10 Favorite Fall Hikes In and Around Colorado Springs

    These trails will deliver fall color and let you enjoy your leaf peeping on foot. From in-town favorites to under the radar gems, there’s something here for everyone.

    Aspen leaves show gold for fall hikes
    Photo by Leslie James

    There’s an added beauty when those golden aspen groves light up the trail and hillsides. These 10 trails will take you into the seasonal color show, or in some cases, overlooking it. Some are well-known favorite fall hikes; others are lesser known. But all are in Colorado Springs or around Pikes Peak, so you can spend more time hiking than driving for your leaf-peeping pleasure.

    Columbine Trail

    Where: North Cheyenne Cañon
    Route: Out and back, 1,607 feet of elevation gain
    Distance: 7.6 miles round trip from lower trailhead
    Difficulty: Moderate

    Slice through Cheyenne Cañon on the Columbine Trail. Whether you start at the lowest or highest trailhead, the flora along the creek tends to change colors early and splatters the forest ground with bright yellow and orange hues during autumn. You can choose to begin from the lower, mid or upper trailheads—or set up your own shuttle if you have a willing driver.

    How to Get There: Enter North Cheyenne Cañon Park at the Starsmore Discovery Center, on North Cheyenne Canyon Road. You can park on the south side of the building for the lower trailhead. Or follow the road up the canyon to start at the middle trailhead about a mile west. The upper trailhead is located just past Helen Hunt Falls.

    The Crags Trail

    Where: Between Divide and Cripple Creek
    Route: Out and back, 820 feet of elevation gain
    Distance: 4.8 miles round trip
    Difficulty: Moderate

    First enjoy the swath of fall foliage on Colorado Highway 67 after Divide. Then on the trail, you’ll see towering boulders, glowing meadows and patches of aspen. The view from the 10,801 foot summit delivers excellent views of surrounding peaks and a panorama of fall foliage.

    How to Get There: From U.S. Highway 24 west, turn left in Divide on Colorado Highway 67. Head south for 4 miles, then turn left on Teller County Road 62. You’ll see the trailhead and large parking lot after about 3 miles, just before the Crags Campground.

    Cheyenne Mountain, Dixon Trail

    Where: Cheyenne Mountain State Park
    Route: Out and back, approximately 3,200 feet of elevation gain
    Distance: 15-17 miles roundtrip
    Difficulty: Difficult

    Take note that this is a big one: long, steep and difficult. But the payoff is the open meadows, stately aspen groves and towering views over the city. In Cheyenne Mountain State Park, you’ll combine the Talon Trail, Dixon Trail and Mountain Loop and/or Dragon’s Backbone to reach the overlook at Robber’s Roost. But don’t worry, all trails are well-marked.

    How to Get There: From Colorado Highway 115 south, turn right on JL Ranch Heights Road, directly across from Fort Carson, and follow it into Cheyenne Mountain State Park. A day pass is $7. Park at the Limekiln lot. Dogs are allowed on designated trails only, which do not include the trails up Cheyenne Mountain.

    Horsethief Park Trail

    Where: Near Cripple Creek
    Route: Out and back, about 1,000 feet of elevation gain
    Distance: up to 8 miles round trip
    Difficulty: Moderate

    fall hikes on Horsethief Park Trail
    Horsethief Park. Photo by Jeremy Jones.

    This trail provides options — or multiple fall hikes. You’ll start steeply but quickly level out for a gradual ascent to the open meadows and scattered aspen around Horsethief Park, beneath Sentinel Point. At the intersection in 0.75 miles, take a left, cross the creek and enter the meadows. (It’s worth a side trip straight at the intersection for the additional 1 mile round trip to Horsethief Falls. Another option leads to beautiful views at Pancake Rocks.) At the junction 2.5 miles in, a left turn follows the Ring the Peak Trail eventually up to 10,500 feet before reaching Forest Service Road 383 toward the Crags. A right turn onto Trail 704C wanders along beaver ponds before climbing steeply toward Sentinel Point.

    How to Get There: From U.S. Highway 24 west, and turn left in Divide on Colorado Highway 67. Drive about 8 miles until the closed Little Ike Tunnel. Park in the lot on the south side of the tunnel at the trailhead for Horsethief Park Trail #704.

    Mount Esther Trail

    Where: Above Chipita Park
    Route: Out and back, 1,500 feet of elevation gain
    Distance: 4.2 miles round trip
    Difficulty: Difficult

    A steep and rocky trail along Ute Pass ends at the 9,505-foot summit of Mount Esther. A serene meadow waits on top where autumn colors will glow in the sun. Continue a bit farther to Crystal Creek Reservoir for fishing and broad views of Pikes Peak reflected in the fresh mountain water.

