The first and last 6 miles of this trail are on the gravel road that goes through Waterton Canyon, meaning your total off-road trail distance will be about 17 miles (29 miles total). Nonetheless, there is a lot of climbing and some route finding skills required, which means this ride has the potential to be MUCH longer than you anticipate. If you carry a good map with you, there should be few problems. If you grab the Trails Illustrated Map #135 for Deckers and Rampart Range, it has a blowup view of this entire trail system on the back and shows the loop almost perfectly.
The first 6 miles will take you up to the dam. You will continue on up the fire road until it ends and changes into singletrack (beginning the Colorado Trail). This will continue to climb for about another mile until you reach the bench at the top. From here you will notice a trail spur on the left just before you reach the bench, heading uphill. This begins a short, but intense climb to the next intersection which is about º mile or so from the bench. At this intersection you will notice the trail going left (back to Waterton) or to the right (uphill) heading onto the Indian Creek Loop. Begin climbing once again as the trail strives to get to the ridgeline for about the next half mile or so. You will finally reach a steep, loose section of trail which goes straight up, then to the left. Once you clear this nasty section, it levels off from there. This will be the last of the really bad climbs for quite some time.
Now that you are on the ridgeline, the trail does some gentle uphills interspersed with slight descents. Eventually you will roll off the east side of the hill and a quick, but steep descent puts you at a T intersection. Note that the left trail is NOT on the trails illustrated map. If you turn left into Stevens Gulch, this will take you down a fun, fast descent back towards the Roxborough Loop (make sure you make a left when you reach the homestead!). If you turn right at this T, this will continue you on the journey towards the Indian Creek campground (the mid-way point of this ride). Now, the trail becomes a fun downhill as it tracks down to the creek bed. Once you reach that point, you will start to gradually go back up as you follow the creek for another mile or so. This is a very scenic portion of the ride, and nice and cool in the shade of the forest. There will be some tiring climbs as you get closer to the campground, but they are mostly just long grinds on easy terrain. After a final little rock obstacle, you will be in the campground.
From here, proceed to the latrine and potable water faucet. You should see the clearly marked singletrack peeling off to the left, up the hill. Once you refill your water, head back up the trail and begin another set of climbs. Note that this section of trail is NOT on the trails illustrated map. The grade here is pretty gentle, although you will be going uphill until you reach the fire road. There will be several roads/trails at this intersection, but only one should be marked with the Indian Creek signage (as you come off the singletrack, look straight across and to the left down the hill). This next section is on a fire road, but it is fast and fun because most of it goes downhill from this point. You will come to a few odd intersections, but the trail is well marked the whole way. At one Y intersection there was some deliberation on our route because the sign has an arrow which points between the two roadsÖbut at this point you want to go up to the left. The left route was also well used in comparison to the right fork.
As you get closer to the Roxborough State Park, beware of the huge ìspeed bumpsî someone has put in all along the trail. These really are big jumps, but they are at odd intervals and around corners so they may take you by surprise if you arenít paying attention. Because of their sharp angles, they are extremely dangerous to hit at even medium speed. One guy in the group riding ahead of us broke his collarbone because he took these just slightly too fast. The fire road eventually begins to return to singletrack, especially once you reach the power lines. At this point, you will get some incredible singletrack, blasting you through the forest as you cheer in delight. You absolutely cannot miss the signage once you enter the State Park, but the singletrack generally continues along the creek bed here. Your fun will end as you reach another tough climb out of the canyon (luckily it is rather short). Your journey will go downhill again from here, and at one point you will come to an incredible meadow with just a ribbon of singletrack laid out before you. If you can force yourself to stop, this is a great place for a snapshot!
Once you reach the creek crossing, you will begin one more little set of climbs as you get ready to go back down into Waterton Canyon. Once you start the downhill again, it doesnít let up until you are back down at the Waterton Canyon gravel road. This section of trail is like a loose chute with lots of dust and loose rocksÖbut it can be a lot of fun as well. There will be one intersection you pass with a trail going off to your left as you get back on the Roxborough Loop, but just continue straight downhill rather than making a left. The signs all point you towards Waterton Canyon from here. Once we popped out, we all agreed that despite the amount of climbing we suffered through, the payoff was well worth the effort. Iím not sure if there is any merit in doing the loop in the reverse direction, although it is worth mentioning that I canít recall passing anyone in all those miles going the opposite direction. Also note this is an equestrian loop as well, so best practice is to dismount when you see horses, pull off the trail and be friendly to them.