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There's no better season than early fall for hiking in Colorado.

The air is crisp. The crowds are light. And autumn’s fabulous colors are on bold display.

This hike in Teller County features stand after stand of gold aspens, plus the shimmering waters of North Catamount Reservoir. Did we mention the unobstructed views of America’s Mountain?

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Out-of-towners know Philip S. Miller Park for the zip line. That tour ventures near the top the park's other well-known feature: the Challenge Hill, a miniature version of the world-famous Manitou Incline, the mountain-spanning set of railroad ties found about 50 miles down Interstate 25. Castle Rock residents, meanwhile, know Philip S. Miller Park for much more.

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On the northeast side of the city, Old Farm neighbors are spoiled with uninterrupted views of Pikes Peak and Rampart Range. Far south on a clear day, they gaze upon the Wet Mountains and the Spanish Peaks. Thanks to the city’s sales tax-funded Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) program, they’re no longer the only ones spoiled.

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Colorado Springs’ founding father could not have predicted the many motors that would one day rumble through the city’s greatest nature sanctuary. But Gen. William Jackson Palmer would surely appreciate his namesake footpath. Here, one quickly swaps concrete for dirt, fumes for fresh air.

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Another year of Happy Trails has come to a close, our ongoing series spotlighting mostly regional, mostly family-friendly hikes around Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region. Here we reflect on some of our favorites from 2019:

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Pike National Forest continues to heal from 2002’s Hayman wildfire. Nature’s wheel turns: quaking aspen grow ranks, animal tracks span the scorched earth between infrequent pine shade and rock gardens. And the scenery has opened, revealing, for one, the regal promontory called Thunder Butte.

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Near Boulder, Eldorado Canyon is a Colorado state park unlike any other. Winter is a great time to visit for solitude, though you'll want to check road conditions before you go. 

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To beat autumn’s aspen gold-seekers at Mueller State Park in Teller County, you’ll want to get to the Grouse Mountain trailhead early. The options are plenty from here, which is why we didn’t have to share the Buffalo Rock loop much.

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North Cheyenne Cañon Park’s premier loop is the one that skirts Mount Buckhorn. That’s no secret. But if you weren’t one of the hikers, mountain bikers or dirt bikers in the know, it might be hard to find that loop with the lack of signage. We’re here to help, plus point you to Buckhorn’s unofficial summit.