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High Line Canal

A favorite urban getaway

The trail along the High Line Canal meanders 71 miles across the Denver area, offering places to hike, bike, jog and ride horses. While the waterway is owned and operated by Denver Water, this National Landmark Trail is maintained by municipal recreation agencies.

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Long-term tree care management planning

High Line Canal
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High Line highlights

1883

year the canal was built

600

capacity in cubic feet per second

71

miles of trail

2

feet average depth

39.490129, -105.094307

Recreation notes

Want a companion that has all the highlights? Download sections of the Guide to the High Line Canal Trail for detailed maps, historic facts and more.

Wildlife viewing: Includes birds, mammals and several species of reptiles.

Biking: Road bikes are best suited on the hard surfaces of the canal trail in Denver and Aurora. The routes through South Suburban, Highlands Ranch, Chatfield, Cherry Hill and Greenwood Village are all soft-surface trails, more suitable for mountain bikes.

Horseback riding: Horses are welcome on most of the canal, but be aware of the regulations along different areas.

Picnicking: The canal winds through many parks that provide picnic tables. There are benches and a few tables available. See local area maps for locations.

Sharing the trail: The trail is used by a variety of people, from walkers with strollers to cyclists. Please be considerate of others. Pets must be on a leash, and owners are responsible for cleaning up after pets.

Special events: Permits required from Denver Water and the recreation management agency for the area of the event.

Directions

  • From a diversion dam on the South Platte River 1.8 miles upstream from the mouth of Waterton Canyon, the canal runs 71 miles east-northeast through Douglas, Arapahoe, and Denver counties, ending at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Lateral in the Green Valley Ranch area.
  • To reach its starting point, take Colorado 470 to Wadsworth (Colorado 121) and follow Colorado 121 south to the Kassler Center.
  • The canal is accessible along most of its length. For more information on access along the canal, check out our map.

FAQs

What agency should I contact with questions or concerns about the canal or trail?

Denver Water is responsible for running water through the canal and for completing general maintenance of the canal. There are seven agencies with recreation agreements that are responsible for maintaining the trail:

Who takes care of the trees?

Denver Water is responsible for trimming trees and removing hazardous trees that border the High Line Canal. Denver Water has worked with Colorado State University to monitor the health of the cottonwoods along the canal. Trees are evaluated and then trimmed or removed to protect the public, including those who recreate on the trail and those who own property that borders the canal.

All tree planting on the High Line Canal is coordinated with Denver Water. Denver Water works with the local recreational authorities along the High Line Canal for tree planting. Without irrigation, new trees do not succeed, and the canal does not have consistent water flow or the necessary infrastructure to ensure available irrigation. Some park districts along the canal have planted trees and have developed methods of watering these trees until they are established.

Yellow property markers denote the edge of Denver Water property along the High Line Canal. Trees within Denver Water’s ownership cannot be trimmed or removed. Similar to dealing with property boundaries with a residential neighbor, if the Denver Water property markers aren’t readily visible, homeowners along the High Line are responsible for locating the edge of their property before trimming or removing trees. Together, we can maintain the health and beauty of this recreational amenity.

When does water flow in the canal?

The canal has an 1879 water right, which is fairly junior by Colorado water rights standards. Depending on the availability of water from the South Platte River, and irrigation demand by users on the canal, Denver Water intermittently runs water through the canal between the months of April and October.

Does the canal have seepage?

All dirt-lined canals seep water. The canal seeps about 60 to 80 percent of the water running through it, making it more suitable for recreation purposes than for water delivery. The canal has been seeping since it opened more than a century ago. Denver Water understands some people who have built below the canal may have problems with normal seepage loss from the canal, but it is not the responsibility of Denver Water, or its seven partnering agencies, to correct those problems. The canal was in operation — and leaking — at its present location long before development in areas near the canal.

Are there plans for the canal's future?

Because of water conservation needs and the canal’s inefficiencies, the lower reach of the High Line Canal (from Cherry Creek to Sand Creek) now has limited irrigation deliveries. Concerned agencies have developed a study to investigate alternatives that would preserve the canal as a recreational resource.

For more information on the High Line Canal Future Management Study, contact a High Line Canal partner:

Activities

Bicycling

Bicycling

Hiking

Hiking

Horseback Riding

Horseback Riding

Nature Viewing

Nature Viewing

Picnicking

Picnicking

Seasons and hours

Open year round, 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., subject to modification

Contact

Reservations: Day use, none required

Learn more

Long-term tree care management planning

Guide to the High Line Canal Trail

Time to weigh in on Denver's famous ditch

Printable recreation map