This 6-mile semi-loop hike in the San Isabel National Forest will provide a little bit of a workout, some great views and, depending on the time of year, either lots of wildflowers or fall colors — or both, if you're lucky.
Starting at the Lion Park Trailhead, take the South Creek #1321 for about 3.6 miles to the intersection with Coupler Trail #1386. If this looks familiar so far, it's because up to here, it's the same route used to hike all the way to Pueblo Mountain Park, which I detailed in this column. Instead of continuing on the South Creek Trail, turn left here onto the Coupler Trail, which has nice views to the northeast and is narrow at times as it hugs a small ledge before meeting a steep and sometimes rocky descent to Squirrel Creek and trail #1384. Although the ledge is narrow in spots, it is not grip-the-wall-or-you'll-plummet-to-your-death narrow.
Once at the Squirrel Creek Trail, about 4 miles from the Lion Park Trailhead, turn left. From here, the trail follows and occasionally crosses the creek. Judging from the remnants of stone structures, many of which appear to have been bridges, this used to be a road open to larger vehicles. Now, it is a multi-use trail, open to everything up to ATV's under 50 inches wide. On my hike on a Thursday in mid-September, I saw only a few other people, all on foot. After 6 miles total, the trail ends at the Squirrel Creek Trailhead on Forest Service Road 382, near the Davenport Campground.
Things you need to know: As described, this hike is best when done with a two-car shuttle system, or you can arrange to have someone drop you off at Lion Park/South Creek and pick you up at the Squirrel Creek Trailhead (see below for directions). Or, you can do it as an out-and-back 12-mile hike. There are bathroom facilities at the Davenport Campground, but they may be subject to seasonal closures. There is no water at either trailhead. As a one way hike, the trail has 1,374 feet of ascent; most of that in the first 1.3 miles of the hike. Many sections are very rocky, so sturdy footwear and hiking poles are recommended.
To get there: The Lion Park/South Creek trailhead is on Colorado Highway 165, approximately 22 miles from the Colorado City exit on I-25, or about 4.5 miles north of the Lake Isabel Recreation Area. For the Squirrel Creek Trailhead, Forest Service Road 382 is approximately 23.5 miles from I-25 on Highway 165, or about 1.5 miles past the Lion Park Trailhead. Turn right onto FS 382, and drive 1.5 miles to the trailhead. FS 382 is passable by almost any vehicle when dry. From Highway 165, both trailheads and parking lots are well marked. If you encounter Bishop Castle, you've gone too far.
Be Good. Do Good Things. Leave No Trace.