Trails: Hiking Pulpit Rock

A hike to one of Colorado Springs’ most prominent points gives a sweeping view of the Front Range and a nature respite that leaves you feeling above it all.

Where to Find It: Beside the I-25 and N. Nevada intersection. The small trailhead parking lot is at 6411 N. Nevada Ave. just north of the small shopping center. If the lot is full, there are other lots along the edge of the open space.
Distance: About 2 miles for an out and back to the summit on steeper, more direct trails. About 4 miles round trip for a full loop of the ridge.
Difficulty: Easy on the main path. Other trail branches are moderate to difficult.
Peak Elevation: 6,625 feet
Know Before You Go: The rocks at the top can be slick even when the ground is dry. Watch for sudden cliffs. Ice, snow and mud exist during winter months. Hiking poles are recommended on steeper, rocky trails.

When you think of going for a nice, short hike in Colorado Springs, you might first think to head west to Garden of the Gods or North Cheyenne Cañon. But don’t forget the prominent point that’s in plain view from the I-25 corridor. Pulpit Rock protrudes high above the highway, University Village, the west side of UCCS and Austin Bluffs Open Space, offering a sweeping view of the Front Range that gives you a new appreciation for the mountains you might typically hike.

Front Range seen from Pulpit Rock in Colorado Springs
Front Range seen from Pulpit Rock. Photo by Leslie James.

Pulpit Rock is one of those pinnacles you drive by countless times and think, “I wonder what the view is like from up there.” Trust me, it’s good, and it’s accessible in a short time. It takes me about a half-hour scramble to the top on steeper, braiding trails, or about a 45-minute walk on the main path. At the top, the Front Range fills the horizon from Cheyenne Mountain to the south to seemingly no end to the north. Pikes Peak towers above in all its beauty.

Whether you want a nice stroll in Pulpit Rock Park or if you’re looking for a hard and quick scramble to reach the scenic overlook, this area won’t disappoint. The loop around the park is about 4 miles, gradually reaching the top, and you’ll get more sun on this route’s southern side. Heading straight for the summit provides a bit more excitement because of a multitude of steep and rocky trails to choose from.

There are no trail markers, but the wide loop trail is easy to distinguish from the harder ones. If you’re ready to get the cardio going, shoot off of the main path for a quicker, steeper route that may require you to use all fours. Some scrambling is required to reach the uppermost rock outcroppings.

Hiking poles are recommended for the steeper trails, and Microspikes are almost a must during snowy conditions. North-facing spots along the ridge and rock formations are likely to be icy and shady in cold-weather seasons.

If you’re looking to add even more trail mileage to the scenic reward of Pulpit Rock, head south into the adjacent Austin Bluffs Open Space.

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