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Eight great hikes that feature Colorado aspens

By: The Gazette
September 14, 2017 Updated: September 22, 2017 at 9:21 am
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Aspen trees provide the background as Leanne Howard, left, and Cheryl Bibby ride their horses in Mueller State Park Sunday, October 2, 2011. This weekend may prove to have been the peak weekend for leaf viewing in Colorado. Mark Reis, The Gazette

The best way to experience Colorado's fall colors is on a hike. Here are eight recommendations to get you started.

1. Seven Bridges

The perfect fall weekday hike. The trail, a little more than 1.5 miles each way, follows North Cheyenne Creek through shady forests. Once you've reached the seventh bridge, you can continue 0.4 miles to reach Jones Park, where you'll find aspen-filled meadows.

Distance: A 25-minute drive from downtown Colorado Springs.

If you go: Parking lot located off North Cheyenne Canyon Boulevard just past Helen Hunt Falls. The trail, marked No. 622, is a little more than a half-mile west of the parking lot.

2. The Crags

The beautiful rock formations for which this trail is named aren't the only reason to bring your camera. The roughly 4-mile round-trip hike offers stunning views of Pikes Peak and the colorful foliage below.

Distance: An hour drive from downtown Colorado Springs.

If you go: A separate trail to Pikes Peak, via Devil's Playground, branches off The Crags trail, so make sure to pay attention to signage.

3. Dome Rock State Wildlife Area

For those looking for a challenge, the park's 10.5-mile loop features canyons, meadows, a creek dotted with beaver dams, spectacular views of Pikes Peak and vast aspen groves - plus, the starring attraction: the enormous granite Dome Rock.

Distance: A 50-minute drive from downtown Colorado Springs.

If you go: Dogs are prohibited due to the area's status as a prime calving ground for bighorn sheep.

4. Shootin' Star Trail at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Named after a historic ranch, this 1.6-mile trail will bring you across a stream and through meadows into a ponderosa pine forest. Continue onto the connecting Twin Rock Trail and you'll find aspen groves and fantastic rock formations.

Distance: A 50-minute drive from downtown Colorado Springs.

If you go: Trail begins at Barksdale Picnic Area. Admission is $5 for visitors ages 16 and older. Park closes at 5 p.m.

5. Mueller State Park

Check out the park's 55 miles of trails and upwards of 5,000 acres of meadows and forests. For the best aspen views, hike the 5.4-mile Cheesman Ranch Loop.

Distance: A 45-minute drive from downtown Colorado Springs.

If you go: Daily admission is $7 per vehicle. Maps are available at the visitor center. Park closes at 5 p.m.

6. Cheyenne Mountain State Park

Another sprawling state park, with 21 miles of hiking trails and a campground. For fall colors, Colorado Parks and Wildlife recommends the 1.8-mile Soaring Kestral Trail, which features scrub oak trees and beautiful views of the valley.

Distance: A 20-minute drive from downtown Colorado Springs.

If you go: Dogs are prohibited. Daily admission is $7 per vehicle.

7. Catamount Reservoir

A 25-minute drive from downtown Colorado Springs.

Starting in Green Mountain Falls off U.S. 24, this hike will take you about 2 miles to South Catamount Reservoir along Pikes Peak Highway. After some uphill switchbacks, the trail winds through the Garden of Eden, home to a slew of aspens.

Distance: A 20-minute drive from downtown Colorado Springs.

If you go: The walk to the trailhead adds nearly a mile to the trip each way. Park near the lake and take Hondo or Belvidere avenues to the trailhead.

8. Rainbow Gulch

A 2.6-mile out-and-back trail near Woodland Park that winds along a stream to Rampart Reservoir, boasting some of the better aspen groves Pike National Forest has to offer.

Distance: A 45-minute drive from downtown Colorado Springs.

If you go: Trailhead located off Rampart Range Road.

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