Fred Crowley introduced the CMC to The Grocery Store Wall sometime around this period or shortly before. Ken Trout did the first free lead of The Good the Bad and the Dirty on The Cave Wall in 1979. Alan Mosiman and Steve Holonich published the first climbers guide in about 1986. It included the topropes on The Grocery Store Wall. I became involved with route development at Castlewood around 1986 and this is the date that I can share first hand knowledge of climbing history within the park. We had been doing a lot of toproping, bouldering and a few trad leads up until 1986. In the mid-eighties, my brother Rob, Mark Johler, and I toproped approximately 800 lines. (We’ve added about 200 more tr’s since). We avoided The Grocery Store Wall and The Five & Dime Wall, as they had already been developed, and aside from a few lines on The Falls Wall, which were developed by Chris Drysdale, pretty much everything else seemed fair game. After visiting Shelf Road, right after the first sport routes were being developed there, we realized that we could do the same thing at Castlewood. Chris Drysdale put up the very first sport climbs at Castlewood. Out of Arms Reach and Arborist Arms on The Falls Wall were Chris’s sport additions to the park. I put up my first sport route, Helm Hammerhand, just outside and north of The Dungeon, around 1987. Then I went on to "sport out" most of the quality lines that we had previously toproped that looked like they would make for a quality sport line. I was pretty much involved in all of the subsequent sport climb development from that point forward. Other coconspirators were Tod Anderson, Richard Wright, Mike Lane and Scott Sills. There are currently around 160 sport climbs at The Wood. I was involved with all but half a dozen of these. I realize that the little history that I have provided in rather inbred, but I can only relate what I have experienced first hand. I have made several queries of former CMC members and I have been unable to obtain a much cleared picture of the earlier route development.
| Area || Approx. No. of Routes || Sport Routes?
| Gargoyle Wall || 15 || Y
| The Dungeon || 13 || Y
| The Falls Wall || 28 || Y
| The Zoids || 15 || Y
| The Projects || 4 || Y
| The Corner Block || 5 || Y
| The Hedgeclipper Wall || 14 || Y
| Sea World || 7 || Y
| The Vulture Walls || 16 || Y
| Coat of Arms Corner || 4 || Y
| The Rat Cracks || 4 || N
| The Shakespearean Theater and Revolution Buttress || 12 || Y
| The Juggernaut Area || 11 || Y
| The Playground || 14 || Y
| Corporate View Block || 8 || Y
| Wendell Spire || 18 || Y
| The Grotto || 9 || N
| The Terminal Area || 7 || N
| Honeycomb Spire || 11 || N
| The Corporate Walls || 6 || Y
| Sherwood Forest || 4 || Y
| The Realm of the Venusian Love Goddess || 22 || Y
| Anvil Tower || 4 || N
| South Canyon Point || 20 || Y
| Porkys’ Wall || 5 || Y
| Morning Sun Wall || 19 || Y
| The Cave Wall || 7 || N
| Allied Wall || 6 || N
| The Neanderthal Wall || 27 || N
| The Grocery Store Wall || 38 || Y
Average Precipitation/year: 19 inches
Spring: High 59ºF, Low 30.6 ºF
Summer: High 81.3 ºF, Low 50.6 ºF
Fall: High 69.5 ºF, Low 37.5 ºF
Winter: High 46.5 ºF, Low 16.75 ºF
Number of Hiking Trails (without endless combinations): 11
Number of Routes: 1000+
Number of Sport Routes ~160
From Denver: Take I-25 South to Exit 184 (Founders Pkwy). Go East on Founders to Highway 86. Take Highway 86 East to Castlewood Canyon Rd. Take Castlewood Canyon South to the park entrance.
From Colorado Springs: Take Highway 83 North to Highway 86 West. Go South on Castlewood Canyon Rd. to park entrance.
From Denver: Take I-25 South to Exit 184 (Founders Pkwy). Go East on Founders to Highway 86. Take Highway 86 East to Highway 83. Head south, park entrance is on the right side (look for signs).
From Colorado Springs: Take Highway 83 North to East entrance of park.
Mileage will be added soon.
Entrance Fee is $6 year-round. No camping is allowed in park. Dogs are allowed, but leash laws are strictly enforced.