Waterton Canyon

· Urban Refuges

Waterton Canyon

Aliases: Strontia Springs Reservoir

This gem of a canyon, just south of Chatfield State Park, ranks among the best places in the Denver metro area to get out and experience foothill birding. A wide and well-maintained trail starts at the lower end of foothill scrub and follows the South Platte River, lined with a beautiful riparian corridor, up for many miles into ponderosa woodland. Most people tend to stick to the lower few miles, which makes for a good few hours of birding. In the scrub habitat along the trails and on the canyon slopes, look for Virginia’s Warbler, Lazuli Bunting, Spotted Towhee, and Say’s Phoebe. The taller trees along the river usually have quite a few Yellow-breasted Chats, Cordilleran Flycatchers, and even a few Least Flycatchers.

The river itself is home to several pairs of American Dippers, and Common Mergansers use the nearby cliffs to nest. Canyon and Rock Wrens are also common here. If you do make it up into the pine forest, check for the typical suite of ponderosa-loving species, including Williamson’s Sapsucker. A nighttime walk in the canyon may produce Eastern Screech and Great Horned Owls. Migration time may produce any number of species passing through, but the winter tends to be fairly slow and limited to a few sparrow flocks and hardy resident species. The canyon is also good for mammals, and people often see bighorn sheep here. Please never approach sheep and observe all wildlife from a safe distance. Be sure to  also check for a wide variety of butterfly species during the spring and summer.

County: Jefferson

Directions: From C-470: exit at CO 121/Wadsworth Blvd. and go south past the entrance for Chatfield State Park. At Waterton Rd., go left/southeast and the parking lot is the second entrance on the east. The entrance to the Canyon is across the sometimes busy road; please be careful when crossing.

Dates of Access: Open all year
Hours: Daylight hours
Ownership: Municipal
Admission: Free

Restrictions: Obey local rules and regulations

Parking: Gravel parking area
Lodging: Hotels in Littleton, camping at Chatfield State Park

Other Wildlife: Bighorn Sheep

Handicapped: Yes
Handicapped Access: ADA accessible on the lower portion of the trail

Latitude: 39.491335
Longitude: -105.093607

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Image Gallery for Waterton Canyon

Waterton Canyon South Platte River
Waterton Canyon Trail
Waterton Canyon Trail


Drinking FountainYes
Gravel TrailsYes
Paved TrailsNo
Visitor CenterNo
Gift ShopNo

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