A secret spot lies north of Woodland Park, where a mini Garden of the Gods hides among the pines.
From Woodland Park, head north on Colorado 67 for about 4 miles to a Forest Service sign for the Red Rocks Group Campground and park in the lot on the right (east) side.
This route will start with a short out and back hike that will add more trail mileage.
From the lot, head north through a gap in the fence on a well defined trail. The trail begins atop a tiny ridge with nice views of surrounding aspen groves, grassy meadows and forests of Ponderosa Pine and Douglas fir.
After about a half-mile, the trail swings very close to Colorado 67, so turn around here and return to the parking area. Next, head east along a trail just south of the dirt road for about a quarter-mile to the mini Garden of the Gods.
Numerous trails provide for a leisurely stroll around and among the red sandstone formations reminiscent of Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.
After enjoying the rocks and if hikers hanker for more trail time, they can double the diversion with a short drive up Colorado 67 for about 3.25 miles to Manitou Lake Park. This lovely mountain park features a 5-acre lake and for 2021, it is open to vehicle access from May 21-Sept. 20 ($7 per vehicle day use fee).
A one mile loop trail circles the lake with open views of Pikes Peak.
Bring along binoculars to this excellent birding area. Look for ducks on the lake and possibly giant American White Pelicans in summer. Boardwalks along the southern edge of the lake cross through a wetland.
Listen for singing Yellow Warbler and Common Yellowthroat in the abundant willows of this marshy area.
Joe LaFleur has lived in Woodland Park since 2016 and is a hiking enthusiast who hits the trails weekly. Contact LaFleur with questions or feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hiking is great exercise but can be hazardous. Always be sure to plan well, check the weather, bring a printed map, tell someone where and when you are going and contact them when you return safely.