The Big Dry Creek Trail is a suburban path that weaves its way through parks and open space in suburban Colorado cities. The trail is two segments connected through a second trail, the Highline Canal Trail. Is this three-part trail worth the effort? With multiple parks and other attractions along the route, I think it certainly is. Keep reading to learn more about the Big Dry Creek Trail.
About the Big Dry Creek Trail
Confusingly, there is more than one “Big Dry Creek Trail” near the Denver metropolitan area. That’s because there that there are two waterways named Big Dry Creek. The subject of this post is the Big Dry Creek Trail which follows the southernmost creek. This waterway’s origin is further south in Douglas County near Daniels Park, and it’s a tributary of the South Platte River. Managed by the South Suburban Parks and Recreation District (SSPRD), The Big Dry Creek Trail passes through Englewood, Littleton, and Centennial, Colorado, in the south/southwest metro area.
The two segments of this trail have a combined length of about 4.5 miles (7.3 km) and are separated by a 2.3-mile (3.8 km) portion of the High Line Canal Trail, bringing the total one-way distance to about 6.9 miles (11 km). This trail is not as long or as well known as the 16.9-mile (27.2-km) Big Dry Creek National Recreation Trail near Broomfield and Westminster in the northwest Denver metro.
To make things even more confusing, the southern Big Dry Creek also gives its name to Big Dry Creek Trails (East and West Forks) found in Highlands Ranch. While the two Highlands Ranch trails intersect, they are not connected (not even close) to the SSPRD trail.
.While water and the trail run downhill, this route is relatively flat. The total change in elevation over the entire length is only 410 feet (125 meters). To describe this trail, I’ll start at the western terminus in Englewood and travel east; however, you can certainly go in either direction.
Hiking the Big Dry Creek Trail
The Big Dry Creek Trail starts at an intersection with the Mary Carter Greenway, where the creek flows into the South Platte River. The trail start is on the west side of the river.
To start there, park at Englewood’s Centennial Park and take the Mary Carter Greenway south for about 200 meters (about 1/8th of a mile) to the intersection with Big Dry Creek Trail. It’s easy to find because it’s well marked, and the pedestrian bridge over the South Platte River is prominent.
Another option is to start on the east side of the river. A small parking lot on S. Wyandot Street is right next to the trail, and the pedestrian bridge is visible.
Deciding where to start may come down to this: Centennial Park has restrooms, but the parking area on S. Wyandot does not. See the custom map below for details.
The Start of the Walk
On the east side of the river, the concrete trail passes behind some industrial buildings, and here, the Creekside Experience Park is accessible just south of the trail. A small family-friendly park for outdoor fun, Creekside Experience has a treehouse and obstacles to climb over and around. Just past this park, the trail dips under Santa Fe Drive and the adjacent railroad tracks and then passes beneath Windermere St. On the other side of Windermere, Belleview Park, with its off-leash dog area, the Englewood Canine Corral, comes into view.
Belleview Park, an Englewood Park, is next to Progress Park, which SSPRD manages, and the trail goes through both of these parks roughly parallel to Big Dry Creek. Each of the parks has restrooms and parking lots, as well as shelters, picnic tables, and sports fields. Either park could be a good starting point for this walk. It’s worth noting that the Big Dry Creek and Trail roughly follow the boundary between Englewood to the north and Littleton to the south.
As the path follows the creek through Belleview park, train tracks for the Englewood miniature train appear. The train station, along with the Englewood Children’s Farm (including a petting zoo), is at the park’s east end. These attractions are very popular with families and have a nominal cost ($2.50 at last check).
Past Belleview Park, the trail and creek cross Belleview Ave. and move into Progress Park. In addition to the amenities listed above, Progress Park also features a fishing pond with a pier.
Past Progress Park and approaching South Broadway, it’s a little less pleasant. Lots of traffic and numerous car dealerships on Broadway look and sound less than peaceful. Still, this environment fades pretty quickly and gives way to a natural area with housing visible on either side. At Brookridge Park, a large sign announces the Big Dry Creek Trail East Trailhead, the end of this trail segment. Don’t panic; the walk isn’t over!
The High Line Canal Trail Connection
As noted above, the Big Dry Creek Trail is in two segments, and these segments connect via the High Line Canal Trail. The 71-mile long High Line Canal Trail is well-known and has been designated a National Recreation Trail. For purposes of this post, I will only focus on the 2.3-mile (3.8 km) portion between the two segments of the Big Dry Creek Trail.
From Brookridge Park, a quick walk on the streets of a quiet neighborhood will bring you to the High Line. This route has a couple of turns but is well-signed, so it’s relatively straightforward to move between the trails. I’ve included this path to the High Line on the custom map below. After arriving at the High Line (between Mile Markers 26 and 27), head south and notice the large cottonwood trees lining the canal.
