castle rock incline challenge hill at base of steps looking up the 200 steps toward the top

Incline at Castle Rock

The Incline at Castle Rock is a 0.6 mile loop that begins with a 200 step climb up the Challenge Hill to the top of a promontory. From the top, a trail winds down the side of the mesa for 1/2 a mile back to the bottom. It makes for a great workout in the outdoors, and is about 30 minutes south of the center of Denver. Explore the full Castle Rock Incline hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you get active and enjoy the beauty of Colorado

Trail Snapshot: Incline at Castle Rock

Parking & Trailhead Information for Incline at Castle Rock

Take interstate 25 south from Denver to the town of Castle Rock, exiting at Wilcox/Wolfensberger exit, taking a right onto Wolfensberger. At the roundabout, go around and take the left-hand exit (3rd option on the roundabout) onto West Plum Creek Parkway. Go 0.7 mile on West Plum Creek Parkway and the Phillip S. Miller Park entrance will be on the right. After entering the park, go left to the area behind the MAC facility and the parking area for the incline will be at the base of the incline.

The Hike: Incline at Castle Rock

Officially, these 200 steps are called The Challenge Hill, but the locals call it "the incline," and rightly so, because it's inspired by the Manitou Incline near Colorado Springs. Because it's just 5 minutes down the road, we've turned this into a regular family workout. It's a perfect place to get in some exercise and take in amazing sunsets over the Colorado Front Range.

castle rock challenge hill hikers climbing the 200 steps to the top

The first segment of the Castle Rock Incline is a 1/10th of a mile climb up 200 steps with close to 200' of elevation gain. This will kick your butt, especially if you take the steps back down. We prefer to run down the 1/2 mile loop trail, usually doing the loop a couple times. We've categorized this as a moderate trail because it has under 500' of total elevation gain and is only 0.6 miles, but many will find it difficult because of the grade of the ascent.

photo of map of the challenge hill loop at castle rock phillip s miller park

At the top of the Challenge Hill, you can take in views to the north and west of Longs Peak and Devil's Head. There's a wood bench if you want to rest or use it for stretching your legs after the climb. If you decide to descend via the steps be aware that the late afternoon sun can make it very difficult to see the steps.

child looking west at sunset at the top of the castle rock incline

A Zipline platform stands at the peak of this promontory. It's fun to watch zipliners fly through the air across the park. The Zipline tours are operated by Castle Rock Zipline Tours. But don't keep your eyes on the sky because the trail down has a lot of loose gravel and the trail demands your attention.

castle rock challenge hill at top of promontory zipline platform at dusk

The trail wraps around the mesa back to the West facing side. Snow and ice can take a while to melt free from the trail, especially in shaded spots. You can check on the trail conditions using the Castle Rock Trail Conditions Map online.

castle rock challenge hill trail looking south at sunset to pikes peak

On the back side of the hill, you'll find panoramic views of Pikes Peak and the broad rolling country to the South of Castle Rock. This segment starts out rock then gives way to a gravel trail.

trail runners running loop trail at castle rock incllat sunset

Trail Etiquette at the Castle Rock Incline

  • The trail is popular with trail runners, so be aware of approaching runners and keep right to allow them to pass.
  • Dogs are prohibited on the challenge hill, because--well, you can imagine why.
  • Keep to the right on steps and in single file, especially when others are trying to pass or are coming the opposite direction.
  • Let others know when you intend to pass them.
  • Descent via the steps is not discourage by the park signage because it's easier to get injured.
  • Hours are Dawn to Dusk

castle rock challenge hill as sunset looking east

From the photo above, you can get a feel for the scale of the Challenge Hill. Much of the lower trail is in scrub oaks, and this next part may seem a bit overly cautious, but after reading a ton mountain lions, I always keep my kids close. As a local ranger told me, "On the Front Range, where there are deer, there are mountain lions." And a kid running fast through an area like this can incite the instincts of a lion. That I know of, we've not had any attacks in this area, but this is just a protocol our family follows on any hike or run--kids and adults always stay together.

playground and workout stations at the phillip s miller park in castle rock colorado

Speaking of the kids, the Phillip Miller park complex recently added (2019) a workout playground that looks like something out of Ninja Warrior competitions. After running the loop a couple times, we spend some time with the kids catching our breath and stretching at the playground.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking the Incline at Castle Rock

  • Check out Trail Conditions: Before going, check the trail conditions at the Challenge Hill at the Castle Rock Trail Conditions page.
  • Pace Yourself: On the ascent, start with a sustainable pace. It gets way more steep and challenging at step 140.
  • Trail Map: Incline at Castle Rock
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get the list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Since I'm a local, I've got two absolute favorite spots for after the hike. The first is CRAVE Burgers. We love the Love Stinks Burger and the Not Yo Mamma's Burger (on the hidden menu) Crave Burgers in Castle Rock. The second is Manna, a a restaurant in the local hospital. But this is by no means hospital food! It's locally sourced food at great prices. Manna in Castle Rock

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rolling grassland and gamble oaks in castle rock colorado

Ridgeline Open Space Hike

Ridgeline Open Space is nestled in the Meadows residential area of Castle Rock. This network of over 13 miles of trails winds through elevated grasslands and gamble oak with a backdrop of distant snow-capped peaks of the Front Range. Hike it or bike it for a quick escape from the work week. Explore the full Ridgeline Open Space hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Castle Rock.

Trail Snapshot: Ridgeline Open Space Trail near Castle Rock, Colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Ridgeline Open Space

From Denver, follow Interstate 25 south to Castle Rock and take Exit 182 and go west on Wolfensberger Road. Turn right onto Coachline and follow this until to Ridgeline Open Space Trailhead (on the left-side of the road). There is a restroom and map at the trailhead. Alternatively, hikers can park at Bison Park in Castle Rock and access one of the several neighborhood access trails that lead into Ridgeline Open Space.

The Hike: Ridgeline Open Space

Ridgeline Open Space is one of our family's favorite places to hike because it's right in our backyard here in Castle Rock. The residents of Castle Rock also use the 13.4 miles of trail for trail running and mountain biking. It's quite a labyrinth of trails, but because it's located right in the heart of a residential area, it's hard to get lost (if you stay on the trail). There are maps posted at several junctions and trailheads along the network in the case you need to reorient yourself. Or print the map from the link above and bring it with you.

trail leading into distance with gamble oak leaves along the ridgeline trail in castle rock

Our approach is usually to go up to Ridgeline for an afternoon and see where the trails take us. You'll likely encounter mountain bikers along the trail. Most are locals and are very considerate of hikers. Less considerate are the rattlesnakes. I've yet to run into one, but my neighbor was stopped short by a rattler recently while trail running. Rattlesnakes are only aggressive when threatened, but they are easy to stumble upon because they are so well camouflaged. So, keep your eyes peeled as you hike. Mountain Lions also frequent the area--like most trails along the Front Range--because of the plentiful deer population. It's wise to always keep your kids near when hiking and not running up the trail ahead on their own. This is just good practice on any trail, but I mention it because we have seen Mountain Lion prints in the mud on one of the western trail segments.

rolling terrain and rock along the ridgeline trail in castle rock

Ridgeline is aptly named because it is situated above the town and offers great views out to Longs Peak, Indian Peaks, Mt. Evans, Devil's Head to the west, and Pikes Peak to the south. Deer bed down in the grass between the gamble oak and birds flit from tree to tree along the trails.

broad green meadows and puffy clouds along the ridgeline trail in castle rock

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Tips & Resources for Hiking the Ridgeline Open Space Trail

  • Rattlesnakes: Keep an eye out for rattlesnakes that sun themselves on rock and the packed, warm surface of the trail.
  • Hiking with Kids: As always, hike as a group, keeping small children near you. Mountain lions live in the area (as with most front-range hikes), and the sight of a small creature running alone on the trail can signal a lion's prey response.
  • Sunscreen: This hike is 100% exposed to the sun's rays, so be sure to wear a hat and apply that sunscreen.
  • More Hikes in Castle Rock Colorado: Castle Rock Trail, Waterfall at Castlewood Canyon, East Plum Creek Trail.
  • Trail Map for Ridgeline Open Space Trail near Castle Rock: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get the list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Crave Burgers

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santa fe train running through green plains of greenland open space in colorado

Greenland Open Space Trail Near Larkspur, Colorado

Rolling meadows stretch to spectacular views of Pikes Peak on this easy Colorado hike near Larkspur. The Greenland Trail takes you across the stunning grasslands near Larkspur, Colorado, a Douglas County Open Space that spreads across 3,600 acres of sun-drenched fields.The Greenland Open Space trailhead can be easily accessed from I-25. Check out the full trail profile below for detailed descriptions, trail map, and driving directions to this great hike along Colorado's Front Range.

Trail Snapshot: Greenland Open Space Trail Near Larkspur, Colorado

greenland open space trail mountain

Greenland open space has one main trail, the Greenland Trail (appropriately named) that forms a 10 mile loop. However, your not stuck hiking the entire thing, you’ve got options. We’ll briefly profile three different ways you can hike the Greenland trail and customize it for you and your family (scroll past the video panorama for the three options).

