Homestead loop, Mueller State Park

At last visit to one of our favorite places in the Pikes Peak region for fall colors, we were too late. At Mueller State Park, the aspen leaves had mostly been lost to the wind.

But we were again reminded: There’s never a bad time to visit.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife recently listed this as one of the most “overlooked” state parks of the 42. That might be for its location — close to Colorado Springs, but not exactly close, all while competing with the area’s countless other outdoor destinations.

CPW’s magazine mentioned Mueller’s “hushed forests, spring-fed mountain meadows, wildflowers of every hue, massive granite rock formations and the iconic form of Pikes Peak rising above.” We’ll add the trails groomed for cross-country skiing in the winter.

But perhaps more than anything, Mueller is special for how easy it is to find solitude. Across the 5,000-plus acres, the interconnecting trail network caters to both long days and short jaunts.

It was the Homestead loop for us this trip. The park lists this as a good one for families. And yes, by the unspoiled scenery, you might just feel transported to the old days.

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We followed the trail marked 12 down to a meadow, where we spotted deer. The double-track weaves gently up and back to the pine woods, to the junction at which 12 continues right.

At the next crest, we went right again for the wide trail marked 13, leading to humbling views of Pikes Peak. Be on the lookout for the thin path that veers right and down, trail No. 1.

It’s a more intimate tour of the meadow on the singletrack, skirting around a stack of boulders. We followed up to the initial junction, left back to the parking lot.

Trip log: 2.2 miles (loop), 419 feet elevation gain

Getting there: From Colorado Springs, take U.S. 24 through Woodland Park and to the stoplight in Divide. Go left for Colorado 67 south. Park entrance will be on the right.

FYI: $9 vehicle entrance. Hiking, portion of route open to bikes. No pets. Day use 5 a.m.-10 p.m.

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