Updated: July 28, 2014 at 10:35 am
Here are five hikes within an hour’s drive of Colorado Springs, as suggested by Troy Parker in “The Best Front Range Hikes for Children.”
1 - Bear Creek Nature Trail: With mostly gentle slopes and great views of the foothills, this 1.1-mile hike is the perfect introduction to hiking. Consider picking up a self-guided tour brochure from the Bear Creek Nature Center, which features interactive displays, wildlife dioramas and interpretive brochures. Details: The nature center is free; 245 Bear Creek Road in Colorado Springs.
2 - Boulder Creek Trail: Part of the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, this 4.5-mile, round-trip hike begins at Hornbek House, a homestead built in 1878. It features a barn, sheds and a root cellar, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Details: Admission is $3 per adult and free for children 16 and under; to get there, take U.S. 24 west for 35 miles to Florrisant and turn right on County Road 1. Continue 2 miles to Hornbek House parking lot.
3 - Cheesman Loop, with Cahill Pond Cutoff: A 4.6-mile trail though meadows, wetlands, a Douglas fir forest, blue spruce and aspen groves of Mueller State Park, which is cited by Parker “as one the best areas to hear bugling elk in September and October.” Details: $7 per vehicle; take U.S. 24 west to Divide, where you will turn south onto state Highway 67. Continue nearly 4 miles to the park entrance, where visitors must pay $7 per vehicle. Trail begins at Grouse Mountain Trailhead parking lot at the park's far end.
4 - Dome Rock State Wildlife Area: Dome Rock is famous for its wildlife, from falcons and red-tailed hawks to beaver, mule, deer, elk and bighorn sheep. Due to sheep breeding, some of the best trails are closed from Dec. 1 to July 15. The author suggests a 4.5-mile route consisting of Willow Creek, Sand Creek and Fourmile Creek trails, but younger hikers will also enjoy Twisted Pine Nature Trail. Details: Free; to get there, take U.S. 24 west for 26 miles to Divide, where you turn left onto state Highway 67. Stay on Highway 67 for 5 miles and turn on County Road 61, or Rainbow Valley Road; Continue until you see the trailhead on your right.
5 - Puma Point Trail: This gentle .9-mile trail atop Wilkerson Pass offers “grand views in every direction,” encompassing the Collegiate Peaks and South Park to the west and the nearer Sawatch and Mosquito Ranges. Interpretive panels describe the history, geology, flora and fauna of the region. Details: Free. To get there, head west on U.S. 24 for 48 miles to the top of Wilkerson Pass and turn left into the visitor center near the top.