We love our trails in Colorado Springs. We hike them, bike them, run them, walk them and roll them. If you put together all 650 miles of trail in the Pikes Peak region, it would get you from Colorado Springs to the Grand Canyon with mileage to spare. Everyone has a favorite, and the best trails can vary by what kind of experience each individual is looking for. But every Springs hiker should visit these trail networks at least once. If you’re new to the Pikes Peak region, here is your introduction to the wealth of trails and open spaces. If you’re a long-timer, consider this your bucket list for exploring different sides of the city or revisiting old favorites. We’ll see you out there!
Cheyenne Mountain State Park — Trails Plus Amenities
The local state park on the south side offers amenities like established camping and an archery range. It also delivers a well organized network of 21 trails that cover more than 27 miles. It’s easy to create your own routes, but the 3.5-mile Blackmer Loop is a favorite through rock gardens and forest. The easy 3.2-mile Sundance Trail stays lower in open, sunny terrain. And those looking for challenging adventure can take the difficult Dixon Trail to the top of namesake Cheyenne Mountain. Just plan ahead. You’ll cover more than 17 miles round trip and gain about 2,500 feet of elevation. Note that you have to pay an admission fee to the park: $9 for a daily vehicle pass.
Garden of the Gods — Geologic Wonder
The registered National Natural Landmark and icon of natural beauty is a favorite among visitors and locals, meaning it can get crowded. But with 21 miles of trails, there’s something for everyone. The paved 0.5-mile Perkins Central Garden Trail is an easy loop through the heart of the signature rock formations. Deeper into the park, the Siamese Twins Trail is an easy 1-mile round trip trail where kids will enjoy climbing around the keyhole rocks. And you can ring much of the Garden away from traffic with a moderate 4-mile loop connecting the Palmer, Scotsman, Hamp, Buckskin Charley, Niobara, Ute and Bretag trails. No matter where you are in the park, it’s always easy to bail out or circle back to a road or parking lot.
The Manitou Incline — Legendary Beast Mode
There’s nothing quite like the Incline. It historically took a cable railway to reach the top. Now the Incline is a long set of 2,744 stairs — steep stairs that gain 2,020 vertical feet in 1 mile. Locals and visitors love to test their mettle on this fitness legend. Olympians and record-holders can reach the top in under 30 minutes, but average hikers take more than an hour. Before you go beast mode, remember that medical rescues are fairly common. Note that reservations are currently required.
North Cheyenne Cañon Park — Wilderness Gateway
Want to get away from it all — without driving more than 10 minutes from downtown? Cheyenne Cañon is a prime gateway into Pike National Forest and the higher elevations south of Pikes Peak. The 4-mile Columbine Trail winds along the canyon, starting easy along North Cheyenne Creek, then growing steeper as the canyon climbs. The short, popular Silver Cascade Falls Trail is easy, as long as you don’t mind climbing stairs. At 1.1 miles to the top, the Mount Cutler trail offers an easy to moderate peak hike with sweeping views of the city. And the Seven Bridges Trail gives a moderate 4-mile out-and-back classic hike that criss-crosses upper reaches of the babbling North Cheyenne Creek.
Paint Mines Interpretative Park — Cultural Treasure
To the east of Colorado Springs, the Paint Mines are a cultural treasure and a unique natural beauty. The colorful clays striated throughout the rock layers here were used by ancient peoples to make paints and dyes. The hoodoos and spires glow with rich hues in the changing sunlight. There are 4 miles of easy trail loops. Dogs are not allowed. Stay on designated trails to avoid damage to the delicate soils.
Palmer Park — Urban Oasis
The maze of trails in Palmer Park criss and cross and can be confusing, but they make it easy to forget you’re surrounded by neighborhoods and the busy traffic corridors of Academy Boulevard and Austin Bluffs Parkway. This is an urban oasis, set aside by city founder General William Jackson Palmer himself, that features more than 25 miles of trails. Don’t miss the Grandview Trail to the Grandview Overlook, which provides a sweeping view of downtown with Pikes Peak as its backdrop. The easy Yucca and Mesa trails offer a scenic loop on top of the mesa and pass through an off-leash dog run area. And the rugged Edna Mae Bennett Nature Trail will take you among forested canyon slots. You’ll never know you’re surrounded by city.
Pikes Peak — Long Classic
The Peak defines the region and orients our sense of direction, standing broadly over the city. The mountain offers exploration on all sides of its massive circumference, but everyone who’s able should trek to its 14,115-foot summit. Barr Trail is the classic long route, stretching 13 miles from Manitou Springs and gaining more than 7,500 vertical feet to the top. The shorter Crags Trail makes the ascent from the west side in about 7 miles, gaining 4,300 feet in elevation. Either way is difficult, but they rate moderate for a 14er. Just make sure you’re prepared and following safety precautions. Every time you see America’s Mountain dominating the horizon, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you walked to the top — even if you did catch a shuttle ride down.
Pulpit Rock — Central Sentinel
You can’t miss this prominent point as you drive up and down I-25. The sandstone tower above UCCS and University Village beckons hikers to its sweeping views. You can go up and back in an easy 1 mile round trip, but expect some rugged footing. The view is worth it. And if you want to explore farther, continue on through the 584 acres of the adjacent Austin Bluffs Open Space.
Red Rock Canyon Open Space — Reclaimed Variety
The Westside area covers nearly 1,500 acres of canyons, hogback ridges and wide open views of the city and Garden of Gods. There’s a vast trail network for all levels. The Red Rock Canyon Trail follows a wide dirt road (closed to vehicles) to the scenic pond and historic quarry. The moderate Contemplative Trail provides a hikers-only path (Red Rocks is popular among mountain bikers too.) And the Section 16 trail serves as a gateway on Red Rock’s southern side for quicker access to the park’s upper elevations and vistas.
Ute Valley Park — Craggy Hideaway
This Westside open space is destination worthy even if you don’t live among its surrounding neighborhoods. It offers varied terrain among craggy hideaways, pine forested hills and Pikes Peak views. You can circle most of the park on a moderate 4-mile loop by connecting the Ute Valley Regional, Rattlesnake Ridge, Triple Threat, Winding Woods Loop and BeaUTEtiful Loop trails. The Black and Blue Loop offers a moderate 2.5 mile loop on the park’s east side.
What’s Your Favorite?
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