What do landlocked Coloradans do when they crave time by the water?
No, they don't whip out a credit card and book a flight. They head to the small oases of water sprinkled throughout the Colorado Springs area.
Being near water is invigorating, probably due in part to the negative ions it produces. They're odorless, tasteless and invisible molecules produced in generous amounts near flowing water supplies, such as waterfalls, rivers and beaches, reports the website Webmd.com. They're said to increase our levels of serotonin, the mood chemical that helps relive stress, lessen depression and generally make us happier.
Here are 10 nearby spots that provide those cheerful-making ions
- North Cheyenne Creek in North Cheyenne Cañon Park: You can find plenty of spots to lounge here. Some come with picnic tables, others offer more rocky seating, but all will get you the desired effect. The stream eventually meets South Cheyenne Creek near the Starsmore Visitor and Nature Center. Park the car in one of the numerous dirt spots alongside the road or the parking lot near the mouth of the canyon.
Directions: From downtown go south on Nevada Avenue to Cheyenne Boulevard. Head west and follow it until it turns into North Cheyenne Cañon Road at the Starsmore Visitor and Nature Center.
- Helen Hunt Falls: If you don't mind winding along the curvy canyon road in North Cheyenne Cañon Park you'll find yourself smack dab in front of a waterfall. Rest by the water, check out Helen Hunt Falls Visitor Center or hike up a steep trail for about two-thirds of a mile to reach Silver Cascade Falls.
Directions: The falls are 3 miles past Starsmore Visitor and Nature Center on North Cheyenne Cañon Road, 3440 N. Cheyenne Cañon Road; 633-5701.
- Seven Bridges Trail: There's not a shred of false advertising here. You will cross over seven bridges if you stay on the trail in North Cheyenne Cañon Park long enough. And what's under those bridges? The clear, cool, mountain water of North Cheyenne Creek. You'll cross the last bridge after about 1.6 miles and have the chance to either turn around or sally forth on the trail to Jones Park.
Directions: From downtown go south on Nevada Avenue to Cheyenne Boulevard. Head west and follow it until it turns into North Cheyenne Cañon Road at the Starsmore Visitor and Nature Center. Follow the road up the canyon past Helen Hunt Falls until you reach the parking area for the trail. Walk through the gate to Gold Camp Road and trek .7 miles on a former railroad bed. Look for the Trail 622 marker on the right and exit the road.
- Palmer Trail Loop/Section 16: There are two options for cool water here. If you start the more than 5-mile loop going clockwise, you'll walk up the dirt road High Drive next to a generously flowing stream. Want a waterfall? Turn right about a mile up the dirt road and follow the trail. About halfway along you'll come to a short bridge in front of a waterfall, a perfect place to sit for a spell. You can also start counter-clockwise up the trail.
Directions: Take 26th Street off U.S. 24. Drive through two switchbacks and turn right on Gold Camp Road. The trailhead parking lot will be on the right side after about a mile. Drive past the trailhead and park in the next two dirt lots if you'd like to climb High Drive first.
- Rampart Reservoir: Drive 40 minutes west of Colorado Springs and you'll find a lake popular with boat and fishing enthusiasts. Approximately 70 percent of the Springs' drinking water passes through the Colorado Springs Utilities-owned reservoir, so avoid swimming, wading and water skiing. For those who prefer some exercise with their water feature, a trail follows the shoreline of the reservoir.
Directions: From I-25 in Colorado Springs, take U.S. 24 west to Woodland Park. Turn right on Baldwin Street (at the light at McDonald's). Drive past Woodland Park High School and continue 3 miles to a fork in the road. Turn right and climb 1.5 miles to an intersection with Rampart Range Road. Turn right and drive 2 miles to the Rainbow Gulch Trailhead, with parking on your left.
- Fountain Creek Nature Center: There are wetlands 15 minutes south of Colorado Springs. Seriously. Head here for a walk around ponds, marshes, meadows, cottonwood forests and Fountain Creek.
You'll find bullfrogs, turtles, beavers, great blue herons and loads of wildlife that make the Cattail Marsh Wildlife Area their home. The nature center is open 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays.
Directions: 320 Pepper Grass Lane, Fountain. From I-25 Exit 132A, go east on Colorado 16 to U.S. Highway 85, then south for half a mile. Turn west on Cattail Marsh Road and follow the dirt road to the parking area; 520-6745.
- The Broadmoor Seven Falls: The Broadmoor purchased the popular tourist attraction in South Cheyenne Canyon and reopened it last year. Visitors can either hitch a ride on the express elevator or hike up 224 steps adjacent to a series of seven waterfalls cascading down 181 feet of granite cliffs into a natural box canyon. Scenic trails offer views of the city and Eastern plains.
Directions: Complimentary parking and shuttle are located at 6 Lake Ave.; sevenfalls.com
- Stratton Open Space: The lower part of the 318-acre open space is an old maintenance road that gradually climbs up to South Suburban and Gold Camp reservoirs, both of which provide drinking water for the city. Starting from the Ridgeway Avenue trailhead, you can walk in a counterclockwise loop around the outer perimeter of the park up to a scenic overloop on Gold Camp Road. On the way down you'll pass the Gold Camp and South Suburban reservoirs and return to the trailhead.
Directions: From U.S. 24 take 21st Street/Cresta Road south 3 miles to Cheyenne Boulevard. Turn right and go about 0.4 miles to Ridgeway Avenue (look for the Stratton Open Space sign). Turn right and the trailhead parking area will be about 75 yards ahead on the right.
- Palmer Lake Reservoir: Sure, you could just sit by the lake, which also doubles as drinking water for the town of Palmer Lake, but why don't you take a meander on the Palmer Lake Reservoir Trail? The easy-to-moderate 4.1-mile trail glides you through beautiful scenery and offers the chance to scurry off onto adjacent trails in the area.
Directions: From Monument, take Colorado 105 north to the town of Palmer Lake.
- Catamount Trail and South Catamount Reservoir: The water flows freely up above Green Mountain Falls. Access the approximately 6-mile round-trip Catamount Trail off Hondo or Belvidere avenues and switchback your way along the moderate trail to a dirt road. Take a right and follow it to South Catamount Reservoir. One open-field portion of the trail is dubbed the Garden of Eden, if that motivates you. Need more? There's also a creek and waterfall.
Directions: From U.S. 24 take the Green Mountain Falls/Chipita Park exit. Park on Lake Street in front of the gazebo and lake. You can't park at the end of either one of the access streets; you have to hike Hondo or Belvidere avenues on foot.