March inspires thoughts of spring break , but often the local weather does not jive with that vibe, so consider a hiking excursion to Cañon City, only about an hour away.

The high desert environment gets cold in the winter, but warms up faster in the spring with highs averaging about 10 degrees warmer than the Springs. Fremont County can still get spring snowstorms. But by checking the weather and timing the trip right, hikers can enjoy a different desert-like landscape while clad in their favorite shorts and T-shirts.

Starting with the Riverwalk Trail from Highway 50 in Canon City, go south on 9th Street/Colorado 115 and continue south for about a quarter-mile to Sells Avenue. Turn left and continue east for about a quarter-mile to trailhead parking for a segment of the Arkansas Riverwalk.

This trail offers excellent birding, especially on early mornings during migrations in spring (April/May) and fall (September/October).

Head east and keep left on the River Trail for about 1.25 miles to Raynolds Avenue. Turn right across a boardwalk and continue a short distance past a social trail and to a parking lot. From the lot, follow the unsigned Bluff Trial as it heads eastward along the base of a bluff back to the parking area, forming a shallow 2.5 mile loop. This loop is packed with riparian woodland and shrubby habitat and some open meadows.

Head to the Tunnel Drive Trailhead by returning to Colorado 50, turn left and head west for about a mile. When the highway swings north, get in the left turn lane and turn east onto Tunnel Drive and continue for about a half-mile to the trailhead.

Head westward on the wide trail that is a favorite of locals and visitors, climbing a few hundred feet then leveling off, providing stellar views of the Arkansas River below and rocky cliffs all around.

The famous Royal Gorge lies farther beyond up the river. And indeed there are some cool tunnels, one of them is an impressive 100 yards long. After about 2 miles, turn around where the trail dead ends.

Some good news is that construction is underway for an extension of the trail from the deadend. The new trail is intended to extend into the Royal Gorge Park boundary about a half-mile to the north.

Joe LaFleur has lived in Woodland Park since 2016 and is a hiking enthusiast who hits the trails weekly. Contact Joe with questions or feedback at joelafleur@tds.net. Hiking is great exercise, but can be hazardous. Always be sure to plan well, check the weather, bring a printed map, tell someone where and when you are going, and contact them when you return safely.

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