Explore the best trails for hiking in Colorado with the Happy Trails series.
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.
This continuing Gazette series explores the best of what the Colorado outdoors has to offer. Check back every week for new trails.
Traffic continues its unrelenting course on Interstate 25, as does construction. All the while, just a stone’s throw away, the nostalgic surro…
In North Cheyenne Cañon Park, Helen Hunt Falls is the easy waterfall of choice, with a parking lot situated right at its base. In the summer, tourists flock here, while Colorado Springs locals embark on a trip with greater rewards. Such is the promise of St. Mary's Falls, the cascade hiding in the park’s outer boundaries, tucked amid the rocks and trees of Pike National Forest.
Despite its many rewards — fitness, scenery and history — Ute Trail in Manitou Springs is too often overlooked. Perhaps that’s due to it shari…
On Colorado Springs north side, Blodgett Peak Open Space calls to congregants of nature worshippers. On weekends, the parking lot fills. Meanwhile, a newer portion of the preserve waits to be realized.
For many in Denver, Cherry Creek Reservoir is the place to escape. The state park is among the busiest in Colorado, counting 1.7 million guests a year. It's also among the biggest, boasting nearly 4,200 acres.
The hike to Bald Mountain above Woodland Park is short, sweet and pretty darn steep, with stunning views that stretch for miles in all directions.
From Interstate 25, it appears to be a white spire, a thumb poking from the distant greenery, like a bell tower calling congregants to the base of Mount Herman. A closer look reveals Monument Rock to be not just vertical but wide, like the wall of a castle, pocked with quartz and feldspar that shimmers in the sunlight.
Out-of-towners know Philip S. Miller Park for the zip line. That tour ventures near the top the park's other well-known feature: the Challenge Hill, a miniature version of the world-famous Manitou Incline, the mountain-spanning set of railroad ties found about 50 miles down Interstate 25. Castle Rock residents, meanwhile, know Philip S. Miller Park for much more.
Between Colorado Springs and Woodland Park, a hamlet tucked between evergreen slopes has steadily become a hiking paradise.
On the northeast side of the city, Old Farm neighbors are spoiled with uninterrupted views of Pikes Peak and Rampart Range. Far south on a clear day, they gaze upon the Wet Mountains and the Spanish Peaks. Thanks to the city’s sales tax-funded Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) program, they’re no longer the only ones spoiled.
Colorado Springs’ founding father could not have predicted the many motors that would one day rumble through the city’s greatest nature sanctuary. But Gen. William Jackson Palmer would surely appreciate his namesake footpath. Here, one quickly swaps concrete for dirt, fumes for fresh air.
If you’re in the know — an outdoorsy Monument local or avid mountain biker sweeping the Pikes Peak region’s singletrack — then you know about …
As part of its 2016 master plan for Bluestem Prairie Open Space, the Colorado Springs parks department asked visitors for their observations and came to this conclusion: “The perception is that it is not well-used.”
Another year of Happy Trails has come to a close, our ongoing series spotlighting mostly regional, mostly family-friendly hikes around Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region. Here we reflect on some of our favorites from 2019:
Pike National Forest continues to heal from 2002’s Hayman wildfire. Nature’s wheel turns: quaking aspen grow ranks, animal tracks span the scorched earth between infrequent pine shade and rock gardens. And the scenery has opened, revealing, for one, the regal promontory called Thunder Butte.
Many residents of tiny Green Mountain Falls might prefer their trails be kept secret. Then again, many others — the hard-working members of the GMF Trails Committee — would like for the fruits of their labor to be appreciated.
Near Boulder, Eldorado Canyon is a Colorado state park unlike any other. Winter is a great time to visit for solitude, though you'll want to check road conditions before you go.
Easily within 30 minutes, you can be in downtown Colorado Springs and then on ridges with spectacular vistas — on your way up Mount Muscoco. T…
We had a destination in mind on our last visit to Palmer Park. That’s the first mistake one makes at this signature Colorado Springs preserve.