The trail signs look different here because this part of the High Line is in Greenwood Village and not part of SSPRD. Greenwood Village often appears on lists of the wealthiest cities in America, and this picturesque area features many beautiful homes visible from the trail. The soft surface trail is very popular with walkers, long-distance runners, and the occasional equestrian. Be sure to stop and take in the views of the Rocky Mountains at the overlooks at Sumac Hill Farm-it may be cliche to say, but these views never get old! Once past Sumac Hill Farm, the Goodson Recreation Center comes into view, and the trail continues around the adjacent deKeovend Park.
However, just before arriving at Goodson Rec Center, the path moves into the city of Centennial, back in the SSPRD. The intersection with the Big Dry CreekTrail’s eastern segment appears shortly after passing deKeovend Park’s tennis courts. Bonus: a restroom building is located just before the tennis courts.
The Eastern Segment
Leaving the High Line Canal Trail and back on the Big Dry Creek Trail, the path travels under University Blvd. and into Cherry Knolls Park. Parking and restrooms are available. In this park, the creek is wide and tree-lined. The trail continues through the park as it crosses over Easter Ave. toward the Cherry Knolls Pond, where fishing is allowed. The trail continues through a natural area with suburbs on either side.
I want to note that past the pond, a detour is in place for trail construction and creek improvements (shown on the custom map below). Construction is scheduled to last until May of 2021. I’ll update this post when the trail is open again.
The last part of the trail crosses under Dry Creek Road, and the trail ends at Colorado Blvd. The entrance to the South Suburban Golf Course is on the other side of Colorado Blvd.
Precautions on the Big Dry Creek Trail
This suburban trail winds through a greenbelt area surrounded by well-developed neighborhoods. As a result, there are many street crossings, and most of these are underpasses. A number of these underpasses in Englewood have signs noting that flooding is possible. They warn trail goers to avoid entry or seek higher ground in the event of high water.
Take these signs seriously, as Colorado weather can change quickly. When storms roll in, they can dump massive amounts of rain in a short time. I’ve seen waterways overflow their banks and water cover trails in a matter of minutes during extreme weather. Know the forecast before heading out to the trail.
The Big Dry Creek Trail is an enjoyable suburban hike on its own, but it’s made even more attractive by its connections with other trails. On the western end, the trail connects to the Mary Carter Greenway, a ten-mile stretch of paved trail following the South Platte River. The Mary Carter Greenway changes its name to the Platte River Trail further north; the total length is 40 miles.
As explained above, the High Line Canal Trail is the connection between the two segments of the Big Dry Creek trail. The canal supplied early settlers with water for irrigation, and the trail was born out of an adjacent maintenance road opened for recreational uses in the 1970s. The High Line Canal Trail path is roughly southwest to northeast and is 71 miles (114.3 km) long.
One other trail connected to the Big Dry Creek Trail is the Littleton Community Trail (2.6 miles, 4.2 km). The trails intersect in Belleview Park. The Littleton Community Trail follows the old City Ditch used for irrigation and ends at the Lee Gulch trail adjacent to Santa Fe Drive.
Custom Map of the Big Dry Creek Trail
I created this map on AllTrails to summarize the access information to both segments of the Big Dry Creek Trail, plus the connection to the High Line Canal Trail as discussed in this post.
Red: Big Dry Creek Trail
Blue: Connectors or neighborhood access
Purple: High Line Canal Trail Segment connecting the two halves of the Big Dry Creek Trail
Green: construction detour
Other Trail Information
|Distance||4.5 miles (7.3 km), divided into:|
Eastern Segment of 2.5 miles (4 km)
Western Segment of 2 miles (3.26 km)
High Line Canal Trail connector; 2.3-mile (3.8 km)
Total one-way distance: 6.9 miles (11 km)
|Trail Surface||PavedHigh Line Canal Trail connection: natural surface|
|Besides Hiking:||Running, biking|
equestrian (on the High Line Canal connection)
|Links||SSPRD interactive map|
SSPRD printable district map
Colorado Trail Explorer (COTREX) Page
|Closest Towns||Englewood, Littleton, Centennial, Greenwood Village (High Line Canal connection)|
The Big Dry Creek Trail may be suburban, but it has plenty of nature along its course. Following the creek and passing through multiple parks, the view changes often. The trail and its namesake creek meander through the family-friendly parks of Englewood and Littleton, Greenwood Village’s serene High Line Canal Trail, and the quiet housing developments of Centennial. Connections to other significant trails make it easy to use the Big Dry Creek Trail as a jumping-off point for an extended trek. But with so much to offer, it’s a satisfying suburban walk on its own.
Have you walked the Big Dry Creek Trail? What did you think? Leave a comment below!