The end of the year is when we traditionally make lists. Gift lists. Card lists. Best movies. Worst movies...
I’m often asked what my favorite trail is, and, invariably, I can’t give a simple answer. You see, it all depends on the circumstances; Favorite difficult trail or easy trail? Favorite winter trail, or favorite trail with a view?
I don’t have a single favorite trail, and even go so far as to try not to do the same trail more than once a year. But I digress.
So, here is a list of my “favorites” in the Colorado Springs area:
Favorite trail with a view:
Mt. Muscoco Trail, North Cheyenne Cañon Park
. Yes, I’m biased. This trail was built during my tenure as board president of Friends of Cheyenne Cañon, but we wanted it built because of the spectacular views. To get there
: Start at the Mt Cutler trailhead, 1.5 miles up North Cheyenne Canon Road from the park entrance.
Favorite trail with a view, (runner up):
Since my first choice is based on an obvious bias, I’ll add Eagle Peak
trail near the Air Force Academy as an alternative. Nice 360° views, especially of the Academy Chapel and cadet area. Since a lot of this trail is along Goat Creek, it’s best to hike in the late spring to early fall — unless you’ve got some seriously good traction devices for your footwear. To get there:
Enter the Academy at the North Entrance, and park in the visitor’s center parking lot. Walk back across Academy Drive to the dirt road across from the visitor’s center entrance and follow the dirt road uphill past the power substation. Look for the signed trailhead to the west when the road makes a sharp bend to the north. Vehicles are subject to search at anytime and keep your firearms at home.
Favorite difficult trail: Heizer trail
, Cascade. There are more difficult trails out there, but this one is less traveled than most and the views along the way and at the top are great. Unless you want to have a really long day, your best bet is to go to the summit and back. To get there:
Take Highway 24 to the Cascade (Pikes Peak Toll Road) exit. Turn left onto Emporia Street and then left on Park Street and another left on Anemone Hill Road. The signed trailhead is at the top of the hill. There is no parking at the trailhead, but you can park on Emporia Street near Highway 24 and walk up to the trailhead. The walk from Emporia Street and Highway 24 adds about another mile (round trip) to the hike.
Favorite easy trail: Shootin’ Star/Twin Rock Trails
, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. This is about as easy of a 6-mile trail that you can do. It has little traffic and a nice feeling of isolation — I’ve almost never see another person on the trail. It’s a good four-season trail with wildflowers in the summer, foliage in the fall and snowshoeing in the winter. To get there:
Take Highway 24 west from Colorado Springs for approximately 35 mile to Florissant, then turn south on Teller County Road 1. Look for the well marked entrance to the visitor’s center. Entry fees apply.
Favorite trail when short on time: Red Mountain Trail
, Manitou Springs. A quick up-and-back, decent work out with great views. To get there:
Start at Spring Street and Ruxton Avenue in Manitou Springs. Follow the Intemann Trail east to the marked side trail for Red Mountain.
Favorite trail that really needs to be re-opened:
The New Santa Fe Trail
through the Air Force Academy. C’mon already!
For the most part, you'll notice that my "favorite" trails have a few things in common: They are lesser-used trails and all have great views. It's nice to get away from the crowds, and I don't see much purpose in hiking for miles if there isn't some kind of visual pay-off at the end.
If you're still deciding which parks, trails and open spaces in the Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs metro area will be your favorites, check out the newest map produced by locally owned Pocket Pals Maps
. The “Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs & vicinity: Parks, Trails and Recreation map”
features every recreational facility in the area, along with detailed information about trails, dog parks, rock climbing, open spaces, and more.
Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor and business owner who has lived in Colorado Springs for over 23 years. He is the president of the Friends of Cheyenne Canon and a member of the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board. You can follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: email@example.com.