To beat autumn’s aspen gold-seekers at Mueller State Park in Teller County, you’ll want to get to the Grouse Mountain trailhead early. The options are plenty from here, which is why we didn’t have to share the Buffalo Rock loop much.
North Cheyenne Cañon Park’s premier loop is the one that skirts Mount Buckhorn. That’s no secret. But if you weren’t one of the hikers, mountain bikers or dirt bikers in the know, it might be hard to find that loop with the lack of signage. We’re here to help, plus point you to Buckhorn’s unofficial summit.
The Dakota Ridge trail, with a steep, nearly mile-long portion designated for downhill mountain bikes only, is one delight of Matthews/Winters Park. The 2,461-acre paradise has been saved from the urban sprawl.
In southern Boulder County, close to the hustle and bustle of the city and university but feeling far away, lies a slice of nostalgia.
The last time we spotlighted the Crags in our Happy Trails series, we hailed it as “a quintessential hike of the Pikes Peak region.” Let us revise that statement. This is the quintessential hike.
Bear Lake is the starting point to higher, more glorious alpine waters. Our destination was Lake Helene, tucked between spectacular, granite marvels. And while Rocky Mountain National Park lists the level of use there as “moderate,” we were pleased to have the shore to ourselves.
However short on time, one can lace up the running shoes or hop on a bike and snag satisfying exercise and scenery in Denver's popular Waterton Canyon. Others enter the South Platte River-carved canyon with waders and fly rods.
You won’t exactly escape crowds by taking the trail to Siamese Twins, one of the Garden of the Gods' most captivating outcrops.
After a nostalgic drive through ranchland, Eleven Mile State Park’s shimmering reservoir emerges, backdropped by verdant hills and distant peaks. Fishing and boating is the main attraction, but don't miss the trails.
If a sandstone fix is what you need in Colorado Springs and crowds are what you fear, Red Rock Canyon Open Space is a better bet than Garden of the Gods in the busy season.
The cascade is within Rocky Mountain National Park but not behind a pay kiosk, making it all the more appealing.
Regulars won’t appreciate us calling yet more attention to their favorite local trail. Though, they should know by now that Section 16 does not belong to them, highly-trafficked as it is also by first-timers to Colorado Springs.
Long Scraggy Peak is a day hiker’s dream, with terrain worthy of its name, a punishing ascent but tremendous views.
What makes Ouray the Switzerland of America? You find out with a quick drive up Red Mountain Pass, to overlooks of the quaint town tucked in a box canyon and framed by the white-capped wonders of the San Juan Mountains. But a better way to take in the grandeur? That would be pulling off for the Perimeter Trail.
Many — too many, some would say — flock to North Cheyenne Cañon to catch the Seven Bridges Trail, refreshing on a summer day.
Want to witness massive arches without dealing with the crowds at a certain national park in Utah? Look no further than Rattlesnake Canyon Arches near Grand Junction.
It can be tricky finding a trailhead for Austin Bluffs Open Space. Start through the valley of University Park Open Space, tacking on the views with Pulpit Rock.
Lincoln Mountain Open Space is one gem within Douglas County's outdoor portfolio. Expect smaller crowds here north of Colorado Springs.
A short loop at Florissant Fossil Beds, where remain massive redwood stumps from millions of years ago.
Sundance is one of Cheyenne Mountain State Park's premier loops, along with Blackmer showcasing the diverse nature at the base of the granite monolith.
In Cañon City, often overlooked is the East Ridge Campground in Royal Bridge Park, but the Summit Trail from here, leading to Fremont Peak, should not be missed.
You’ve seen the landmark from Interstate 25 — the commanding promontory for which the town of Castle Rock is named. Now, exit the highway and take a closer look.
Past Fort Carson and Cheyenne Mountain State Park, Highway 115 runs deep into unspoiled landscape: sandstone canyon sides and green foothills, the road cresting to glimpses of the Spanish Peaks and Wet Mountains. Hiding off a side street is Aiken Canyon Preserve.