It’s a perfect place for horseback riding. In fact, when I-25 disappears from view, you may think you’ve time-traveled back to the early 1800‘s. You can leave your trailer on the parking area, but keep in mind that Greenland open space can get very crowded on the weekends. So, get there early to make sure you’ve got a place to park.

There is also a great 17 acre off-leash dog park just to the east of the trailhead. The open space area requires fido to be on a leash. Click here for more info on the Devon Theune off-leash dog park and for a list of the others in Douglas County.

Hike Options at Greenland Open Space

#1 - Greenland Trailhead to the Santa Fe Trailhead in Palmer Lake - 5.6 Miles One Way
At the first fork in the trail, stay straight (right) on the Greenland Trail. You’ll pass a small pond and work your way through scrub oak and pines as the trail rises. At 3.5 miles you’ll see the option to turn left onto Kipps Loop. Instead of going left onto Kipps Loop, continue straight (South) on the trail. You’ll cross County Line road around 4.6 miles, then you’ll have one mile left until you arrive at the New Santa Fe Trailhead in Palmer Lake, Colorado. Out and back, this is an 11.2 mile trek across Greenland Open Space. The views of Pikes Peak and the neighboring Buttes of Spruce and Eagle Mountain mean a lot of beautiful scenery to soak in.

greenland open space trail near larkspur colorado header

#2 - The Greenland Open Space Loop Trail - Approx. 10 Mile Loop

Our first tip on hiking Kipps loop is hike it counter-clockwise. This will give you a nice long and gradual two-mile descent as you are coming back into the trailhead. There’s only about 500’ of elevation gain on this hike, but your knees will be grateful at the end of the trip. Follow the same directions above, but when you get to the Kipps Loop option after 3.5 miles, take a left (East) onto the Kipps Loop of the Greenland Trail (your still officially on the Greenland Trail). The first 5 miles of the hike are uphill until you reach the high point which is at 7,400 feet. This is a great place to stop and enjoy the view. You’ll pass the gravesite of E. Kipp, and an unusual white rock formation along this eastern side of the loop. As we said before, the rest of your hike will be pretty much downhill from there back to the trailhead.

greenland open space entrance

#3 - Just Explore - Approx. 1-3 Miles

Just because it’s a big loop doesn’t mean that you have to hike the entire thing. If you are hiking this as a sunset hike, you’ll likely want to keep it short. You can take either the eastern or western sides of the loop and hike until you are ready to turn around. Sunrises and sunsets are quite glorious in Greenland, and this is a great way to enjoy them.

girl on trail with black dog in colorado mountains spruce tree in foreground and snow and evergreen trees in background

Tips & Resources for Hiking Greenland Open Space Trail :

  • TIP: There is no water on this trail so bring more than one bottle just in case. Don’t forget, dogs need plenty of water too!
  • TIP: You are very exposed to lightning. Douglas County has some of the worst stats in the nation when it comes to lightning strikes, so really pay attention to the weather. Dark clouds moving over the edge of the foothills means that you should be headed back to the car.
  • TIP: Bring the Sunscreen - you are also very exposed to the sun - no shade in Greenland. If you are hiking mid-day, then be sure to bring a hat and sunscreen.
  • TIP: If you are snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, or even hiking in winter, be aware that drifts form along the Greenland Trail.
  • TIP: There is a fantastic picnic area on the other side of the facade of the old Greenland general store.
  • Trail Map for Greenland Open Space: Trail Map Link
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Christopher Rosenberger for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike to Greenland Open Space.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Charito’s House

greenland open space general store

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Cave Trail at Castlewood Canyon

Colorado's Castlewood Canyon State Park has several caves hidden in the park, but this set has their own trail. It's a short trail, just a 1/8 mile one-way, but can be combined with other hiking trails--one that takes you to a waterfall--to create a real adventure. Check out the trail snapshot to get the map, driving directions to Castlewood Canyon, and tips for exploring the Cave Trail in Castlewood Canyon.

