For fresh air and fall colors, Mueller State Park is perfect for the whole family. Adventure is easy here, with the ways well-marked to some of the Pikes Peak region’s best spoils: hideaway ponds, waving grasslands, pine-scented forests and, if you’re lucky, wildlife.
The park recommends trips for everyone — Outlook Ridge and Cheesman Ranch loop being a couple of our favorites. Here’s another that might grant you more moments of uncrowded serenity and some great peak vistas.
But to beat autumn’s aspen gold-seekers, 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.
The loop is numbered 33 on posts throughout. From the trailhead, we hung left for 34, descending for glimpses of the Puma Hills and Tarryall Mountains. A half-mile in, we veered left for 33 and started the loop by staying straight.
The trip trends up and down, which won’t please all. The surprises along the way will.
Trees clear for overlooks of the Pikes Peak massif scraping the sky over aspen-washed hills. By 1½ miles, we came to a bigger meadow, captivated by tall groves. So captivated that it was easy to miss the trail’s namesake rock, looming in the near distance toward the split with the Cheesman Ranch trail (17).
Hang right on 17, discovering the area’s rugged past. Another homestead ruin sags at the junction for 33. Continue right, enjoying the flat stretch with wide-open views.
The trail ascends to the loop’s starting point. Go left, following the return signs to the trailhead.
Trip log: 4.32 miles round trip (loop), 673 feet elevation gain, 9,488 feet max
Getting there: At the U.S. 24 stoplight in Divide, take Colorado 67 south. Follow to the park’s entrance on the right. After the kiosk, continue straight on the road to the campground and veer right at the sign pointing to the Grouse Mountain trailhead.
FYI: Day pass $8 per vehicle. Multi-use trail. Icy in winter; use traction, snowshoes or cross-country skis. No dogs on park trails.
SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE