Distance: 16.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,830 feet
Trailhead: 7,500 feet
Hiking time: 4-5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate to difficulty
Season: May – September
Hike type: One way, open to horseback riding, bicycling and dog-friendly
Near: About 10 miles west of Sedalia, CO
Direction: From Denver, drive south on US-85 S/S Platte River Dr. toward Sante Fe Dr. Turn left onto US-85 S/S Santa Fe Dr. Turn right on CO- 67/Manhart St. and follow CO-67 S. Turn right to Private and turn left to stay on Private. Soon, you’d reach the Indian Creek Campground.
Since the Waterton Canyon trail was closed in August 2011, the alternative route taken was the west leg of the Indian Creek Loop trail. Starting from the Indian Creek Campground entrance, the dirt road leads through the campground filled with families and horses and toward the start of the west leg of the Indian Creek trail. (There are few signs directing the way, so keep an eye for those signs and follow them.)
The dirt trail then leads less than half of a mile through the wildflowers and into the woods, where the butterflies fly around your. On your left, the small creek parallels the trail, and it’s hidden by plants and fallen pine trees.
The next five miles, more or less, lies a trail through the woods, crossing small creeks which are mostly hidden under rocks and plants. Wearing a hat, long sleeves and pants would be wise, because the trail also leads through the plants and thorny weeds that may scratch your arms and legs.
In the meantime, keep in mind that this trail is open for horseback riding and bicycling. For the sake of your safety and theirs, please make room and allow them pass you by.
Reaching the 6-mile point, the trail intersect with The Colorado Trail and Lenny’s Rest is a great spot to take a break for lunch or snack.
Hiking south about about 1.8-2 miles, you’d reach the Bear Creek, where is good for camping overnight because there is a creek nearby where you can use your water filter and collect water. (Please use your water filter to eliminate the bacteria from the water!) There are three visible camp sites to choose from, and no reservation is needed to camp there. At each site, there is a fire pit available for use unless there is a fire ban during your visit.
If you choose to hike further, we highly recommend collecting more water before you continue, because this creek is the last reliable water source available. The next water source is not until you reach the South Platte River, which is about 8 miles away!
Crossing the Bear Creek, the switchback trail brings a challenging climb for a quarter of mile. The trekking poles come in handy during this climb.
Reaching the 11.8 mile point, there is a dry campsite in sight and it’s a great spot to take a break for lunch or snack. We recommend resting a bit after eating because there is another climb along the ridge ahead of you. There are plenty of logs to sit on and rest under the shade.
After resting, follow the sign of The Colorado trail which directs toward the segment’s highest point. This spot provides great views of the mountains and even a peek of the city, Denver. As you hike further north, you’d find a campsite next to the crags. We think that it’s worth to stop and walk down through the crags until you reach the edge of a steep cliff, because this spot offers a panoramic view of the mountainous landscape, very picturesque.
The trail then descends for over 4 miles toward the South Platte River trailhead. This trail gets rocky and cautious footing is required. (The trekking poles prove to be useful to keep your balance and prevent from falling.) However, the sight of the river would bring you a sigh of relief that you’re getting closer to the end of the hike.
Click here to view our visit and pictures: CT – S1 trip