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Hiking in Littleton: Cathy Johnson Trail & Columbine Trail Loop

The scenic Cathy Johnson Trail valley
The scenic Cathy Johnson Trail valley
Deb Stanley

While dozens of people hike the popular and scenic South Valley Park Open Space in Littleton most weekends, few may know there are trails in the next valley to the east -- the Cathy Johnson Trail and Columbine Trail.

Rock-lined cliffs along the Cathy Johnson Trail
Deb Stanley

Visitors can access the trails via a cutoff through the rocks along the Coyote Song Trail at South Valley Park or start at the south trailhead on Deer Creek Canyon Road or the north trailhead on South Valley Road. I decided to start at the southern trailhead.

The southern trailhead is simple -- there's a sign with a pull-off (directions below). Walk through the fence and check the sign for any closures or recent wildlife sightings signs.

Then it's time to hit the road, and I mean road. The Cathy Johnson Trail is an old road through the valley. The path is dirt and is wide enough for friends to walk side-by-side.

The Cathy Johnson Trail is at the bottom of a valley. On each side of the trail are rock-topped cliffs. However, the striking red formations seen in South Valley Park do not really show themselves here. You may catch a glimpse here and there of red rocks or red dirt, but this area is desert-like with low-lying cactus plants and sadly, utility lines that run along the eastern side of the valley.

About a half mile from the trailhead, there's a trail split with the Columbine Trail. While you can turn off here, I suggest walking the length of the Cathy Johnson Trail and saving the Columbine Trail section for the return trip.

The Cathy Johnson Trail winds past the second turnoff for the Columbine Trail and soon the ridge to the west drops enough for visitors to enjoy the view of the foothills to the north and west. Enjoy the view as you walk to the end of the trail. At the next road, turn around and head back to the way you came.

At one point on the return hike, you may spot a bench under a tree. There are few trees here, so this is a nice spot to take a break and watch the people and the birds go by. Listen for the cry of a nearby bird and maybe the sound of a barking dog.

About .7 miles from the north trailhead, visitors will see the turnoff for the Columbine Trail. Take this turnoff. While you'll find yourself on a slight incline at times on the Columbine Trail, the path gains less than 100 feet over the 1.1 mile-long trail.

As you partially ascend the western ridge, enjoy the valley views and the small groves of shrubs you'll pass through. Near the end of the trail is a turnoff to hike a short distance to South Valley Park. If you haven't hiked South Valley Park, I highly recommend taking the short walk over to enjoy the views.

When you're done, hike down the Columbine Trail, then turn on the Cathy Johnson Trail for the final half mile walk back to your vehicle.

Get a map and more information about the Ken Caryl Trails here. In the area, don't miss South Valley Open Space and Deer Creek Canyon Open Space. Need more ideas? Check out this list of 200+ hikes. Don't miss any of my trip reports, sign for an email alert at the top of this page and follow me on Facebook.

Details: The Cathy Johnson Trail and Columbine Trail loop is about 4.2 miles with 400 feet of elevation gain.

Directions: From C-470, exit Kipling Parkway and turn south. Turn right/west on Ute Avenue, Follow the road is it bends south. Turn right on Deer Creek Canyon Road and drive about a half mile until you see the trailhead on the right. If you get to South valley park, you've gone too far. Look at the slideshow to see a photo of the trailhead.

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