Trail Snapshot: Cave Trail at Castlewood Canyon

Looking for caves close to Denver? They may not be extensive, but they are still fun to explore. There are actually two caves along the top of the trail. One is a kind of large crack in the rock that leads to a larger chamber. I wish I could describe it better, but my 2 1/2 year old, when I asked if she wanted to go inside, was concerned that the "bears might be awake." There are more caves hidden in Castlewood Canyon waiting to be found, but that is for another post.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Cave Trail at Castlewood Canyon :

  • Finding the Trail: The cave trail can be accessed by hiking across the dirt road from the parking lot. The Google Map is very specific and should be helpful in finding the correct parking area.
  • Add the Waterfall: The Waterfall Hike can be added to your trip. Midsummer raspberries can be found above the falls along the trail.
  • Finding the Traihead: The West Side entrance can be difficult to find. Usually, Colorado State Parks have brown signs indicating the park roads. The west side doesn't. But the name of the road you're looking for is "Castlewood Canyon" - easy to remember.
  • Short but Steep Hike: The hike is easy when you consider the distance, but we rated this one as difficult because the trail can be quite uneven and very steep. Watch your footing.
  • Make it a Loop Hike: You can make an even larger loop out of the hike by exiting on either the north or south end of the Cliff Base or Climber's Trails, then crossing the road east to one of the parking areas. From there, take the West Side Spur or the Creek Bottom Trail back to your car. See the Castlewood Canyon Map below for details.
  • TIP: Hikes in Castlewood Canyon can be quite exposed to the sun, so bring the sunscreen.
  • TIP: Poison Ivy: We've been surprised how poison ivy flourishes in this park, often along the edge of the trail. Know how to identify it, so that you can avoid it. But don't let that deter you from the park. You just need to keep an eye out. See our post on how to identify and treat poison ivy.
  • Trail Map for Castlewood Canyon: Trail Map Link
  • Additional Maps: Castlewood Canyon State Park Trails
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Crowfoot Valley Coffee

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east plum creek trail castle rock header

East Plum Creek Trail in Castle Rock

This paved trail meanders along Plum Creek in Castle Rock, Colorado. Though it winds through developed areas, the Plum Creek trail has some surprises: towering cottonwoods, pines, and the seasonal sounds of Plum Creek. Be sure to explore snapshot and full hiking profile below to get the details on parking, trail map, and hike options.

Castle Rock is a growing community South of Denver and not without it's some great hikes. Be sure to explore the many trails out in Castlewood Canyon State Park, and our hikes near Castle Rock, Colorado page.

Trail Snapshot: East Plum Creek Trail in Castle Rock

The East Plum Creek Trail winds through the heart of Castle Rock, Colorado, through wetlands, and along the banks of Plum Creek. Starting from the Meadows Parkway lot, you can head North for 1.8+ miles through cottonwoods and between two historic railways. If you head south along the trail from the Meadows lot, the trail will take you into a wetland habitat where beavers build and migratory birds rest. Follow the trail south for 3 miles and all the way into town for a 6 mile round trip.

Tips & Resources for Hiking East Plum Creek Trail in Castle Rock:

sunset light on castle rock rock formation in castle rock colorado near castle rock trail

Castle Rock Trail

Rock Park in Castle Rock, Colorado is the trailhead for a 1.4 mile loop within a loop hike that climbs to the base of the town's famous Castle Rock. Click here for the Castle Rock trail map. Explore Dayhikes Near Denver for more hikes in Colorado with impressive rock formations.

Trail Snapshot: Castle Rock Trail

Tips & Resources for Hiking Castle Rock Trail :

  • TIP: There is a panoramic view of Castle Rock at the top. Pike's Peak can be seen to the southwest, and Long's Peak to the northwest.
  • TIP: A wide, flat path encircles the rock with a picnic area. Tables are available.
  • Trail Map for Castle Rock Trail: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Crowfoot Valley Coffee

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canyon view nature trail castlewood canyon header

Canyon View Nature Trail at Castlewood Canyon

Castlewood Canyon cuts a unique and green landscape into the plains near Denver. It's not the mountains, but it's worth the drive. Castlewood Canyon State Park has created this beautiful paved trail that follows the canyon rim.

The Canyon Rim Trail also offers an audio tour and is a great way for children to learn more about the plains habitat that covers much of Colorado. Explore this full trail profile for driving directions, trail map, and all the details and tips you'll need to plan your trip to this Colorado State Park.

Trail Snapshot: Canyon View Nature Trail at Castlewood Canyon

One of the best handicap accessible trails near Denver, the Canyon View Nature Trail at Castlewood Canyon State Park is a 1.2 mile interpretive trail. It runs along the western edge of the top of the canyon and weaves through ponderosa pine and a wonderful variety of wildflowers. The entire trail is a concrete walkway, making the area very accessible to wheelchairs. The trail ends at the Bridge Canyon overlook. Don't miss the view, it's wonderful.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Canyon View Nature Trail at Castlewood Canyon

