For all that Bear Creek Regional park offers — play sets, picnic pavilions, tennis courts, a dog park — the centerpiece is the trail network. Runners, walkers, equestrians and mountain bikers delight in 10-plus miles of dirt paths that weave through prairie and oak- and yucca-covered knolls.

A land of wonder hides east of Interstate 25, less than an hour from Colorado Springs. Colorado 83 runs straight through rolling, mostly undeveloped grasslands, north to eye-opening vistas of Pikes Peak and the snowy range far ahead. And then another stunner emerges: Castlewood Canyon State Park, a wild preserve sprawling more than 2,600 acres.

Fish Creek Falls is one of Steamboat Springs’ most iconic natural features, with the quarter-mile walk to the base of the 282-foot waterfall ranking as one of the top hikes in the northwest Colorado mountain town. But beyond the bridge, up a series of steep switchbacks, a second waterfall and a quiet lake are enjoyed by a few visitors who expend the extra effort.

Hartman Rocks “is one of Gunnison’s greatest gems,” declares the tourism website, dubbing Hartman Rocks “one of western Colorado’s best-kept secrets.” Not in mountain biking circles. Guardians of the 45-mile singletrack network say this high desert route rivals Fruita’s farther west.

Up, down, up, down. That’s the theme of the Elder-Fehn Trail at Catamount Ranch, a Teller County open space. It won’t appeal to traditionalists preferring a steady uphill that ends at some overlook. And that’s fine by the frequenters of this protected paradise. 

At first glance, the trek up Uncompahgre Peak seems to require ropes, helmets and extensive climbing experience, for its north face is flanked by a 700-foot cliff. But with 7 miles and 3,000 feet of hard effort, you can bag this sixth-highest fourteener in Colorado.

If you’re looking for the quick satisfaction of conquering some steep switchbacks without spending an entire day scaling a fourteener, you’re in luck. Rising over the quaint town of Green Mountain Falls, the Crystal Trail fittingly has its share of rushing waterfalls.

In Manitou Springs, one peak rules supreme. That is Pikes Peak, America’s Mountain, accessed via Barr Trail at the end of Ruxton Avenue. But one need not hoof it 13 miles to the top for the sublime nature that can be felt on a visit to this gateway town. 

You can hike, pedal or ride your horse all around Dawson Butte, the craggy promontory that hides on the outskirts between Larkspur and Castle Rock. No trail leads to the top of the butte, but there’s plenty to enjoy below.

The Blackmer Trail is one of Cheyenne Mountain State Park's premier loops, as it showcases a rare "transition zone," where foothill shrublands meet the montane forest ecosystem. High-altitude cravings won't be satiated, but anyone seeking a stroll or bike ride through serenity will be pleased.

North Cheyenne Cañon Park has higher destinations, such as Mount Muscoco. That's one of the wilder escapes, along with St. Mary's Falls. But the Columbine Trail, spanning the mouth of the canyon to the upper reaches, might be the best way to experience the park's beauty.