Homestead loop, Mueller State Park
For residents of Colorado Springs and Woodland Park, Mueller State Park is a go-to, all-seasons getaway. Nearly 40 miles of trail web through 5,000 acres, where wildlife sightings are common in spring-fed meadows framed by forests and Pikes Peak granite. Fall is the best time to visit, when golden aspens everywhere make the park more picture-perfect. The loop we present here won't grant the mountain views of another trip we reported on Outlook Ridge. Nonetheless, start on the Homestead Trail for a solid introduction to the park.
The wide trail, numbered 12, tumbles down to a grassy, hilly patch. You'll think you're strolling through a pastoral painting amid the serenity. The path rises slightly, and the Collegiate Peaks and Sangre de Cristos are spotted in the distance between coniferous slopes.
At the intersection with trail No. 26, continue on the Homestead Trail to the right, entering tall woods. This trip's most significant ascent is felt approaching the 1-mile mark. The tread flattens as the trees clear at the junction with trail No. 13. The adventure's distance can be extended by going left, but this loop continues right, following a ridge that greets clear vistas of Pikes Peak.
Look to the right for your next turn onto trail No. 1. The thin path can be easy to miss, especially in winter when it's blanketed by snow. It begins by the post marking the Homestead Trail 0.8 miles away and weaves down to a meadow, passing an impressive boulder pile. At the marker where you could go left up to the road, hang right. The trail ends where you started.
Trip log: 2.8 miles round trip (loop), 497-foot elevation gain, 9,718 feet max
Getting there: Off U.S. 24, go south on Colorado 67 to the park. Continue straight on the entrance road, past the visitor center, and park at the Homestead trailhead.
FYI: $7 day pass per vehicle. Multi-use trails. No dogs.
SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE