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Hogback Valley/Lion Trail, Red Rock Canyon Open Space
For outdoor enthusiasts, it's a relief the initial plan for what is now Red Rock Canyon Open Space didn't work out. The private landowner had grand ideas for high-rise towers and commercial centers before the city of Colorado Springs' purchase in 2003. So the land remains a natural paradise to be enjoyed by hikers, bikers, equestrians and rock climbers who turn off U.S. 24 and quickly swap the city scene. There are countless ways to mix up adventure, as suggested by the trail maps posted at the often-busy parking lot. We recommend a loop that showcases much of the classic scenery this city has to offer.
The Lower Hogback Trail starts at the eastern edge of the east parking lot. See it rising up a red, rocky hill. At the top, hang left and circle a peaceful meadow, following a ridge above the highway, looking out to West Side neighborhoods, downtown and the foothills under a stately Pikes Peak. The highway sounds fade by the time the trail forks; go left, proceeding on the Hogback Valley Trail.
The path widens and stays mostly flat as it enters grassy patches beneath scrub-covered hills. Look up to see those white and gray-green rock outcrops in the shape of the trail's namesake. Cheyenne Mountain eventually emerges into view, as do the Eastern Plains stretching behind downtown. At about the 1.75-mile mark, skip the spur on the left, continuing on the loop that noticeably ascends here.
Follow to the Lion Trail and behold the open space's sandstone beauties, the slabs standing on an open field. Also in sight is the Waldo Canyon burn scar and Garden of the Gods. At the next fork, either go left for a slightly longer excursion, or right on the Red Rock Rim Trail. Both options further display the red rocks and end back at the parking lot. Whether you're looking for a family activity on the weekend or a quick getaway after the office, this loop is perfect.
Trip log: 3.46 miles round trip (loop), 883-foot total elevation gain, 6,921 feet max
Getting there: The Red Rock Canyon Open Space parking lot is off U.S. 24, across from Ridge Road.
FYI: Dogs on leash unless in designated off-leash area. Trails good for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in winter. Lock car doors and don't leave valuables behind.