South Valley Park is a 995 acre open space park in Littleton, CO. Operated as a part of the expansive Jefferson County Open Space system, this park is a favorite destination due to its picturesque red rock spires and beginner-level trails. Catering to a wide array of recreational activities, including trail running, hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding, South Valley Park is a great choice for an outing within the Denver metro area.
Indeed, South Valley Park is as rich in natural beauty as it is in geologic history. The red rocks in the park are part of the same formation you see in Roxborough State Park, Red Rocks, and the Flatirons. As part of the Fountain and Lyons formations, South Valley Park’s red rock spires developed in part from erosion of the Ancestral Rocky Mountains and a subsequent uplift in the region around 65 million years ago. So, take the opportunity to explore the park’s 7.7 miles of trails and see these red rocks for yourself. Happy adventures!
Destination Guide Series: South Valley Park
Where is South Valley Park?
South Valley Park is located in Littleton, CO, within Jefferson County. There are two trailheads in the park, the North Trailhead and the South Trailhead. From Denver, take US-6 W towards I-70 W. Once on I-70 W, take exit 260 to merge onto CO-470 E. After about 10 miles on CO-470 E, take exit 10 to merge on to W Ken Caryl Ave. Turn left onto Valley Rd. and the North Trailhead will be on your left in about one mile. To reach the South Trailhead, once on Valley Rd., travel for 2.4 miles (passing the North Trailhead), turn left onto W Deer Creek Canyon Rd. and the parking area will be on the left in .1 mile.
Why Should You Visit South Valley Park?
South Valley Park is a great choice particularly for avid trail runners, but also for mountain bikers and beginner-level hikers or those looking for an easy day hike. The trails are relatively flat, with little elevation gain, making South Valley Park a great all-season destination. With a connection to adjacent Deer Creek Canyon Park via its trail network, visitors to South Valley Park can mix and match trails to choose their own adventures. Furthermore, a picnic area at the park’s North Trailhead makes for a nice place to relax and soak in the area’s rich red rock beauty.
Things to Do
Hiking and Trail Running
South Valley Park’s trail system spans 7.7 miles, featuring red rock spires of the Fountain and Lyons Formations and beautiful grassland trails peering into Deer Creek Canyon Park. The trails here are all fairly easy and level, making them well-suited for beginner-level and family hikes or easy trail runs. We prefer South Valley Park more for trail running than hiking; but an early morning hike here to avoid the crowds is serene. Perhaps one of the best features of South Valley Park, beyond its picturesque views, is that it connects with Deer Creek Canyon Park. So, for the ambitious hiker or trail runner, consider extending your outing into this adjacent Jefferson County park for even more fun.
Coyote Song Trail
The Coyote Song Trail is the park’s eastern most trail and can be accessed via South Valley Park’s North Trailhead or South Trailhead. From the North Trailhead, the trail passes the park’s picnic area and heads on a gently sloped downhill grade. Red rock spires and an exquisite valley view greet trail users from the north. Alternatively, the Coyote Song Trail from the South Trailhead requires a bit of elevation gain. To make a fun and easy loop hike, combine the Coyote Song Trail with the Swallow Trail.
Rating: Least Difficult (southern portion More Difficult)
Length: 1.5 miles (one-way)
The Swallow Trail is a short trail section, most directly accessed via South Valley Park’s North Trailhead, and only accessible to hikers, trail runners, and equestrians. Mountain bikes are prohibited on the Swallow Trail. Most visitors combine the Swallow Trail and Coyote Song Trail into an enjoyable loop hike, which offers excellent views of the park’s red rocks.
Rating: Least Difficult
Use: Hiking/Horseback Riding; No Bikes
Length: .9 miles (one-way)
Grazing Elk Trail
The Grazing Elk Trail is a southern section of South Valley Park, particularly beautiful due to its expansive grassland features and views of nearby evergreen forested mountains (i.e., Bill Couch Mountain). Located to the west of Valley Road, the Grazing Elk Trail can be accessed via the Prairie Falcon Trail connection (via Swallow Trail or Coyote Song Trail). Or, visitors can also access this area from Deer Creek Canyon Park’s Rattlesnake Gulch Trail. This trail is a great loop add-on and offers a different perspective than the park’s northeastern side.
Rating: Least Difficult
Length: 2.6 miles (loop)
Valley View Trail
The Valley View Trail parallels Valley Road and is most easily accessed via the park’s North Trailhead. As you head south on the Valley Trail, the trail crosses a private road and connects with either the Grazing Elk Trail (great for expansive grassland views) or the Prairie Falcon Trail (which connects with the Swallow Trail or Coyote Song Trail for a return loop). Notably, the Valley View Trail also parallels the park’s closed northwestern corridor, which is designated as a Sensitive Area.
Rating: Least Difficult
Length: 1.2 miles (one-way)
Prairie Falcon Trail
The Prairie Falcon Trail is a connector trail, used for connecting the Coyote Song Trail, Swallow Trail, and Grazing Elk Trail. Most visitors use a portion of this trail to make a loop of the Coyote Song Trail and the Swallow Trail. Or, visitors can use the Prairie Falcon Trail to cross Valley Road to go to/from the Grazing Elk Trail.
Rating: Least Difficult
Length: .5 miles (one-way)
Mountain biking is extremely popular along the park’s trail system. All of the trails in the park, with the exception of the Swallow Trail, permit mountain biking. Note that these trails are also open to hikers, trail runners, and equestrians; thus, the trails can be fairly busy during weekends. Try the South Valley Loop, featured on MTBProject, for a 9.6 mile outing.
Horseback riding is permitted on the multi-use trails throughout South Valley Park’s trail network. Equestrians will share multi-use trails with mountain bikers, hikers, and trail runners; so the trails may be very busy. The Grazing Elk Trail, is the optimal trail here for horseback riding since it’s further away from the busy Northern trailhead. Plus, riders can connect into Deer Creek Canyon Park to extend outings.
For a well-rounded and more interpretive experience of Colorado ecosystems, consider picking up a few naturalist guides. An easy to use field guide for plants and birds will help identify species and further add to the enjoyment of your time outdoors. We also added in one of our favorite trail running guides for the Denver area, which references South Valley Park and other great trails.
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