There are better reasons than the usual hand-wringing about the Freshman 15 to get outside while the skies are still blue and the ground is still relatively free of snow. Whether you prefer to get your sunshine fix on your own or need the encouragement of a weekly group, here are some very worthwhile options that don't include the obvious, i.e., Garden of the Gods or Red Rock Canyon.
Fly solo: Palmer Park (3650 Maizeland Road) is a 25-mile-long system of trails over varied terrain within spitting distance of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and not far from Colorado College. With multi-use gravel trails ranging from easy to difficult, you can lace up your trainers in relative seclusion year round.
Ute Valley Park (1705 Vindicator Drive) requires a bit more of a trek, to the Rockrimmon area, but it's worth it for more than 300 acres of open grassland and winding trails. Be forewarned: It's a popular location that also attracts seasonal rattlesnakes and photogenic newlyweds.
Follow the herd: Jack Quinn's Running Club welcomes newcomers and seasoned runners alike at 6 p.m., Tuesdays. Start at the downtown pub (21 S. Tejon St., jackquinnsrunners.com) and head out for a set-your-own-pace 5K along the Greenway Trail and North Cascade Avenue. Coveted T-shirts provide a good incentive, as do discounted food and pints back at the pub when you're done.
Fly solo: Combining the Santa Fe Regional Trail, Pikes Peak Greenway Trail and Fountain Creek Regional Trail, you can wend your way from Fountain to Palmer Lake. You can stick to the approximately 35 miles of gentle (but wearing) grade, or connect to Greenland and Spruce Mountain open spaces up north for some dusty single-track.
Captain Jack's off of Gold Camp Road climbs 1,100 feet through Pike National Forest, posing a moderate challenge for intermediate mountain bikers. If you do both the Upper and Lower sections, you can stretch out this technical ride anywhere from 5 to 7 miles.
Follow the herd: The Colorado Springs Joy Ride might be the friendliest group ride in the city. Sponsored by local nonprofit UpaDowna ("Up a Mountain, Down a Beer"), this ride leaves from McCabe's Tavern (520 S. Tejon St., mccabestavern.com) at 6 p.m. Wednesdays for a leisurely pedal along the Greenway Trail and back through downtown for discount drinks and swag raffles.
Fly solo: The Railroad Bed above Manitou Springs is still enough of a local's secret to require parking on the median of Highway 24, about mile east of the Waldo Canyon trailhead turnaround. Bring a flashlight for an easy hike through old railroad tunnels, and try to spot the abandoned bathtub in the last one.
Mount Herman, outside of Monument, lets you claim all the glory of reaching a higher Rocky Mountain summit with none of the oxygen deprivation. A moderate climb over about 2.2 miles along a rocky path grants you clear views of Pikes Peak and the city.
Follow the herd: Incline Happy Hour (also sponsored by UpaDowna, upadowna.org/calendar) meets at 6 p.m. on many Thursdays near the Cog Railway in Manitou to take on that long, thin gray line that rises 2,000 vertical feet. (Be sure to give yourself some extra time to find parking when you get there.)
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