About the series: Happy Trails explores the best of what the Colorado outdoors has to offer for hiking, biking and camping. Looking for more hiking trails in Colorado? Head over to gazette.com/Colorado-trails
Description: Of the trails we've been spotlighting weekly since June, we have yet to find one that offers this great a view of Woodland Park. The town catches your eye from a high field, where Pikes Peak demands your admiration. It's a perfect place for a picnic, and the hike or bike ride to it is perfect for fall when the aspens glow gold.
Below, the trees span the side of singletrack that threads a peaceful meadow. The area is reached about a mile into the journey, should you choose to take the loop counterclockwise. At 0.8 miles, rather than continuing straight, veer to the left toward the stream. At the post marking the 3¾-mile loop, go right to enjoy mostly level terrain.
The meadow stores boulder piles and summertime wildflowers that pop along the trail as it steadily rises to Rampart Range Road. After that serenity, it's strange to be back where vehicles roam, but quickly you'll return to a place where they do not. Head left past a barricade, following under the power lines. After the 3-mile mark of the trek, look to see the north face of America's Mountain popping through the pines. The most spectacular views are ahead, on a series of knolls, steep but short climbs.
Once you've had your fill of panoramic sights at the top, continue down the path carefully as it descends rather sharply; this would be the best challenge if you decided on the clockwise route. At 4.73 miles, see the sign pointing you back to where you came.
Trip log: 5.52 miles round trip ("lollipop"), 1,116-foot total elevation gain, 9,328 feet max
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Getting there: Heading west on U.S. 24 to Woodland Park, turn right onto Baldwin Street at the stoplight by McDonald's. The street turns into Rampart Range Road. At the gate for the Woodland Park Public Works and Utilities building, turn left, proceeding on the shop's gravel lot to the small dirt parking area for the trail.
FYI: Open to bikes and horses. Camping permitted along the trail. Put fires out and pack out trash.
SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE