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Challenging new routes for experienced hikers 

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click to enlarge Impressive trail systems get better every year. - JEFFREY BEALL
  • Jeffrey Beall
  • Impressive trail systems get better every year.
Hiking trails are plentiful in the Pikes Peak region, with a wide range of options for cautious beginners and seasoned backcountry adventurers alike. The Westside is bursting with parks and open space and even in the heart of the city’s Eastside, you’ll find Palmer Park, a slice of hiking joy rising up from the hustle and bustle of urban existence. In short, this city ain’t playing around when it comes to, well, playing around.

Familiarity with all of these hiking hot spots may not necessarily breed contempt — who could get sick of such gorgeous terrain — but if you’re a local, or a visitor familiar with our most famed routes, you might be wondering, what’s new under the sun?

Glad you asked! The list of hiking options isn’t static. New trails are being created and new swaths of land are being acquired and opened up for public use each year. We’re sharing two new expert routes you may not know about, as well as an update on a highly anticipated trail that is sure to set your wanderlust on fire.

Dixon Trail: Regarded as a difficult and challenging trail for experienced hikers, this late-2018 addition to Cheyenne Mountain State Park’s already impressive system boasts a 17-mile round-trip climb that will test your strength even as it rewards you with pristine backcountry views of the Front Range. Hikers reviewing the route on sites like 
alltrails.com caution that some areas of the trail are minimally marked, so tread carefully. Getting to the trail is a 7-mile trek in itself, accessed off of the North Talon Trail at Limekiln Trail. It should go without saying that adequate water, proper shoes and other preparations are required, and you’ll need $8 for a day pass unless you have an annual parks pass (prices have gone up this year). In a September 2018 preview of the unfinished trail, Indy contributor and experienced hiker Bob Falcone noted it took more than eight hours to hike.
click to enlarge If you’re looking for a workout, Barr Trail is it. - GARY REINWALD / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM BILL EVANS
  • Gary Reinwald / Shutterstock.com Bill Evans
  • If you’re looking for a workout, Barr Trail is it.
Lake Moraine Trail: No, that’s not an echo, we definitely mentioned this as a new mountain biking trail. That’s because like most trails in Colorado, Lake Moraine is multi-use, which means everyone will want to exercise caution (no headphones, hikers; use bells, cyclists). This new 4-mile segment known affectionately as the “Missing Link” opened last fall and now allows hikers to connect from the Mountain View Trail near Barr Camp to Captain Jack’s Trail. For being such a tiny connection, it opens up a number of opportunities for avid hikers to up their game by packing on the miles and connecting fave routes in a new location without having to trespass or damage the area. Like Dixon, Moraine and its connecting routes are for experienced folks, with a long stretch to get to the new segment no matter which way you choose. Speaking of which, there are a lot of them. For the “shortest” distance to the trailhead, take Barr Trail up about 6 miles, hit Mountain View Trail for about half a mile and you’re there. Alternatively, reach it in about 7 miles from the Elk Park Trailhead off Pikes Peak Highway.

Still to come — Ring the Peak: It was only an 8-mile stretch that needed to be completed, but the hiking world turns slowly. For example, the Dixon and Lake Moraine Trails took 10 and 20 years, respectively, to come to fruition, most of that time dedicated to negotiation, planning and paperwork. It’s not as simple as gathering volunteers and cutting a new trail. There are land rights to manage, conservation concerns to consider and a lot of people to make happy — or at least less unhappy. As it stands, there are currently about 63 miles of the Ring the Peak system that can be conquered in order to encircle Pikes Peak. The remaining segment up for completion lies on Pikes Peak’s southern slope in Teller Country, between Mason Reservoir and a landmark known as Pancake Rocks. Or at least it did. It appears that Friends of the Peak and the Trails and Open Space Coalition, along with land-planning firm N.E.S., Inc. of Colorado Springs, have devised an alternate option, according to an article in The Gazette. It’s a lower route that’s considerably longer, but potentially more palatable to the variety of individuals with a stake in the final results. Just how long? Current estimates put it at just under 40 miles. Of course, that means the timeline for the trail’s completion will probably be increased by several years, which may disappoint those hoping for a quick and easy solution. The positive slant, however, is that if the new plan achieves more buy-in from all involved it may actually be several steps closer to reality than its shorter, more contested counterpart.

Resources: area trails for all fitness levels, Hiking Bob and trailsandopenspaces.org; area state parks, tinyurl.com/COPark-Cheyenne and tinyurl.com/COPark-Mueller; Pike and San Isabel National Forests, tinyurl.com/PP-ForestService.

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