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.
"Happy Trails," a weekly feature spotlighting wild paths near and far, is back by popular demand. We've heard your wishes over a nearly five-year hiatus, and we're pleased to relaunch the series just in time for Saturday's National Trails Day, as recognized by the American Hiking Society.
We know how overwhelming it is trying to visit all of this area's grand nature escapes, let alone those options across Colorado. Whether you're well-acquainted with the state or new to it, whether you prefer a steep challenge or a leisurely walk in the woods, we hope "Happy Trails" can serve as a guide to discovery.
We'll hike a new trail and tell you about it every week, starting today. We keep it short, as we know you've got exploring to do.
Without further ado, let us begin just south of town:
Happy Trails St. Mary's Falls
You can't go wrong spending an afternoon in North Cheyenne Cañon Park, with its great variety of trails and vistas. Seek the reward of a high waterfall in an area more secluded than, say, Helen Hunt Falls. Crowds are likely to greet you where you park - especially on the weekends - at the "hub" lot where Gold Camp Road meets High Drive. But the masses diminish the deeper into the wilderness you go.
From the lot, enjoy your stroll along the gated dirt road to the west, continuing above the pine-covered hillsides to a collapsed tunnel. The path leads up the left side of the tunnel to a gorgeous overlook of downtown Colorado Springs. Head right, into the woods, and you'll spot the worn sign pointing you to St. Mary's Falls, almost 2 miles away.
The trail follows Buffalo Creek through a dense forest, climbing to canyon vistas. The venture gets your heart beating and quads burning. But serenity greets you at the end, with refreshing summertime sprays from the silvery water cascading down boulders.
Trip log: 6.3 miles round trip (out and back), 1,316-foot elevation gain, 8,849 feet max elevation
Getting there: Off Interstate 25, exit for Tejon Street going south. Take a slight right onto Cheyenne Boulevard and keep right on Cheyenne Canyon Road to the park entrance. Drive up the road about 3 miles, taking the switchback above Helen Hunt Falls to the gravel parking "hub."
FYI: Trail open to hikers and bikers. Dogs allowed on leash. Icy in the winter.