    How to Get There: From U.S. Highway 24 west, turn left at the Cascade/Chipita Park traffic light toward the Pikes Peak Highway. Follow Fountain Avenue, but veer right onto Chipita Park Road at the Pikes Peak Highway sign. After 1.5 miles, turn left on Picabo Road; when it ends, turn left on Mountain Road and look for the trailhead on the right. Parking is minimal.

    Pikes Peak Greenway / New Santa Fe Regional Trail

    Where: Colorado Springs to Palmer Lake
    Route: The paved and hard-packed gravel corridor runs the length of the city, from the El Pomar Sports Complex on the south, through urban industrial sections, parks, open spaces and the Air Force Academy with trailheads all along the way.
    Distance: 30 miles end to end
    Difficulty: Easy

    Grab your bike or lace up your running shoes for this long urban path through the Springs. You’ll see beautiful, colorful cottonwoods and neverending views of Pikes Peak and the Front Range as you follow Monument Creek most of the way. Particularly scenic stretches include Monument Valley Park downtown—complete with a playground for the kids—and north of Woodmen Road through the Air Force Academy.

    How to Get There: This urban trail system has many access points, ranging from north to south, including America the Beautiful Park, Monument Valley Park, Goose Gossage Sports Complex, Woodmen Road and in the heart of Palmer Lake. Here’s a map of many of them from City of Colorado Springs.

    golden aspen leaves on fall hikes
    Photo by Leslie James

    Preachers Hollow

    Where: Mueller State Park
    Route: Loop, 460 feet of elevation gain
    Distance: 2 miles round trip
    Difficulty: Easy

    Mueller State Park is an excellent go-to for fall color, with many trails to explore on the back side of Pikes Peak. This one offers an easy loop from the Visitor Center among tall aspens and grassy meadows. The first mile is downhill into a shady valley. Then at the top of the hill in the second mile, you’ll see sweeping views of mountain ranges. Take note that once the snowflakes pile up, this trail is great for for snowshoeing. (Read more in “3 Great Trails for Snowshoeing.”)

    How to Get There: From U.S. Highway 24 west. Then turn left in Divide at the stoplight to Colorado Highway 67. Go 3.8 miles to the Mueller State Park entrance on the right.

    Ute Indian Trail

    Where: Manitou Springs
    Route: Out and back, 1,300 feet of elevation gain
    Distance: 7 miles round trip
    Difficulty: Moderate

    A less painful trail than the Manitou Incline, but with similarly great views and more shade. Stop and read the signs about the history of the path once used by Native Americans. The scrub oak and ground cover provide brilliant fall coloring toward the second half of the trail, and the views over Manitou Springs will showcase scattered aspen trees beneath Pikes Peak.

    How to Get There: From downtown Manitou Springs, take Ruxton Avenue from the roundabout toward the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. At the Manitou Incline trailhead, follow the trail to the right of the steps.

    Seven Bridges

    Where: North Cheyenne Cañon
    Route: Out and back, 1,450 feet of elevation gain
    Distance: 5.6 miles round trip
    Difficulty: Moderate

    Take in the views on the wide, closed-to-automobiles Gold Camp Road for nearly a mile before you dip into the woods for the Seven Bridges. The foliage along the creek will scream fall colors with bright yellows and deep reds, and the babble of the creek will make you feel like you’re deep in the mountains. You can turn around after the seventh bridge for a shorter hike, or continue through the steeper end section and connect other trails up to Jones Park.

    How to Get There: Enter North Cheyenne Cañon Park at Starsmore Discovery Center, on North Cheyenne Canyon Road. Follow the road past Helen Hunt Falls to the top of the paved road and park in the dirt lot at the intersection with Gold Camp Road.

    Women’s Forest Trail 375

    Where: Divide
    Route: Loop, 300 feet of elevation gain
    Distance: 5 miles round trip
    Difficulty: Easy

    You’ll want to hike this lightly-trafficked trail all day beneath towering, plentiful aspen groves. But beware: Cattle roam free, so keep the furry friends on leash. Your longing for fall colors will surely be met on this hike.

    How to Get There: From U.S. Highway 24 west, turn right in Divide. at the stoplight onto County Road 5. In 0.7 miles, veer left onto County Road 51 (Cedar Mountain Road). After about 2.5 miles, turn right on County Road 511. In about 0.5 mile, the parking lot on your left is marked as the trailhead. Make sure you close the cattle gate!

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