I suspect Austin Bluffs Open Space might not be on your short list of trails. However, on those weekends when perfect weather lures people outdoors and the parking lots fill at local favorites such as Palmer Park and Red Rock Canyon, this area is worth a look.
On a recent Friday, we accessed the open space from the east at University Park Boulevard off Academy Boulevard. There is no trailhead parking, so you'll have to look for a spot before University Park ends in a roundabout.
Although inconspicuous, this area rewards the determined hiker with a pleasant 2-mile loop past hoodoos and a pond and great views of Pikes Peak and Pulpit Rock. Ignore social trails that run into neighborhoods. Stay on the main trail until you see the pond and then keep right. Eventually, you'll see an old barbed wire fence on your left and you'll loop around the Heller Center for Arts & Humanities, once called "the most interesting house in Colorado Springs" by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
At the halfway point, Pulpit Rock will be directly north of you. The trail then veers south and connects with a dirt road for a short stretch, but you'll finish the loop on lovely trail.
The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs has plans to build new trails and improve existing trails on adjacent campus property that will increase hiking and biking options.
In other trail news:
- Thursday is the last day to comment on proposed trail closures in the Bear Creek Watershed. Current proposals would close access to Jones Park and other historic sites indefinitely. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Learn how to maintain trails, close trails and run successful volunteer projects through free crew leader training April 25-27, courtesy of City Parks, Friends of the Peak, Rocky Mountain Field Institute and Trails and Open Space Coalition. Space is limited so go online now to springsgov.com/volunteer. Click on the links for "volunteer opportunities page," "general volunteer opportunities," "show calendar," "April 25," "crew leader training" and "register as a volunteer."
Davies is the executive director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition. Read her columns on the fourth Thursday of each month in Out There.