Sunday, April 28, 2019

Temple Canyon

History.  The Grape Creek headwaters are in the Wet Mountain Valley south of Westcliffe. From there, the creek flows into DeWeese Reservoir north of town. The reservoir was constructed in 1902 to store water for the DeWeese-Dye Ditch, which brings water to the Lincoln Park area of Canon City. Prior to the construction of the dam, a stage coach road was constructed along Grape Creek, but was soon washed away.  Undaunted, Levi Haley and Harry Breton built a narrow gauge railroad along the creek in the early 1881 to reach the mines in Silver Cliff and Westcliffe, requiring 35 bridges over the winding creek. As the creek drops 2,300 feet in 28 miles in an area prone to cloudbursts, it's no surprise that the line was washed out in spring of 1884. The line was repaired and rebuilt a couple of times before finally being dismantled. It was during the initial construction of the railroad that workers discovered a side canyon leading to a natural amphitheater 100 feet across and 50 feel deep which they dubbed The Temple. It is believed the Ute Indians used the temple for ceremonies. By act of Congress, this area was sold to the City of Canon City in 1912.

Hiking. Today, visitors looking for a fun, adventurous hike can visit The Temple just six miles southwest of town. This hike is really dependent on the amount of water in Grape Creek, which can run so strong in the spring and summer monsoon season as to be dangerous to ford. The trail down to the creek is steep, but the views of Grape Creek and The Temple will make it all worthwhile. You'll want to wear good shoes, but not so good you don't mind wading across the creek. While on the portion of the trail next to the creek, see if you can spot where the train tracks might have once been located.  Once across the creek, you begin your climb into Temple Canyon itself. Although fairly close to town the area seems so remote and undisturbed. The Temple itself is such a unique formation -- it's huge! -- there's lots to explore.

Directions. Getting to Temple Canyon Park can be a challenge depending on the condition of the road. Although only 6.6 miles from the corner of US-50 and 1st St., the last 4 miles are not paved and many areas are prone to deep ruts from runoff. A high-clearance vehicle is recommended. Head south on 1st St., passed the Robison Mansion and Greenwood Cemetery for about one mile and then, at the "Y" turn right onto Temple Canyon Road. Proceed for 5 miles. You'll see a sign pointing the way to "Temple Ridge and Picnic Area," turn right and drive 0.4 miles to the end of the road, near a picnic shed. You'll see a sign pointing the way to the trail which winds around the back of the hill and then down to the creek. You'll have good views of the Temple throughout your journey. Once at the creek, the trail will parallel the creek for a distance. You'll soon come to a crossing, although no bridge or stepping stones exist. After walking through the creek, you'll pick up the trail that will lead you through a canyon and to the Temple. Total hiking distance one way is 0.6 miles.

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