Cheesman Canyon is cut by the South Platte River, a renowned stretch calling to anglers. A trail here calls to hikers, who should not expect complete serenity. On summer weekends, the parking lot near Deckers fills before 9 a.m.
But hikers can expect a unique side of Pike National Forest. The Cheesman Canyon Trail, also mapped as Gill Trail, explores high and low, offering splendid views above and the refreshing river below.
Cheesman boasts 3 miles of Gold Medal fishing. Anglers have plenty of room to try for trophy-sized trout, while hikers serve as spectators up on the canyon side.
Marked as 5 miles one-way, the trail continues left after a foot bridge, then straight across a road, then swoops through trees. The first path down to the river goes behind a sign illustrating other connector paths along the way. The hiking trail continues right.
The water remains in view, its melody constant. Every bend of the trail seems to offer a new, bizarre boulder. Our tracker read 1.6 miles when we came to a short series of rock steps; follow those and then the next few steps up.
The trail enters some greenery and then exits for steep rocks and loose soil. Pay attention here on the way back, catching the descending trail rather than one that continues straight and dead ends.
Near 3 miles at a “Y”, the trail continues right and right again at the next “Y.” But you might want to turn around close to here, as the path gets tricky and the terrain rugged, ending unceremoniously below the reservoir dam.
Out-and-back hikes aren’t always preferred, but the treat here is entirely different views of the canyon on the way back.
Cheesman Canyon Trail
Trip log: 7.4 miles round trip (out and back), 894 feet elevation gain
Getting there: Going west on U.S. 24, turn right (north) for Colorado 67 in Woodland Park. After about 23 miles, stay left for County Road 126. Trailhead to the left in about 4 miles.
FYI: Dogs on leash. Access may be limited in winter. Catch and release only.