The Gill Trail follows a scenic route along Cheesman Canyon and the south fork of the South Platte River. It’s a bit of a drive, but still a worthwhile getaway hike. Head westward on U.S. 24 to Woodland Park, then north on CO 67. Continue for about 23 miles to Deckers, where there is food available but no gas. In Deckers, bear left on County Road 126, crossing the South Platte River, and continue another 3 miles to the signed trailhead parking area on the left.

From the parking area, hike southward across Wigwam Creek. After a short distance, the South Platte River comes into view. Along the way, hikers will enjoy scenic views and rock formations while white-throated swifts chatter overhead. The ridges above the trail are lined with Douglas fir, pondersoa pine and junipers.

The first half of the route is easy terrain and the trail is well defined, but the second half gets more difficult as hikers navigate steeper and rockier terrain. Note that the river will stay on the left for the entire route, as there are some tricky segments that require working your way around large boulders along the trail. Keep an eye on the river to see common mergansers diving for fish and American dippers plunging in the water to search for aquatic insects.

Stick to the higher trail along the ridge contour and try to avoid social trails that cut down to the river. For the last mile, the canyon narrows as the trail gets steeper.

Hikers will encounter some sections with loose gravel, making this a hike for the surefooted. After about 4 miles the trail ends below the Cheesman Dam, an ideal spot for a snack break before retracing your steps to the parking area.

Joe LaFleur has lived in southern Colorado since 2016 and is a hiking enthusiast who hits the trails weekly. Contact Joe with questions or feedback at Hiking is great exercise, but can be hazardous. Always be sure to plan well, check the weather, bring a printed map, tell someone where and when you are going, and contact them when you return safely.

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