It might seem a bit silly as the weather turns cooler to talk about hiking. However, Colorado’s 300+ days of sunshine lend to year-round hiking (and golfing for that matter)… plus if it’s too snowy, I’ll just throw on snowshoes and “hike” that way. I am certainly not an expert on all of these trails, but I will try to give a brief description or the terrain and length.
Notes: 1) for most trails dogs must be “on leash”, 2) pretty much all trails I’m discussing are powered by muscles, not motors (horses, people. bikes, etc… just no motorized vehicles).. oh, and 3) prepare to see wildlife (mostly deer, squirrels, rabbits, maybe fox.. and occasional bear, snake *yes, there are rattlesnakes here*)
Hiking North of Colorado Springs
Let’s start with my favorite (ok one of my faves) SPRUCE MOUNTAIN – just north of the El Paso / Douglas County line, north of Palmer Lake. Primary trail is a 5.6-6 mile loop. Difficult uphill, switchback trail to top, then loop around the top.
Also in Douglas County is the GREENLAND TRAIL – access off Hwy 83, 8.2-mile loop, varying difficulty, light traffic
Just into El Paso County is the PALMER LAKE RESERVOIR – moderate 4.1 miles out and back, trailhead in Palmer Lake
MOUNT HERMAN – 2.2 mile out and back, trailhead on the west side of Monument at the edge of Pike National Forest
Jump over to the east side of I-25 for FOX RUN Regional Park – with a variety of loops to make your hike longer or shorter, with several access points off Roller Coaster Rd and Stella Rd. (Dog Park available) I love this one, because it’s near my boys’ school and I can knock it off right after school drop off.
Also nearby are BLACK FOREST REGIONAL PARK 2.9-mile loop and BLACK FOREST SECTION 16’s 4-mile loop, one I do often since it’s near my house.
All along the west side of I-25 is the SANTA FE Trail – I believe it’s at least 19 miles from Palmer lake trailhead to downtown Colorado Springs. It’s out-and-back as far as you can stand to push yourself… with stops all along the way (Palmer Lake, Baptist Rd, Air Force Academy Northgate entrance, Woodmen Rd, near Criterium bike shop, Gossage Park, Monument Valley Park, etc.)
Hiking in Central Colorado Springs
Another out-and-back in town is the COTTONWOOD CREEK Trail with many paved portions from at least Austin Bluffs/Woodmen intersection to Academy Blvd just north of Dublin. Great trail for kids on bikes, with a quick stop-over to play at Cottonwood Creek Rec Center and Park.
Recognizable from all over Colorado Springs is PULPIT ROCK. (near I-25 & N. Nevada) I chuckle at this one because I know there are a couple loops, but seems friends and I always get off track here and end up scaling the side of the hill either up or down. We have been all the way to the top, and kids climbed the rocks (scary moment as a mom!). Views of Pikes Peak are particularly phenomenal from here!
GARDEN OF THE GODS has a bunch of different trails from fairly easy & mostly paved simple portions “inside the loop”, to longer options outside the driving loop. This is a great place to drive through and stop for some great photos of the red rock formations, with visitors or your friends and family. Kissing Camels is one of the most famous formations, from the Garden of the Gods Club up the hill, the camels which appear to be kissing frame Pikes Peak.
Another favorite of one of my hiking buddy’s favorites is PALMER PARK – again, multiple trail options depending on difficulty and length you desire. Also, awesome views from many spots!
One I don’t often think of is the HOMESTEAD Trail – located near Powers Blvd, it runs through neighborhoods from Old Farm to at least Constitution. Sidebar- It would be difficult to mention all of the neighborhood trails in one blog, as Colorado Springs / El Paso County has always been very intentional about creating parks, trails, open spaces all over the place. I feel like every neighborhood has a trail or several!
Back to the west side, on the edge of Pike National Forest and south of the United State Air Force Academy is BLODGETT PEAK – 3.5 miles out and back with pretty steep grade climbing the mountainside.
UTE VALLEY trail is also another friend favorite, on the west side of town, off Vindicator. The most heavily trafficked portion is a 3.5-mile loop, however, you can turn off in several places to shorten or extend that. Be prepared to see lots of mountain bikes here… popular trail!
One I’ve never visited is the ROCK ISLAND Trail – 11.8 out and back from Nevada to Powers along Constitution.
Hiking in East Colorado Springs
If you trek east of Colorado Springs/Peyton several miles, a really fun place to explore is the historic CALHAN PAINT MINES – you can do out and back or a loop, plus explore the amazing rock formations created by water and limestone over hundreds of years. WOW!
Way back over to the west side in Manitou, Colorado – for those who really like to push themselves, the INCLINE is a vertical climb up the side of Pikes Peak. I have done it a handful of times, it’s tough! Most hike up it and go down Barr Trail. You can also take Barr Trail up past the top of the incline for most exploration toward the top of Pikes Peak.
Hiking on the Westside of Colorado Springs
I love to explore the west side of Pikes Peak by driving through Woodland Park, CO and hitting the CRAGS Trailhead. The views from the top are amazing!.. and there are more options to include “bouldering” the side of Pikes Peak.. maybe next time. 😉
The PIKES PEAK GREENWAY Trail will take you from downtown Colorado Springs to Fountain, CO, considerable portions paved.
The southwest side of Colorado Springs offers SO many options, I’ll try to touch on them all. First BEAR CREAK Park, trails, nature center – sports, probably the largest and most popular dog park in town, plus trails and open spaces to enjoy.
Next.. RED ROCK CANYON Open Space – Red Rock Section 16 is one I’ve done several times, also popular for mountain bikers. I know there are parts of the area I haven’t seen.
Hiking South of Colorado Springs
I am going to lump together two multi-trail spaces… STRATTON OPEN SPACE & CHEYENNE CANYON – These areas encompass so many trails it’s hard to list them all –
* Gold Camp
* Cheyenne Canyon Columbine Trail
* Mister Twister Loop
* Seven Bridges
* Mount Muscoco Trail
* 7 Falls
* Buckhorn Loop
* Silver Cascade Falls
* Mays Peak
* Garfield Trail
Some of these trails are definitely not for the faint of heart or the physically unfit; please always remember to bring water, snacks, protective gear.. especially if you are traversing a different altitude. Colorado storms can be sudden and dangerous!
To discuss and find trails I’ve never done, I used an app and web page called All Trails… check it out at home or on your phone when it’s time to hit the hills for some fresh air and physical fitness! There are so many trails I didn’t even touch on, so much Colorado to get out there an explore… enjoy!!