When you think of hiking trails, you likely think of the foothills and mountains. However, there are lots of fun trails preserved as open space in many front range communities. One of the best may be Mitchell Creek Canyon.
Mitchell Creek Canyon is part of the town of Castle Rock’s Open Space. The trail starts at the Gateway Mesa Open Space trailhead (directions below). The trailhead is simple, just a parking lot with a trail sign and a map box.
Walk around the gate to the start of the trail, Chuck’s Loop. Chuck and Jan Hewitt bought the property in 1970 to build their retirement home on the property. But years later, they decided to sell Gateway Mesa to the Town of Castle Rock as a conservation property.
You can start either direction on Chuck’s Loop. Go left for a hike of about one mile to the Mitchell Creek Canyon Trail, take the trail to the right for a hike of about 0.7 miles to the canyon trail split. I suggest taking the right trail out and the other trail back. The right trail is an old road that winds between a few sparse trees next to a farm.
At 0.7 miles, you come to the Mitchell Creek Canyon Trail split. Here there are two signs. One says “vehicular access only” with an arrow pointing straight ahead and “trail access” with an arrow pointing left. Remember this spot. When you return from the canyon, you’ll want to follow the arrow for the “trail access” to continue on Chuck’s Loop.
For now, check out the other sign. This is the sign for Mitchell Creek Canyon. The trail is to the right of the sign. Yes, it’s faint and hard to find right here, look for the large cairn. This trail is rocky, confusing, and hard to follow, but there are LOTS of cairns (piles of rocks). Follow the cairns and you’ll follow the trail.
The trail winds along for 0.3 miles to the canyon. Don’t worry, you’ll know the canyon when you see it. It may not be a very big canyon, but it’s deep enough to be striking and beautiful. The trail turns and follows the canyon for the next 0.8 miles. This is the best part of the trail, but it’s not for the faint of heart. You’ll be hiking near the canyon’s lip at times. There are sections where you may find yourself scrambling over rocks. The big thing to remember, follow the cairns.
At a huge tree (see slideshow on the left side of the screen near the top), the trail drops down into the canyon. You won’t go all the way to the bottom, but you’ll get close enough to hear the trickle of water below.
A short distance after the canyon ends, hikers cross a small red bridge and arrive at a paved path. Hike a little more to an intersection with the Mitchell Creek Trail. There’s a bench here and it’s a nice spot for a break before you turn around and head back through the canyon for another taste of the beautiful scenery.
Don’t forget when you get back to Chuck’s Loop to take a different way back to the trailhead.
Details: The trail to and through Mitchell Creek Canyon and around Chuck’s Loop is about 4 miles with 250 feet of elevation gain.
Directions: From Interstate 25, take exit 184 (Founders Parkway/Meadows Parkway). Turn east at the light and follow Founders Parkway 4.3 miles. Turn left on Highway 86 and drive 1.8 miles to the trailhead on your right. You should see a sign that says “Gateway Mesa Open Space.”
Learn more about the Gateway Mesa Open Space and Mitchell Creek Canyon Open Space. In Castle Rock, hike “The Rock” or Ridgeline Open Space. Get more great hiking ideas here.
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