The urban center of Woodland Park fades and the greenery and aspen gold of Pike National Forest take over along Colorado 67 running north. The woods conceal scenic meadows and such curiosities as red rocks, hulking boulders and spires. Here also lies Manitou Lake.
The 5-acre reservoir is managed by Rocky Mountain Recreation Co., a partner of the U.S. Forest Services that charges $7 per vehicle visiting for the day. That might be a tough sell for some, who know they can pay $2 more and find much greater trail variety nearby at Mueller State Park.
But they won't find the fishing opportunity that awaits at Manitou Lake, which is stocked with thousands of trout throughout the summer. Kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards also make use of the water. Families find plenty of spots for a picnic. And walkers, runners and cyclists find tranquility along the trail looping the shore bordered by evergreen hills.
We started at the southern end of the parking lot, near sandstone outcrops shaped like thumbs. We followed the trail through tall reed grasses of wetlands, passing a beaver dam and ducks and their ducklings. A birder might spot any number of residents: great blue herons, belted kingfishers, violet-green swallows, spotted sandpipers, yellow warblers.
The northern end of the lake boasts views of Pikes Peak and the rocky face of Devils Head, looming over a stream-fed valley. Across the dam bridge, a short "lollipop" trail follows Trout Creek under towering ponderosa pines.
At the end of this path, you'll come to signage chronicling the colorful history of Manitou Park. Here in the 1870s, Dr. William Bell dreamed of a "world-famous holiday destination," including hotels, horse stables and casinos.
Trip log: 2 miles, 126 feet elevation gain
Getting there: From Woodland Park, go north on Colorado 67 for about 8 miles. Manitou Lake entrance on the right.
FYI: Open 6 a.m.-7:30 p.m. May 1-Sept. 30 and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 1-April 30. Cash or check for day pass. Nearby Painted Rocks, South Meadows and Colorado campgrounds.
SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE