section 16 classic.jpg

A hiker takes a rest at the Section 16 overlook, taking in the views.

Regulars won’t appreciate us calling even more attention to their favorite local trail. But they should know by now that Section 16 does not belong to them, as it’s also highly trafficked by first-timers to Colorado Springs. Sorry, but we’re giving Section 16 the “classic” treatment here in our series spotlighting the region’s great outdoor escapes. Some say Section 16 is the greatest of all, and it’s hard to argue with that.

For one: the proximity, a 15ish-minute drive from downtown. For another: the workout, a lung-buster for hikers and mountain bikers, who take the loop clockwise for the thrilling descent. And last but certainly not least: the views.

If on foot, start from the trailhead along Lower Gold Camp Road, getting warmed up by ascending the timber steps through scrub oak. In about a half-mile, it’s worth scrambling the bulging, burnt-orange rock to your right for unobstructed vistas of Red Rock Canyon Open Space, Garden of the Gods and the plains.

Back on the trail, at the junction of Intemann Trail, hang left, following the steep chute up into the forest on what’s marked the Palmer Trail. It’s a hard-earned mile from here to the glorious prize: a vast overlook of rolling hills.

Facing the scenery, the loop continues to your right, steadily dropping and alternating between open ridge lines and trees. On a hot day, you’ll appreciate the cold pool fed by a short cascade.

The trail ends at High Drive; go left and back to where you parked.

Trip log: 5.71 miles round trip (loop), 1,606-foot elevation gain, 7,847 feet max

Difficulty: Moderate-challenging

Getting there: On U.S. 24, turn south on 26th Street, then right at the stop sign on Lower Gold Camp Road. In about a mile, trailhead is on the right. Pulloffs for parking along the road.

FYI: Dogs on leash. Nonmotorized, multi-use. Break-ins occur; lock vehicles and don’t leave valuables. Icy in winter.

Seth Boster, the gazette

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