Castlewood Canyon State Park is a hidden gem in Colorado. Many in Colorado think to enjoy the state they have to head into the mountains. I used to think this way until I discovered the park which is located south of Parker and east of Castle Rock near the village of Franktown in what is known as the Black Forest due to its Ponderosa pines.
There are two access points to the park,one just outside of Franktown (West Entry) and one farther south on CO83 (Main Entry), the park runs in a north-south orientation. I use the northern access parking at the Homestead trailhead. A self pay station for daily permits ($6) are the first stop unless you have a annual pass.
All the park specific details can be found on their website as well as a trail map which you can use to join together the shorter segments into longer runs. The trails are well established and maintained with waterbars and rock stairs as needed. The trails vary from lush and green in the canyon to open and sunbaked on the mesa top. Examples of the trail variety are below.
The loop I usually run or hike forms a 'figure 8' and is approximately 6.5 miles long. Starting at the Homestead trailhead leave the parking lot on the Homestead trail which goes past the old homestead seen in the first picture. Once down the hill along the stream a left at the first junction starts you on the Rimrock trail which gains the mesa top in a short and steep switchback segment. Once on the top the running is fairly level and easy with great views of the canyon. Soon you will be running down and past the old dam. Here you can either make a simple loop back to the trailhead by running the Creekbottom trail or go left to loop around the main park entry (the upper part of the figure 8) which will return you to the trail junction by the dam where the Creekbottom trail completes the 'figure 8' loop. This is just one example of the trail combinations you can link up to have an enjoyable run.
Caution: One thing to watch for in Castlewood is the strong presence of poison ivy. It is along the trails as well as in the woods among the Gambrel oaks. If you stay on the trails and are careful you can enjoy the park and never have a problem. Several educational trail signs are in the park to warn visitors of this plant. If you are not already familiar with what poison ivy looks like more information and pictures are found at this site.