Fox Run Regional Park
In the dense, timeless forest, one can imagine a time long ago.
Amid the ponderosa pines famously encompassing the Black Forest of the Pikes Peak region, one can imagine native tribes that roamed for thousands of years. They found water here. From these towering guardians, they found protection. And from a nearby ridge, hunters could look out to the great mountain and the valley below, teeming with bison.
Now here at Fox Run Regional Park, we look to urbanization.
We recently accessed the 400-plus acre spread by exiting Interstate 25 for Baptist Road and driving east past the shopping center south of Monument. Farther up the road, we passed one neighborhood after another, until the houses gave way to unbroken woods.
It’s likely some of these trees watched the past century of development (we observed one beside a sign marking it 173 years old). It’s likely they saw settlers approach, seeking change after the Civil War, and more seeking gold later, harboring the “Pikes Peak or bust” mindset. Some trees were spared from logging, others from a major fire in the 1950s, after electricity came to the area and fox farms served the local economy.
Fox Run Regional Park was dedicated in 1986. Modern amenities have come since then: a playground, a dog park, a wedding gazebo, picnic pavilions. Our latest approach was from the Roller Coaster Road trailhead, from which we found only the simple spoils of nature.
About 5 miles of flat paths loop through the forest. Snow clung to the pines and glistened in the sun. But for the jubilant sound of a family in a snowball fight, it was perfect winter silence.
Getting there: Various access points. Roller Coaster Road trailhead reached by driving east on Baptist Road in Monument to intersection at stop sign. Turn right to parking lot.
FYI: Park open daily 5 a.m.-11 p.m. Hiking, biking, horseback riding and ski touring. Dogs on leash. No camping or shooting. Don’t leave valuables in car. Trails slick in winter; bring traction.
SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE
Happy Trails - Hiking in Colorado
Explore the best trails for hiking in Colorado with the Happy Trails series.
In Colorado Springs and the colorful state beyond, opportunities for adventure are endless. And we here at The Gazette want to help you on your way.
This continuing Gazette series explores the best of what the Colorado outdoors has to offer. Check back every week for new trails.
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South Chamberlain Trail
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When climbing season comes around (June through September), novices look to 14,265-foot Quandary Peak as the way to break into Colorado's fourteener craze. None of the state's 54 summits above 14,000 feet should be viewed as easy, but this one outside Breckenridge is considered relatively friendly to fit beginners.
Everyone needs a quick escape. And in Colorado Springs, many find it on a path that enters silent woods - silent except for the rushing North Cheyenne Creek. They find solitude as they focus on the steady climb, counting seven lumber bridges on their way to a clearing.
Palmer Park is the rugged, wild escape that Gen. William Jackson Palmer intended for Colorado Springs residents when he donated the property. Templeton Trail can be difficult to follow. But it's central to the bizarre beauty of Palmer Park, where one never really gets lost among the bluffs and hoodoos close to the city's center.
Sprawling across 119,790 acres, and only 50 miles from either Colorado Springs or Denver, the Lost Creek Wilderness is stocked with countless wonders. One could spend a lifetime exploring the 130-plus miles of footpaths, feasting upon rock formations, lakes and mountain plateaus.
Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs' most famous park, can be a less-than-ideal wild escape, especially in summer. Still, there's no denying Garden of the Gods boasts some of the most striking views around.
After hikers and mountain bikers debate how to spend their mornings and afternoons in North Cheyenne Cañon, they often decide on a loop trail that crosses Mount Buckhorn. The single track skirts a ridge from where the area's signature mountains are in clear view: Pikes Peak is joined by the likes of Cheyenne Mountain and Mount Rosa. This quick escape deserves the hype.
Cheyenne Mountain State Park encompasses 21 miles of multi-use trails that grant the rare prairie-to-peak experience. Peaceful grasslands meet diverse woods that meet the foothills. Of course, the centerpiece is the region's second most famous mountain to Pikes Peak: Cheyenne Mountain. One the park's premier paths is the Talon Trail.
