Saturday, September 20, 2014

Fall foliage drives and hikes

Posted By on Sat, Sep 20, 2014 at 7:15 AM

click to enlarge BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
The fall foliage season is fast upon us. The aspens are turning gold and shaking in the wind (giving them the name “Quaking” aspen).

Here are some of my favorite hikes and drives to see fall colors:

Pipeline Trail, North Cheyenne Canon/Pike National Forest: Hike the popular 7 Bridges Trail (Forest Service Trail 622) and continue past the 7th bridge where the trail gets a bit tougher. Follow the trail (622A) around to the north towards Jones Park and you’ll find yourself in the middle of a small but dense aspen grove. This area tends to get snow early, and oftentimes, while there are golden aspen leaves on the trees, you’ll see a blanketing of fresh snow. You’ll get a great hike and see some very nice fall colors.

To get there, drive N. Cheyenne Canon Road through North Cheyenne Canon Park past Helen Hunt Falls until you get to the large dirt parking lot where N. Cheyenne Canon Road, Gold Camp Road and High Drive meet. Hike past the gate on the west end of the parking lot — approximately .7 miles — until the road crosses North Cheyenne Creek, and look for the trail on the right. Although popularly known as “7 Bridges Trail”, the sign there will refer to it as North Cheyenne Creek Trail.

Catamount Preserve Open Space, Teller County: Located at the end of Edlowe Road off of US 24 between Woodland Park and Divide, this open space with its network of family friendly, easy-to-moderate trails has plenty of oak and aspens to view the colors. As a bonus, there are also plenty of aspens along Edlowe Road on the way to the open space.

Old Stage Road/Gold Camp Road: The trails mentioned in my previous blog about hiking trails on Old Stage Road are also great places for fall colors, both on the trails and also on the drive to the trails. Find more about the trails on Old Stage Road here.

Shootin’ Star/Twin Rocks Trails, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument: Located off of Lower Twin Rocks Road in Florissant, these are family friendly, easy trails. The trailhead starts at the Barksdale picnic area, and intersects with the Twin Rocks Trail after approx 1.2 miles. Follow the Twin Rocks trail for approximately 2.2 miles through several aspen groves until it dead-ends at a private property line.

To get there, follow U.S. 24 west for approximately 34 miles and then turn south on Teller County Road 1. The visitors center is about 2 miles south on the right; stop in, take care of the entrance fee, chat with the friendly staff, get a map and continue on to the trailhead.

Highway 12 through Cuchara: For my money, some of the best fall foliage viewing is a few hours south of Colorado Springs along highway 12 in Cuchara. Nestled below the Spanish Peaks, Hwy 12 winds through a dense aspen forest as it makes its way to Cuchara Pass. The views from the road are stunning, and there are many pullouts to stop for photos.

For even more scenery, take Forest Service Road 422 as it winds along Cuchara Creek to both Blue Lakes and then Bear Lake. An easy, short, kid-friendly trail connects the two and provides some nice views. For longer, more strenuous and scenic hikes, start at the Spring Creek Trailhead on Hwy 12 just south of Cuchara, there are a number of loop and out-and-back trails starting from there — the signboard at the trailhead has plenty of information, including maps and distance measurements. Or, at the top of Cuchara Pass, you can turn onto Cordova Pass road, which will take you to the Spanish Peaks. (After the first few miles, the forest is predominately pines and spruce trees, so not optimal for foliage viewing.)

To get there, take I-25 to the Walsenburg exit, then drive through town to highway 160 and go west. Turn south on highway 12 — through the town of La Veta— and continue on to Cuchara. The Spring Creek Trailhead is on the right, just past Cuchara — behind the water and sanitation district building. Forest Road 422 is a few miles further south, at a hairpin bend in the road and is well marked.

Obviously, this is not an all-inclusive list and there are many, many more places to go to combine hiking and fall colors viewing, but these are some of my favorites. The return of somewhat normal rainfall and temperatures this year should make for a great fall foliage season. Enjoy the colors!

Bonus: September 27th is National Public Lands Day. Besides entry fees being waived in National Parks, it’s also a great day to volunteer to help spruce up the parks in and around Colorado Springs. For more information on local parks events, check the Trails and Open Space Coalition website here.

Bob Falcone is a firefighter, arson investigator, non-profit board president, college instructor, photographer, hiker and small business owner who has lived in Colorado Springs for 23 years. You can follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com

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