Canon City is only about 45 minutes from Colorado Springs and the more desert-like environment offers some variety to nearby hiking options. While winter weather is possible in November, temperatures average about 10 degrees warmer than in the Springs in this late fall month.

Drive to Canon City and head south on South First Street for about a mile to County Road 3/Temple Canyon Road and turn right. Travel for about a half-mile to a large parking area at Ecology Park then continue for about 2.75 miles to the signed Hard Time trailhead on the right.

Small parking areas are across from the trailhead and on the right side of the road just before the trailhead. After Ecology Park, the road becomes dirt and gets progressively bumpier and windier but still passable for low clearance vehicles.

The Hard Time Trail is not too difficult, as the name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to local correctional facilities.

From the trailhead, hike north for a short distance before swing east through landscape that is a textbook example of pinyon-juniper woodland. After about .75 miles, the trail makes a sharp switchback and heads west. After about a quarter-mile, pass an intersection with the signed Redemption Trail and cross a wash area to intersect the signed Great Escape Trail after another half-mile.

Bear right to continue on Hard Time as the trail winds northeast and downhill with fine views to the west of the Dawson Mountain Range.

After about two miles, pass the Shiv Trail and continue the downhill romp, entering some more difficult rocky terrain. After about another 1.5 miles, Hard Time ends at the ReCycle Trail, in a drainage just west of Schepp Ridge.

Take a break before climbing about 1,000 feet and about 4.75 miles back up the trail to the trailhead.

To make Hard Time easier, try an ideal shuttle hike! Leave a shuttle vehicle at the Ecology Park lot and continue in the other vehicle to the trailhead.

Hike down to the terminus of the Hard Time Trail, turn left on ReCycle Trail and hike north along the western base of Schepp Ridge.

After about a quarter mile and just past an old corral and fence, intersect the Water Gap Trail. Bear right and swing east around the north end of Schepp Ridge, emerging from the pinyon-juniper woodland at the base of the grassy hill at Ecology Park.

Locate a wide trail that heads east directly up the hill for about a quarter-mile to the parking area. The mostly downhill shuttle hike option is about 5.5 miles and the total shuttle drive distance is a miniscule 5.5 miles.

Joe LaFleur has lived in Woodland Park since 2016 and is a hiking enthusiast who hits the trails weekly. Contact Joe with questions or feedback at joelafleur@peakinter.net. Hiking is great exercise but can be hazardous. Always be sure to plan well, check the weather, bring a printed map and tell someone where, when you are going and contact them when you return safely.

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