Outside the town of Nederland is the rare alpine lake that is supremely scenic but doesn't require much physical prowess to reach. The fact that the trail to Lost Lake is so family-friendly contributes to its popularity.
This land remains a natural paradise to be enjoyed by hikers, bikers, equestrians and rock climbers who turn off U.S. 24 and quickly swap the city scene. There are countless ways to mix up adventure, as suggested by the trail maps posted at the often-busy parking lot. We recommend a loop that showcases much of the classic scenery this city has to offer.
A weekend drive to Boulder's Chautauqua Park entails a sometimes-lengthy search for a parking spot. And the hike to the Royal Arch sometimes means stopping for hikers coming through narrow passages - on our recent trip we thought a traffic light might be appropriate. But always, we're left breathless by the rock bending high in the woods at a stunning overlook. The relentless ascent also takes the breath away.
Colorado is full of surprises. Trails and roads lead to all sorts of geological wonders in unexpected places. Outside Woodland Park, a U.S. Forest Service campground is called Red Rocks Group, but at the parking lot you won't find any sign directing you to the awe-inspiring namesake. It hides, bizarrely, in the woods a short distance away.
Blodgett Peak requires considerable skill and fitness. If in doubt, opt for the open space's many peaceful trails into stream-fed places of Douglas fir and ponderosa pine. Otherwise, strap on your sturdy boots and grab your hiking poles for this serious adventure up the prominent point in northwest Colorado Springs.
Teller County's higher country is graced with big groves of aspen, making the forest just west of Colorado Springs a prime hiking destination as the tree leaves glow gold. You can't go wrong on the backside of Pikes Peak with the Crags Trail or the Lovell Gulch Trail we recently spotlighted in this space. Here, we propose an adventure that leads to a unique sight.
See for yourself what makes this one of the area's best places for a quick, serene escape, a favorite especially for families with young kids. The trail is largely what brings bunches of city dwellers to the otherwise quiet hamlet of Palmer Lake, between Colorado Springs and Denver.
With less than 5 miles of trail, the park at the foot of its 7,247-foot-tall namesake is simple and boasts outstanding canyon vistas.
If you're an outdoor lover living in Fort Collins, this trail doesn't sound like a good idea. "Hike these trails instead of Horsetooth Rock" reads a headline from the town's paper. Don't expect seclusion at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space, where Larimer County charges $6 for day visitors. If the crowd and fee disappoint you, the views won't.
Seeking a quick escape into nature? You won't go wrong with this Monument-area trail, which comes with the added bonus of a scenic drive. Here we propose a short out-and-back, but perhaps you'll want to join the crowds who take Mount Herman Road to find a weekend camping spot in Pike National Forest.
The web of trails through Pulpit Rock Park offers fantastic views of the city and, from the top of the rock formation, a panoramic view of the Rockies. This park can be a choose-your-own-adventure. The loop around the park is about 4 miles, but a straight shot from the parking lot to the top of Pulpit is a quick and hard 2 miles.
The trail has become one of the city's most popular, and for good reason. For one, the views are spectacular. For another, it's a good workout. And, as beloved as it is, it still feels more secluded than other local outdoor hotspots, such as the Manitou Incline or some trails within North Cheyenne Cañon Park.
We in Colorado Springs are spoiled by the proximity of Mueller State Park, a gem among this state's protected places. The trails, which the park numbers for its organization, combine for 55 miles and are at elevations that average 9,600 feet. The plains-to-peak views are always easy to find. Here we spotlight trail No. 7, the one called Outlook Ridge, which loops on a rugged but family friendly route.
Say hello to all those crazies at the Manitou Incline. Wave as you go on your far less tortuous way. This historic trail starts directly to the right of the stair stepper's base, and while challenging at points, this option allows many more chances to breathe and enjoy the view.
The mountains overlooking Boulder inspire a longing to reach their summits. This trail leading up one is beloved by locals and venturers from afar. You'll realize the popularity as you search for parking on most days - limited spots go for $5 at the Gregory Canyon trailhead, but cars typically line the road to it as well as surrounding residential streets. Whatever the hassle, the hike is worth it. Vast panoramic views await anyone willing to take on the climb.