Teller County, Colorado
Pike National Forest
South Park Ranger District
View this on the Colorado Trailheads Map
Forest Service Road: 221
Trail Type: Straight Through
Nearby Towns: Deckers
Nearby Trails: Cedar Mountain Road, Metberry Gulch, Hackett Gulch, Predator, Corral Creek
Trail Length: 4.6 miles
Elevation: 7,187 to 8,975 feet
Named Obstacles: Longwater Rock, Longwater Crossing
This trail was closed after the Hayman Fire of 2002, and then it partially reopened in 2009. It was opened all the way to the river in 2016.
Longwater Gulch is very similar to Metberry Gulch with just a bit more difficulty including steeper, longer climbs. If you skip Widowmaker Hill on Hackett Gulch, Longwater Gulch may be more difficult than that trail. Most of the first half of the trail is fairly flat, and the last section is a very steep downhill. You must climb up this hill on the way back out if you don't make a loop with Hackett Gulch.
A lot of work has been done to reopen this trail. The trail is surrounded by burned trees and new aspen trees growing in and around the burned sections. Places where erosion could cause problems have been worked on to prevent damage as much as possible. As always, stay on the trail at all times.
Be aware that the trail passes through areas burned by the Hayman Fire, with many large, dead trees along the trail. These can be very dangerous, especially during times of high winds, as they may fall at any time. It may be impossible to use many of the trees as a winch anchor. It is not unusual to find the trail blocked by a blown-down tree. Come prepared with winches or saws as it may be necessary to remove these in order to proceed. Only remove dead trees, and only remove them if they are blocking the trail.
The trail starts at a large parking area and a seasonal gate. It starts as a fairly easy trail as it works its way through the burned trees. Route finding is very easy as there are no side trails except some very short spurs to parking and camping areas. You probably won't need 4-wheel drive on the way in except for the low gearing to provide more control on the descents, but you will probably need it on the way out. The trail is narrow and passing may be difficult, but it's usually not far to an area with room to pull out to allow vehicles to pass.
The most challenging area is the short but steep Longwater Rock obstacle, not unlike Chicken Scratch Hill on the Metberry Gulch trail. You are already working your way down the steep hill and you come to a big drop-off. It is a steep slab of rock that is often covered in sand or dirt. You may find your vehicle sliding down this slab of rock if you go too slowly. In the other direction, you may need lockers to climb Longwater Rock. After the rock slab, the trail continues as a steep hill of dirt.
The last decent before Longwater Crossing through the South Platte River is steep. There is plenty of room to check out the crossing, and to turn around if you are heading back up the way you came down. This crossing can be the deepest one in the area, so go slowly and make sure there isn't a drop-off in front of you. When you get to the other side, the trees are tight as you work your way to Corral Creek. Turn left on this trail to head over to Hackett Gulch.
Information last updated on September 5th, 2016.
From Denver, take I-25 exit 187 to Happy Canyon Road. Follow this south to Highway 85 west to Sedalia. Turn south on Highway 67 and follow this all the way through Deckers and through Westcreek to turn west on County Road 68 (Stump Road) just west of Pine Lake. Follow the first half of Cedar Mountain Road to the trailhead for Longwater Gulch on the right after you turn south.
Meet at the side of the road just past Deckers.