  • TIP: Pick up a brochure so that you can find the various access points for the trail and can take advantage of the side trails.
  • Audio Tour: Begin at the visitor's center where you can pick up an audio tour player which guides you through the 5 different ecosystems that are found in Castlewood Canyon.
  • Wildflowers: Late June and Early July are the best times to view the wildflowers in Castlewood Canyon.
  • Bring Sunscren: Hikes in Castlewood Canyon can be quite exposed to the sun, so bring the sunscreen.
  • TIP: Poison Ivy: We've been surprised how poison ivy flourishes in this park, often along the edge of the trail. Know how to identify it, so that you can avoid it. But don't let that deter you from the park. You just need to keep an eye out. See our post on how to identify and treat poison ivy.
  • Trail Map for Castlewood Canyon: Trail Map Link
  • Additional Maps: Castlewood Canyon State Park Trails
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Crowfoot Valley Coffee

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cliff climbers trail castlewood canyon header

Cliff & Climber's Trails at Castlewood Canyon

If you want to explore the crags and hidden pockets of Castlewood Canyon State Park, this combination of trails makes for a fun adventure in a part of Colorado that a lot of hikers miss. The park is nestled into the plains Southeast of Denver, and has a lot of hiking options. Check out the trail profile below to get driving directions, link to a map for the hike, tips, and all the details on this trail.

Trail Snapshot: Cliff & Climber’s Trails at Castlewood Canyon

These two trails can be combined to get a full hike along the cliff band that runs along the western edge of Castlewood Canyon State Park. A cave can be found near the middle of the trail. It is a kind of large crack in the rock that leads to a larger chamber. I wish I could describe it better, but my 2 1/2 year old, when I asked if she wanted to go inside, was concerned that the "bears might not be sleeping."

Tips & Resources for Hiking Cliff & Climber’s Trails at Castlewood Canyon :

  • Finding the Trail: The cave trail can be accessed by hiking across the dirt road from the parking lot. The Google Map is very specific and should be helpful in finding the correct parking area.
  • Add the Waterfall: The Waterfall Hike can be added to your trip.
  • Finding the Traihead: The West Side entrance can be hard to find. Usually, Colorado state parks have brown signs indicating the park roads. The west side doesn't. But the name of the road you're looking for is "Castlewood Canyon" - easy to remember.
  • Short but Steep Hike: The hike is easy when you consider the distance, but we rated this one as difficult because the trail can be quite uneven and very steep. Watch your footing.
  • Make it a Loop Hike: You can make an even larger loop out of the hike by exiting on either the north or south end of the trail, then crossing the road east to one of the parking areas. From there, take the West Side Spur or the Creek Bottom Trail back to your car. See the Castlewood Canyon Map below for details.
  • TIP: Hikes in Castlewood Canyon can be quite exposed to the sun, so bring the sunscreen.
  • TIP: Poison Ivy: We've been surprised how poison ivy flourishes in this park, often along the edge of the trail. Know how to identify it, so that you can avoid it. But don't let that deter you from the park. You just need to keep an eye out. See our post on how to identify and treat poison ivy.
  • Trail Map for Castlewood Canyon: Trail Map Link
  • Additional Maps: Castlewood Canyon State Park Trails
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Crowfoot Valley Coffee

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Waterfall Hike in Castlewood Canyon State Park, Colorado

Waterfall Hike at Castlewood Canyon

This may be the most accessible waterfall near Denver. If you hit the right parking lot, it's a 10 minute hike.So, grab a park brochure and find the Northernmost trailhead for the Creek Bottom Trail (Homestead Trailhead). This will add close to 1 mile to your hike. Then you can loop back via the Cherry Creek Trail for a total of about 2 miles.

Trail Snapshot: Waterfall Hike at Castlewood Canyon

Tips & Resources for Hiking to the Castlewood Canyon Waterfall

  • Easy to Miss: The West Side entrance can be hard to find. Usually, Colorado state parks have brown signs indicating the park roads. The west side doesn't. But the name of the road you're looking for is "Castlewood Canyon" - easy to remember.
  • Shortest Access: The shortest way to access the falls is by parking at the Waterfall Parking Lot, then taking the Waterfall Spur to the Creek Bottom Trail. Head South, and you'll hear the waterfall in just a few moments.
  • Exposed: Hikes in Castlewood Canyon can be quite exposed to the sun, so bring the sunscreen
  • Poison Ivy: We've been surprised how poison ivy flourishes in this park, often along the edge of the trail. Know how to identify it, so that you can avoid it. But don't let that deter you from the park. You just need to keep an eye out. See our post on how to identify and treat poison ivy.
  • Trail Map for Castlewood Canyon State Park: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Crowfoot Valley Coffee

waterfall in canyon with bridge in foreground fish creek falls waterfall in colorado

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