Looking for fun things to do with kids or your entire family? Try a fun day of biking at Waterton Canyon.
Also read Aurora Reservoir Beach n’ Bike
Since our Aurora Reservoir 8-mile bike ride was such a success, I decided it might be time to try something a bit more challenging, yet still kid friendly: Waterton Canyon. The parking area for Waterton Canyon is located about 4.2 miles south of C470 and Wadsworth Blvd. Hikers and bikers then follow a wide dirt road that winds 6.2 miles in a gradual incline all the way up the canyon to Strontia Springs Dam and Reservoir. You can ride the whole way (12.4 miles round trip) or go out as far as you want, then turn back for a nice downhill ride to the parking lot. Keep Fido at home though since dogs are not allowed in Waterton Canyon as it is home to a herd of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep.
Waterton Canyon is a very popular hiking and biking area in metro Denver and can get quite crowded especially on weekends. Go during the week if you can. Either way, go early to beat the crowds, the heat and the afternoon storms. We opted for a Wednesday morning, arriving at the parking area around 9 a.m. to find just a few cars already there. It took us about 15 minutes to unload our bikes, check equipment and load up with snacks, water and sunscreen. By 9:30 we were on the road and soon discovered that it was quite hot and muggy in the canyon. Despite the heat, the kids set a decent pace. They enjoyed riding next to the river, seeing ducks on the water and of course tossing the occasional rock. We took frequent water and snack breaks under shady trees to cool down and give our legs a rest. If you’ve ever considered buying a water hydration backpack for yourself or your kids, this is the perfect situation to use one since the kids can drink without having to stop pedaling.
Around the 4.5-mile mark, the heat and gradual incline had taken its toll on the little legs in our group. That is when the grumbling and the “Are we there yet?” type questions began. We were about to turn around when another bicyclist heading downhill said we were so close to the dam that it would be a shame to quit. After an extended snack break and a pep talk (and a $3 bribe to the first kid to spot a Big Horn Sheep), we climbed back on our bikes to plug onward. The fellow cyclist was right and by 11:30 we were at the top eating our lunch and cooling off underneath the small picnic shelter within site of the dam. There are also restrooms nearby which was key after drinking all that water on the ride up.
During lunch, we chatted with a couple of gentlemen who were about to embark on a 20+ day hiking adventure along the nearby Colorado Trail. Having to ride our bikes 6 miles downhill to the car was suddenly a piece of cake compared to what they were about to do. That’s also when we noticed the storm clouds beginning to roll in, so we wished the hikers well, took photos to prove we made it, quickly packed up and headed downhill. About 4 miles down I had to pay up on my $3 Bighorn Sheep bribe as we encountered some ewes and their babies eating alongside the road. What a treat! Thankfully, the rain held off until we reached the parking lot. We got seriously drenched reloading bikes back onto the racks, but everyone was in good spirits. It was a terrific ride and I was really proud of the kids for sticking it out to make it all the way to the top. I’m not sure they’ll want to ride 12.4 miles again anytime soon, which is fine by me, as I need time to save up some more bribe money.
This awesome guest post was written by my good friend and neighbor Chrisy Schulz.