For all that Bear Creek Regional park offers — play sets, picnic pavilions, tennis courts, a dog park — the centerpiece is the trail network. Runners, walkers, equestrians and mountain bikers delight in 10-plus miles of dirt paths that weave through prairie and oak- and yucca-covered knolls.
A land of wonder hides east of Interstate 25, less than an hour from Colorado Springs. Colorado 83 runs straight through rolling, mostly undeveloped grasslands, north to eye-opening vistas of Pikes Peak and the snowy range far ahead. And then another stunner emerges: Castlewood Canyon State Park, a wild preserve sprawling more than 2,600 acres.
The Coyote Ridge Natural Area is a prairie-to-foothills experience near Fort Collins and open to hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians.
Garden of the Gods overflows with visitors in summer, while Red Rock Canyon’s far-reaching trail network offers solitude away from roads and equally intriguing rock formations.
In Colorado Springs, one doesn’t have to go far for the refreshing experience of water and mountains. Take, for example, the South Suburban Reservoir in Stratton Open Space.
For the outdoor centric, the Royal Gorge region occupies a place in the imagination where the rafts rock and the waves rollick. This is whitewater country.
In Boulder, Chautauqua Park is the top choice for a quick taste of the great outdoors, but it’s nearly impossible to find a spot for your car on weekends, even early in the morning. Another option: The scenic views and grassy meadows of the Betasso Preserve.
The nearest national monument to Colorado Springs asks you to imagine a tropical place that existed 34 million years ago.
Tucked away in the Rio Grande Valley just outside of Santa Fe is what the Bureau of Land Management dubbed a “remarkable outdoor laboratory.”
It’s a curious place to begin a wild adventure. Piñon Valley Park is a green patch tucked in the neighborhood, complete with a playground and swing set. Cars are parked on the neighborhood curbs, near a fence that blocks motorists from the wide, dirt path running uphill. Welcome to the western gateway of Ute Valley Park.
The Cheesman Ranch trail is a great tour of Mueller State Park's beauty, but before you go, be sure you’re willing to commit to the full length. Be aware of the weather, too.
Fish Creek Falls is one of Steamboat Springs’ most iconic natural features, with the quarter-mile walk to the base of the 282-foot waterfall ranking as one of the top hikes in the northwest Colorado mountain town. But beyond the bridge, up a series of steep switchbacks, a second waterfall and a quiet lake are enjoyed by a few visitors who expend the extra effort.
Hartman Rocks “is one of Gunnison’s greatest gems,” declares the tourism website, dubbing Hartman Rocks “one of western Colorado’s best-kept secrets.” Not in mountain biking circles. Guardians of the 45-mile singletrack network say this high desert route rivals Fruita’s farther west.
Up, down, up, down. That’s the theme of the Elder-Fehn Trail at Catamount Ranch, a Teller County open space. It won’t appeal to traditionalists preferring a steady uphill that ends at some overlook. And that’s fine by the frequenters of this protected paradise.
At first glance, the trek up Uncompahgre Peak seems to require ropes, helmets and extensive climbing experience, for its north face is flanked by a 700-foot cliff. But with 7 miles and 3,000 feet of hard effort, you can bag this sixth-highest fourteener in Colorado.
If you’re looking for the quick satisfaction of conquering some steep switchbacks without spending an entire day scaling a fourteener, you’re in luck. Rising over the quaint town of Green Mountain Falls, the Crystal Trail fittingly has its share of rushing waterfalls.
In Manitou Springs, one peak rules supreme. That is Pikes Peak, America’s Mountain, accessed via Barr Trail at the end of Ruxton Avenue. But one need not hoof it 13 miles to the top for the sublime nature that can be felt on a visit to this gateway town.
The Blackmer Trail is one of Cheyenne Mountain State Park's premier loops, as it showcases a rare "transition zone," where foothill shrublands meet the montane forest ecosystem. High-altitude cravings won't be satiated, but anyone seeking a stroll or bike ride through serenity will be pleased.