North Catamount Reservoir

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

Thunderstorms, for the most part, are a thing of the past. Snowstorms, except for perhaps at the state’s highest elevations, are a thing of the future.

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

Happy Trails: Wildflowers, fall colors and more little wonders at this nature zone outside Denver

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?

Hikers and bikers alike delight in the postcard-worthy scene. But there is a catch: The majority of this loop resides in the North Slope Recreation Area, which closes from approximately late October to early April.

In other words, don’t delay.

Happy Trails: Mountain bikers of all levels will find a challenge on this Colorado Springs-area ride

The route starts with a short climb on Elder-Fehn Trail. At 0.15 miles, head through a gate, veer left on the singletrack and follow through the forest for a half-mile to a Colorado Springs Utilities service road.

Go left (or clockwise) on the dirt road and stay straight upon reaching the first junction. The road rises and falls gently and soon the reservoir appears in the distance.

You’ll eventually wind your way down to the shore, an ideal place to snap a photo of Pikes Peak in all its majesty. Cross the dam and continue right on the road as it parallels the south side of the reservoir.

Happy Trails: Maybe the best Colorado Springs-area hike that you haven't tried

At 4.25 miles, leave the road and scramble up a steep, slick section of trail. After 2 miles and a couple of bridge crossings, the smooth singletrack spills out onto a dirt road. Turn left and follow for about 100 yards to a trail junction.

Limber Pine Trail ascends from the valley floor through aspen and pine. In less than a mile, you’ll reach the gate. Return to the trailhead.

Trip log: 7.3 miles, 976 feet elevation gain, 9,655 feet max

Difficulty: Moderate

Getting there: From Interstate 25, drive west on U.S. 24 for 20.5 miles (or a mile past the stoplight for Pikes Peak Regional Hospital in Woodland Park). Turn left on Edlowe Road. Follow for 3 miles to the trailhead on the left.

FYI: Hiking, biking. Dogs on leash. Restroom at trailhead.

NATHAN VAN DYNE, THE GAZETTE

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