paint mines near colorado springs with gullies and eroded rock landscape

Paint Mines Hike Near Colorado Springs

The Paint Mines trail takes hikers on an easy 3.7 mile loop through a badlands landscape of rainbow sandstone and hoodoo rock formations about 90 minutes south of Denver and 45 minutes east of Colorado Springs. Explore the full Paint Mines hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in the plains of Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Paint Mines Loop

Driving Directions to the Paint Mines

From Denver, take interstate 25 south toward Colorado Springs. Exiting at exit 163, take a left (east) onto South County Line/Palmer Divide Road, traveling for about 5 miles before then taking a right onto CO-83. Travel for about 4 miles, then turn left onto Hodgen Road.Travel for 10.3 miles on Hodgen Road, then take a right onto Eastonville Road. Going for about 2 miles, turn left onto Murphy Road (a lot of turns on this drive). Go 5 miles on Murphy Road, then take a right onto Peyton Hwy. Travel for about 1 mile, then just before you get into the small town of Peyton, take a left to stay onto Peyton Hwy. This segment is just about 0.2 of a mile before you turn left onto Highway 24 which will take you into the town of Calhan. Driving through town and take a right onto Yoder St./North Calhan Hwy (south). Just past the El Paso County Raceway, take a left onto Paint Mine Road. After 1.4 mile on Paint Mine Road, the trailhead and parking area will be on your left.

paint mines interpretive park main entrance sign

Parking & Trailhead Information for the Paint Mines

The parking area for the Paint Mines has spaces for about 40 vehicles. Though the park is hidden away in the plains of Colorado, it's a well-known park and the lot can fill up on weekends. There is a toilet facility at the trailhead parking area. No water, so bring water with you.

panorama of trail network at paint mines near calhan

The Hike: Paint Mines Loop

We recommend hiking this trail clockwise. There is a northern and southern trailhead (and a West overlook lot), and the route described here begins at the larger, northern trailhead (described above). The trail begins near the restroom on the southeast side of the parking area and travels northeast into a grasslands lanscape. The path bends to the right, narrows, and heads south through a white sandsone wash that descends into a gully turning as it makes its way down to the first trail interesection with the broad, double-track Green Trail.

paint mines white rock and prairie on hike near colorado springs

Taking a left (southeast) onto the Green Trail, it will climb to a bench, giving you a great vantage point overlooking the plains and badlands of the Paint Mines. The trail makes its way north. At the northern apex of the trail, you'll encounter another interpretive sign marking the site of an old brick quarry.

The route now takes you South past the East Overlook with views out to Pikes Peak, and then to another interpretive area with signs detailing the local geology. At about 2.5 miles on this route, hikers reach another trail intersection. Go right (west) to continue on the loop. This segment is where things get interesting.

This next part of th trail takes you down right into the heart of the Paint Mines. After abou 0.6 miles, at the next trail junction, a spur trail goes to the left into the floor of the Paint Mines adding about 0.4 mile to the hike. Here is where you'll want to spend some time and snap some photos. Though the rock formations call out, be sure to stay the trail to protect this wild and fragile area and for your own safety.

the deep gully of the paint mines on hike near colorado springs rainbow colored sandstone and hoodoo rock formation

The Paint Mines were given their name because Native Americans used the crushed and colored sandstone to make paint and mined the soils to craft ceramic potter. Later, settlers mined the same area to make bricks. The swathes of color are made up of iron compounds that oxidize when the rock is exposed to air. Gypsum and quartize bring the white colors and sparkles to the rock. It's all clay, dense sandstone color, and the erosion from many years of water of wind has carved out some spectacular hoodoos (those columns of weird looking rock that stand out) and gullies that look like something from the surface of Mars.

To finish the hike, leave the gully floor and head North until the trail once again comes to the 4-way trail junction. Take a left and ascend about a half mile back to the trailhead.

paint mines sign prohbiting climbing with sandstone formations in background

Tips & Resources for Hiking The Calhan Paint Mines

  • Fragile: The rock formations are made up a a brittle form of sandstone that easily chips and can be damaged even by the rubber soles of our shoes. Take care not to walk on the edges and near drop offs as the rock can give way. Do your part to care for the area by staying the trail.
  • Photography: One of the best spots for taking photos of the paint mines is at the bench about 1.2 miles into the hike.
  • Trail Map: Paint Mines
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get the list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Torrence Jackson for sharing such amazing photos with us of his family's hike at the Paint Mines. Along with Ryan Fonkert, Bryce Bradford, and Jay Gannet
  • After the Hike: The Pikes Peak Brewing Company is situated in Monument, Colorado and a great spot to visit for a a drink and flatbread pizza.

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Indian Creek Loop Hike

The Indian Creek Trail is tucked away outside of Sedalia, CO, just under an hour's drive from Denver, you find a trailhead leading to a vast internal system of trails that links up to the Colorado Trail, Roxborough State Park, and Nelson Ranch Open Space. The number of configurations you can devise awaits your creativity...and endurance! The Indian Creek Campground opens the door to trails meandering up and through the Pike National Forest with frequent vistas out into the valleys west and north. Explore the full Indian Creek Loop hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in the San Isabel National Forest.

Trail Snapshot: INDIAN CREEK LOOP

Devil's Head looms in the distance

Viewing Devil's Head from Indian Creek Loop

Parking & Trailhead Information for Indian Creek

The easiest waypoint for GPS is the Indian Creek Campground, which sits just west of the Rampart Range Riding Area on Highway 67. Once you pass the Rampart Range entrance the road curves and winds down a hill; at the bottom the parking lot appears off to the right with a lone bathroom. Park here; do not go up the road to the actual campground. The trailhead begins about 15 paces beyond the bathroom, up the hill. Look for the sign for Trail #800.

The Hike: Indian Creek Loop

The trail begins winding through aspen, oak, and evergreen. You'll immediately notice the clean, earthy air rising up from the forest floor. The initial stretch of the trail provides ample shade, and at approximately 0.5 mile, the trail opens up to its first vista. As the trail turns sharply right, the unofficial trail bends left up a small hill to a clearing with views down into the valley and a massive lean-to teepee tree.

lean-to teepee tree

Continuing up, soon another vista opens up off to the left with sight line down the valley and onto the next ridge line, and then at approximately 1.5 mile the trail reaches a junction with the fire road (FR) and Ringtail Trail. (If you follow Ringtail toward Thomas Hill, the trails opens up to th north. On a clear day you can see the skyscrapers of downtown Denver!) Staying straight to continue on the FR, the trail descends to approximately 2.3 mile to reach the next trail junction. Here you have options: take a sharp left to join Steven's Gulch Trail (the present track), veer right toward Roxborough State Park, or stay straight for a longer loop that will wrap back around to the present track. As the trail descends to the left, it reveals a snug little meadow swimming in prairie grasses--perfect playground for the deer often passing through.

meadow of ferns

Now, the hike becomes pure descent to approximately 4.25 mile and the junction with the Colorado Trail. (This is where the longer loop mentioned above rejoins the present track.) You know you're close when you spy an old broken down cabin nestled along the shore of the stream. Here, the loop route goes left onto the Colorado Trail.

All along the descent and this return ascent, thick foliage, flowers, ferns, and the occasional patch or puddle of mud keep you company. It's fascinating terrain that also hosts horse riders from time to time, so watch your step! At 5.0 mile the Colorado Trail continues straight but an alternate Indian Creek Trail pulls sharply right. Staying straight on the Colorado Trail the trail begins another descent.

wildflowers along Indian creek

While this loop hike follows a stream almost all the way, you get the pleasure of a stream crossing at approximately 6.25 mile when it meets up with Bear Creek. From here the trail bends its way up and out of the shallow canyon, past the equestrian stables and campground, and back to the parking lot.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Indian Creek Loop

  • TIP: Wildlife is active in this area. Be sure to let someone know your hiking itinerary, or take a hiking partner with you.
  • TIP: Familiarize yourself with the various trail junctions that intersect in this area. You can trek to Roxborough, connect to the Colorado Trail, or end up in an open space...on accident if you're not aware! Also, keep an eye on the weather as it can change suddenly along the Front Range.
  • Trail Map: Indian Creek Loop
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get the list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: If you need breakfast, hit up the local fave, O'Brien's Cafe, or catch a pizza-pie at PieZano's

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pikes peak in background with manitou lake in foreground near colorado springs

Manitou Lake Hike Near Colorado Springs

Manitou Lake near Colorado Springs offers a pleasant and easy loop trail around its shores with views of Pikes Peak. It's also a great spot fishing and paddling on the 5-acres of water. There are nearby camping options detailed below. Explore the full Manitou Lake hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, campground info and more.

Trail Snapshot: Manitou Lake Loop Hike

morning light breaking through old log cabin shelter at manitou lake

Shelter Pavilion at Manitou Lake

Parking & Trailhead Information for Manitou Lake

Interstate Route

From Denver, take Interstate 25 South to Colorado Springs. Exit onto 24 West and drive US Highway 24 about 18 to Woodland Park. In Woodland Park, take HWY 67 North for about 7.5 miles. Manitou Lake will be on the east side of the highway.

Scenic Route

The scenic route and interstate route take about the same amount of time, but there will likely be less traffic on this trip. There are a lot of curves though, so be prepared for that aspect of the drive. From Denver, take 285 South toward Pine Junction. Take a left onto Pine Valley Road, which curves around through some beautiful Front Range landscapes, goes through Pine and just outside of Buffalo Creek the road changes names to Deckers Road. Follow Deckers road until it terminates at US 67 in Deckers. In Deckers, take US 67 South (right) for 15.7 miles. Manitou Lake will will be on the lefthand (east) side of the road.

Trailhead and Facilities

Manitou Lake is heavily used in the Summer months and weekends and has limited parking. There are two vault toilet, one across from the pavillion and one adjacent to the parking loop area. The pavillion can be reserved for a fee from Recreation.gov site. It's important to note when reserving that each vehicle is still required to pay the day use access fee. There are several access trails that run from the parking area to the main trail that circles the lake.

manitou lake near colorado springs with pikes peak in the background along hike

The Hike: Manitou Lake

Beginning at the access trail near the pavillion, head toward the lake to pick up the main trail near a small dock. Head north (left) hiking along the western shore of the lake. You'll pass another small fishing dock, then come to a trail intersection. Go right, crossing the small footbridge spanning Trout Creek, the small creek that feeds the reservoir.

Continue following the trail along the northern edge of Manitou Lake as it eventually bends toward the south. Here, you'll be able to take in the best views of Pikes Peak. This is why we recommend hiking the loop clockwise instead of counter clockwise. Stop to take in Summer wildflowers that grow in the meadows surrounding the lake.

western tanager bird in meadows near manitou lake colorado

Western Tanager at Manitou Lake

The trail will then enter and exit a small stand of ponderosa pines. Then the trail bends to the west and crosses a marshland. Be alert for herons and other wildlife in this wetland segment of the trail. The dirt path becomes a boardwalk on this final segment of the trail.

Longer Hike Options

There are ways to extend your hike and explore other areas around Manitou Lake. The first is a trail segment north of the lake, near the bridge that leads along Trout Creek. This is an undeveloped social trail created by fisherman, so it's a non-destination trail and has a lot of small spurs to access the creek. The second trail leads South to the Colorado Campground site. The third is the 4.2 mile segment of bike trail that runs alongside highway 67 connecting the campgrounds and Manitou Lake.

Camping Near Manitou Lake

There are several campgrounds along highway 67 near Manitou Lake to serve the Pikes Peak Region. Here's a list from the southern end to the north with links to their reservation pages. All of these campsites are close to Woodland Park andn great places to basecamp for exploring the surrounding Colorado Springs area. All have toilets and water.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Manitou Lake

  • Fishing: The Department of Wildlife stocks Manitou lake with Rainbow and Cutbow Trout. The beaver ponds above lake along Trout Creek are also good spots to fish.
  • Dogs at Manitou Lake: Manitou Lake is a great spot to take your dog for a walk. Because it is a reservoir, dogs must be kept out of the water and leashed at all times.
  • Trail Map: Manitou Lake
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get the list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Patricia Henschen for sharing such an amazing photograph of this hike at Manitou Lake near Colorado Springs.
  • After the Hike: The Donut Mill. The Donut Mill serves epic donuts. That's not an overstatement. The donuts are gigantic and dream-inducing (perhaps from the sugar coma). They cost more than most donut places, but if you are a donut lover, this place is not to be missed. Their biscuits and gravey also are a worth noting.

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flatirons in boulder colorado along hike with spruce tree in foreground

Chautauqua Loop Trail in Boulder

The Chautauqua Trail is an easy 3.6 mile loop hike along Boulder's Flatirons. The trails pass several historical sites: a quarry, cabin, shelter, and ski area as it weaves through the meadows and ponderosa forest of Chautauqua Park. About 40 minutes from Denver, the Chautauqua Loop hike makes for a great hike for visitors who are looking for stunning landscapes without the long drive or elevation gain.

Trail Snapshot: Chautauqua Loop Hike

view of the chautauqua meadow at the base of boulder's flatirons

Parking & Trailhead Information for the Chautauqua Loop

The trailhead for Chautauqua Park is located downtown in the City of Boulder. The park's 58 parking spaces fill quickly, so plan to arrive early. Alternatively, when the lot is full, hikers can park along Baseline Road and side streets, just be sure to respect the neighbors by parking at least 5 feet from driveways. There are bike racks at the trailhead, so you can bike in from other lots in town, or take the Park-to-Park Shuttle that operates on the weekends and on holidays from the Saturday around Memorial Day to Labor Day Weekend. Here's a map of the free parking lots and shuttle stop locations.

Get a map, fill up your water bottle, and get trail advice from locals at the Ranger Cottage, which is located at the trailhead. See the Ranger Cottage site for current hours and closure information.

The Hike: Chautauqua Loop

Beginning at the Ranger Cottage, head south on the Bluebell Road Trail. This first segment leads up a gentle slope to its intersection with the Mesa trail. The Mesa trail takes us into our first lollipop loop and to Woods Quarry. After about 0.2 of a mile, you'll come to another trail intersection. Heading right, takes you on a counter-clockwise loop and up to Woods Quarry. The quarry was used in the early years of Boulder for building homes and sidewalks out of its iconic red and orange sandstone.

After the quarry, the trail will bend north and return to the Mesa Trail. At the intersection, notice an old stone structures, the Roosa Cabin.

Continue north on the Mesa Trail back up to the Bluebell Road Trail. Go west (left) onto Bluebell Road. Soon you'll encounter another stone structure, the Bluebell Shelter (pictured below). Built in the early 1900's and preserved in the 1930's by the CCC, the historic shelter has become a Chautauqua landmark, undergoing some more recent restoration. This is a great place to have a picnic, and can be reserved for special events.

shelter along the bluebell road trail in chautauqua park boulder with flatirons in background

Now we begin heading into the northern and larger loop of this hike. The Bluebell Road Trail becomes the Bluebell-Baird trail and weaves its way north along the base of the Flatirons. If you are interested in hiking the Flatirons, explor our trail profile for the First and Second Flatirons Hike. You'll enter tall stands of Ponderosa pines with views out to the meadows of the northern meadows.

view of the flatirons in boulders chatauqua park with meadow in foreground and fog lifting

Notice the interpretive signs along the full hike and stop to read the history of the old ski jump that was in operation post WW2 into the early 1960's. Pass by the Ski Jump Trail and continue northwest until you come to the Gregory Canyon Trailhead. Gregory Canyon is also a beautiful hike (see our Gregory Canyon trail profile for details). Take a right (heading east) onto the Baseline Trail. This will take you past the old ski jump and the site of a CCC camp that operated here during the years of the Great Depression.

view from chautauqua park looking north toward settlers park red rock formations in boulder colorado

The Baseline trail will lead back to the trailhead to complete this 3.6 mile hike.

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Chautauqua Loop

  • Bring Snacks and Water: It probably goes without saying, but be sure to bring food and water to refill your tank. This hike demands it.
  • Bring Your Camera: This area along the Flatirions is picturesque, especially in the early morning light.
  • Keep and Eye on the Weather: Talking to one of the rangers, he shared that storms can come up quickly along the Flatirons, which will catch hikers unawares. The Flatirons area is like a lot of other mountain hikes, storms typically roll in during the early afternoon.
  • Trail Map for Chautauqua Loop: Trail Map Link
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Dave Dugdale for sharing his photograph of the Bluebell Shelter.
  • After the Hike: Ozo Coffee in Boulder, Colorado

above bear lake in rmnp looking to glacier gorge hike finder

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man painting red rocks at trading post trail in red rocks park near denver with red rocks in background hikes 30 minutes from denver


pikes peak in distance from fox run park with evergreen trees in foreground

Fallen Timbers Loop Hike at Fox Run Park

The Fallen Timbers Loop is an easy, 2-mile hike near Colorado Springs with great views of Pikes Peak. It makes for a great family hike because of the shade of the ponderosa pines and the nearby playground at this hike in Fox Run Regional Park. Explore the full hike profile for trail map, driving directions, and tips.

Trail Snapshot: Fallen Timbers Loop Hike

parking area near lake with aspen tree along trail at fox run park near colorado springs

Parking & Trailhead Information for Fallen Timbers Loop at Fox Run

From Denver, take interstate 25 South and take exit 158 onto Baptist Road (left). Drive East for 2.3 miles and turn right onto Tari Drive. Proceed for about 300 feet, then take a left onto Becky Drive. Go about 1/2 mile and turn left onto Stella Drive. Drive about another 1/2 mile and the entrance to Fox Run park will be on your left. Drive around the loop to the parking area by the pond. This trailhead parking area has a restroom just to the southwest of the parking lot.

The Hike: Fallen Timbers Loop

The trail for the Fallen Timbers loop hike begins on the northeast end of the parking lot. When facing the pond, this will be the wide trail behind you, across the drive, and to the left. This little connector trail will soon come to a junction with the loop trail. I recommend hiking this counter-clockwise, so take a right onto the Fallen Timbers trail to begin the loop.

green lake with changing aspens at fox run park near colorado springs at beginning of the fallen timbers loop hike

The trail works its way through the dappled shade of ponderosa pines and bends to the right (east). You'll encounter a couple trail junctions. At the junctions, stay on the Fallen Timbers trail (bearing right). Just shy of 1 mile into the trail, you'll arrive at the Roller Coaster Road parking area for Fox Run. The trail will continue north past this trailhead. However, there is a restsroom here at the trailhead that is open April through October.

The trail continues north, crossing a footbridge, then begins to bend West (left). Orange blaze markers should mark out the trail.

swan lake frozen over with pines and aspen trees at fox run park near colorado springs fallen timbers loop hike

Along this entire trail, you'll find interpretive signs explaining the impact of the pine beetle and tree bores on the ecosystems of Colorado, and about the local fauna in this area north of Colorado Springs. This makes for a great discussions with the kids about the environment and the impact that even small creatures and lightning can have on forests.

The trail bends South, opening up to great views of Pikes Peak. You'll pass a small trail junction that leads right (west) out to the road. Continue past this and eventually you'll come to a decision to either go left (east) finish this 2-mile loop or bear right and extend your hike to make it a longer 2.5 to 3 mile hike. Consult the Fox Run Trail Map, and follow the wester and southern trails of your choice. However, this profile will follow the rest of the 2-mile loop.

Going right will lead into a central parking area. The trail goes east, cutting through the middle of this circle road and then splits. At the split, take a right to begin the approx. 1/4 mile segment back to the parking area and trailhead.

tshirt in blue midnight heather color with flatirons and words wear authentic colorado threads shop our store overlay text on image

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Fallen Timbers Loop

  • A Great Wedding Spot: I've attended two weddings at Fox Run. It's a beautiful and inexpensive option to host a wedding at the Wedding Gazebo. The gazebo can be reserved through the El Paso County reservation site.
  • Taking Photos: The best time to get a photo of Pikes Peak will be in the early morning hours as the sun is rising over the plains. Photographers can capture some dramatic shots of the mountain as its skirts will still be in darkness and the peak bathed in soft light.
  • Easy but Elevation: This is an easy hike, but if you are traveling to Colorado Springs from lower elevations, the 7300' starting elevation at Fox Run park may make this trail a challenge. if that's the case, take your time and oxygenate by drinking plenty of water.
  • Trail Map: Trail Map for Fox Run Park
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get the list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Dave Jacquin , Mariana Wagner , and Nate Zoch for sharing such an amazing photographs of this hike to at Ute Valley Park.
  • After the Hike: Serranos Coffee in Monument

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old cabin with barns in florissant colorado with green meadows hornbeck homestead at fossil beds national monument

Petrified Forest Hike at Florissant Fossil Beds

The Petrified Forest trail is an easy 1.5 mile loop hike just a 50 minute drive from Colorado Springs. This hike at the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument takes you past the fossilized stumps of ancient sequoia trees, over rolling mountain meadows with views of snowcapped peaks, and is a great way to learn about the geology of Colorado while enjoying nature with your family. Explore the full Petrified Forest hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this hike near Colorado Springs.

Trail Snapshot: Petrified Forest Loop at Florissant Fossil Beds

visitor center entrance at florissant fossil beds national monument in colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

The Scenic Drive Option

The scenic drive from Denver to Florissant Fossil Beds is only about 10-15 minutes longer, and with the construction on interstate 25 between Castle Rock and Monument (2019-2022). Here's a link to driving directions for the scenic route through Deckers and West Creek to Woodland Park. This route takes 285 toward Pine, then picks up CO67 for a windy, but beautiful drive through Pike National Forest lands. In Woodland Park, take a right onto US-24 West. Go about 8.4 miles then turn left onto Twin Rocks Road. Drive about 5.8 miles to Teller County Rd 1. Take a right onto Teller County Rd 1, then after about 0.8 mile, take a left into the entrance of the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.

Directions Via Interstate 25

Take Interstate 25 South to Colorado Springs where you'll exit on exit 141 onto US-24/West Cimarron St. Head West on 24 into the canyon that winds up to Woodland Park. In Woodland Park, stay on US-24 West. After passing the Dinosaur Museum in Woodland Park, you'll drive about 5.8 miles then turn left onto Twin Rocks Road. Drive about 7 miles to Teller County Rd 1. Take a right onto Teller County Rd 1, then after about 0.8 mile, take a left into the entrance of the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.

Visitor Center and Trailhead

Florissant Fossil Beds is a National Monument and managed by the National Parks office. Like all Federal Recreation sites, entrance to the monument requires a fee. We get an America the Beautiful Pass every year, giving our family access to more than 2000 federal recreation sites, including Florissant Fossil beds. There are restrooms at the visitor center, as well as an interpretive center. Feb. 1 through Nov. 9th, the visitor center and trails are open from 9AM-5PM, and Winter hours are 9AM-4:30PM. It's Closed during New Years, Thanksgiving, and Christmas days.

woman hiking along trail at petrified forest of florissant fossil beds in colorado with sign in foreground meadows and evergreen trees

The Hike: Petrified Forest Hike

There are two short loop trails that you can hike from the visitor center. The first is the 1-mile Petrified Forest Loop, and the second is the 1/2 mile Ponderosa Loop. We recommend combining the two loops to make a 1.5-mile hike.

Petrified Forest Loop

This trail is the centerpiece of the national monument. Start by picking up a guide at the visitor center and first checking out the covered exhibits directly behind the visitor center. The guide will have explanations of the different sites marked by a series of numbered posts along the trail. The Petrified Forest Loop can be hiked in any direction. The trail leads into the ancient bed of Florissant Lake, an area rich in silica that settled in layers to fossilize plants and insects throughout this area.

winding trail across meadow at florissant fossil beds in colorado

Along the trail, you'll pass through open meadow and wooded areas. Fences mark protected stumps of the giant petrified trees that once dominated this high plains environment. Geologists believe volcanic eruptions triggered mudslides that covered the prehistoric forest floor. That mud was rich in silica-based minerals that soaked the wood, eventually replacing its organic material and fossilizing it.

Eventually, the trail will take you to the Big Stump, the largest of the petrified trees not removed by early collectors. When here, take your phone out and turn on the ruler tool. Mark the base of the tree, then extend your phone into the air until it marks 250 feet. That will give you an idea of the size of these trees.

The Ponderosa Loop

After the Petrified Forest Loop, head into the shade of the Ponderosa Loop. This easy, 1/2-mile trail is wheelchair accessible and made of packed, crushed gravel. This loop trail is located in the trees south of the Stump Shelter and Amphitheater. Keep your eyes peeled for Abert's Squirrels, large black squirrels that have long, pointed and tufted ears. From this trail, you can also pick up the Sawmill Trail that loops around the southwest area of the park.

giant trunks of petrified trees along petrified forest loop hike at florissant fossil beds in colorado

baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Petrified Forest at Florissant

  • An Educational Experience: The Florissant Fossil Beds are a great place to take your family to learn about the geology of Colorado. The National Monument page provides a Hike Activities lesson plan for educators.
  • Stargazing: During most months, the park offers stargazing opportunities through their Night Sky Programs. It starts with a short ranger-led talk then turns to 90-minutes of enjoying the stars through the lens of telescopes with volunteers from the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society.
  • Trail Map: Florissant Fossil Beds Hiking Trail Map
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get the list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to Patricia Henschen , David Fulmer , and Jasperdo for sharing such an amazing photographs of this hike to at Ute Valley Park.
  • After the Hike: Iron Tree Table and Taps in Florissant

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green meadow looking west to evergreen trees and mountains at ute valley park in colorado springs

Ute Valley Park Loop in Colorado Springs

Ute Valley Park offers an easy 3-mile loop hike in the heart of northern Colorado Springs with views to snow-capped Pikes Peak. The trails make for a quick break from the city to trail run or walk the dog. Get the trail details, map, and driving directions in our full trail profile.

Trail Snapshot: Ute Valley Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Ute Valley Park

From Denver, take Interstate 25 South to Colorado Springs, exiting on exit 149 and taking a right onto East Woodman Road. East Woodman will turn into Rockrimmon Road. Next, take a right onto Vindicator Drive. The entrance to Ute Valley Park will be up on your left, just after you pass the Middle School. There is a portable toilet at the trailhead and parking for about 20 vehicles.

view of storm clouds over pikes peak at ute valley park in colorado springs

The Hike: Ute Valley Park

Ute Valley Park is nestled in the subdivisions of Colorado Springs, North of the city center providing residents with a quick escape from town for an after work trail run, mountain bike, and place to walk the dog. There are about 20 different unnamed trail segments, but for our purposes, we will look at a 3 mile loop and a shorter 2.5 mile option.

From the trailhead, take the trail that heads south out of the lot and hike west towards the bluffs. This approach will take us on a counterclockwise loop hike of the trails. Alternatively, you can hike it counterclockwise by reversing this description. Ignore the other trails at the juncture and keep and heading south, the trail will gradually rise to gain the low ridge of Popes Bluff. Along this stretch you'll soak in the sunshine and views out to Pikes Peak.

start of rocky trail with conifer trees at ute valley park in colorado springs

This stretch of trail is the longest and goes for about a mile to an overlook at the southwest end of Ute Valley Park. You'll pass through one trail intersection before you come to that overlook point. However, if you want to cut off 1/2 a mile and make this a 2.5 mile loop, take a left at that juncture for a more rugged trail that cuts over to the east side of the park and reconnects with this loop. Though in the city, you'll be taking in the aromatics of ponderosa pine and the same juniper trees that are found along the trails in Garden of the Gods.

Continuing with our 3-mile loop description, at the overlook, you have a couple options, but we'll go straight through on the trail that wraps around the most southern end of Ute Valley. See the Ute Valley Park Trail Map for detail.

After about 0.4 of a mile, the trail will begin turning North, traveling along the eastern edge of the park. You'll encounter about 5-6 trail junctures along this stretch. At each juncture, continue on the easternmost trail (keep bearing to the right, or hike straight through). You'll cross over a footbridge and after approximately another another 1/2 mile will be back at the parking lot.

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view to pikes peak from eagle view outlook at reynolds park near conifer colorado

Eagles View Hike in Reynolds Park

The Eagles View Loop hike in Reynolds Park is a 4-mile, moderate, loop trail to a scenic outlook. The trail ascends through meadows and ponderosa pine forest to views of Pikes Peak and the sawtooth spires and peaks of the Rampart Range. Explore the full Reynolds Park Eagle View Loop hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure near Conifer, Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Reynolds Park Eagle View Loop

reynolds park trailhead in winter near conifer colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Reynolds Park

I really enjoy the drive into Reynolds Park, particularly for the last stretch descending to the trailhead. The trailhead is about 50 minutes from downtown Denver. From Denver, take 285 South to Conifer, Colorado taking the Kennedy Gulch exit. At the exit, you'll take a left onto Kennedy Gulch Road, which will go under the 285 overpass. At the next stop sign, you'll see a red barn in front of you and an entrance to 285 on your right. Here, you'll take a left onto Foxton Road. This is where that beautiful stretch of road begins. Drive for about 5 miles and the Reynolds Park parking area will be on your right. The parking area can hold about 45 vehicles. There are restrooms, picnic tables, and grills at the trailhead.

The Hike: Eagles View Loop at Reynolds Park

view toward eastern foothills along eagle view loop at eagle view outlook at reynolds park near conifer colorado

This loop hike gives hikers the most extensive exploration of the larger West side of Reynolds park. Begin by taking the main trail found on the south end of the parking lot (near the restrooms). It's wider than the other trails. At the first junction, take a right onto the Elkhorn Trail. This will lead through a mix of wooded areas and meadow.

trail for eagles view loop with signs and snow on ground at reynolds park colorado

Hikers will travel about 0.3 mile on this segment of the Elkhorn Trail until it intersects with the Ravens Roost Trail. Here, take the Ravens Roost trail which is more steep, ascending for 0.6 of a mile up to the next junction with the Eagles View Trail. Both the Ravens Roost and Eagles View trails are Hiker and Equestrian Only (no bikes, but dogs are allowed). You'll travel through stands of ponderosa pine. Look for Clarks Nutcracker and Stellar Jays as you hike. At the junction, the Eagles View Trail will bear to the right (pictured below).

eagles view trail signs at reynolds park near conifer winter hike
The trail will eventually open up to panoramic views, with the Eagles View scenic viewpoint being the best.

At the viewpoint, there are expansive views of the Rampart Range, and pikes Peak to the South. The Rampart Range is a low mountain range that stretches from south of Denver to Colorado Springs. The range is characterized by scraggy granite peaks jutting out of green forested foothills. At sunrise the granite rock formations light up orange and pink, and look like a series of castles or the rampart wall of a giant ancient fortress. My favorite view of the Rampart Range is from the Devils Head trail and from the Fire Lookout Tower up on Devils Head. It's the tallest peak in the range with an elevation of 9632 feet.

view from the eagles view scenic viewpoint along eagles view loop hike at reynolds park hike near Conifer Colorado

eagle view outlook in reynolds park near conifer colorado with views toward cathedral spires and pikes peak in the south with pine trees in the foreground

From the scenic point at Eagles View, the trail begins to descend and wind its way north. Pause on this segment to take in the views into the valley below and out to the distant plains in the East.

dirt trail on east side of Eagles view trail in Reynolds Park near Conifer Colorado

Eventually, the trail will come to another juncture with the Ravens Roost (south segment) and the Oxen Draw Trail. Both are options back to the Trailhead. Taking the Ravens Roost trail makes for a longer 4.4 miles total. Taking the Oxen Draw trail will make your total trip around 4 miles.

snowy trail junction of oxen draw and ravens roost trail with signage alongside trail at reynolds park near conifer colorado

When I hikes this in the Winter, the Oxen Draw Trail got quite icy from a recent thaw and freeze. I'm assuming this is pretty normal for this shaded area of the park during the cold months. I wish I had brought my traction devices because the trail had some steep and sketchy, ice-coated segments. I had my trekking poles, and they helped, but it was difficult to navigate.

icy trail along oxen draw trail at reynolds park near conifer colorado

You may notice that I've marked this as a dog-friendly hike. Most of the year that's true, but these icy segments of the Oxen Draw Trail in the Winter may not be the best for your best friend. Overall, though this hike has proven to be one of the lesser traveled trails near Denver--especially on a weekday. Be sure to watch the video below to get a feel for the hike.

girl on trail with black dog in colorado mountains spruce tree in foreground and snow and evergreen trees in background

Tips & Resources for Hiking at Reynolds Park in Jefferson County

  • Trekking Poles and Traction: If you are hiking in the Winter or Spring, the this trail (as you can see from the photos above) can get icy and muddy. Trekking Poles and Traction Devices are recommended for these seasons. I'm a huge fan of trekking poles because they take so much impact off the knees when hiking and backpacking, and they allow us to navigate more demanding terrain. Check out Trekking Pole options at REI.
  • Camping: There are 5 tent camping areas on the East end of Reynolds Park that require only a short hike in and make for a good way to introduce your kids or family to a weekend camping trip without having to travel far from Denver. You can reserve a campsite at the Idylease Campground at the Jefferson County Parks Reservations Page. The campground is just a 1/2 mile hike in and has restrooms--but no drinking water--available at the site.
  • Trail Map: Reynolds Park in Jefferson County Park Map
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get the list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Scooters Smokehouse BBQ

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Hike at Red Rock Open Space in Colorado Springs looking North across meadow to Garden of the Gods in the distnce

Red Rock Canyon Hikes

Red Rock Canyon Open Space features miles of easy hiking trails just a few miles west of Colorado Springs with views of Pikes Peak to the West and Garden of the Gods to the North. The park has two off-leash dog trails and most other trails are accessible to and shared by hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers. Check out the full Red Rock Canyon Open Space hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more five different hike options to explore at this park near Colorado Springs.

Trail Snapshot: Red Rock Canyon Open Space

Parking & Trailhead Information for Red Rock Canyon Open Space

From Denver, take Interstate 25 south to Colorado Springs, taking the Cimarron St/24 West. Proceed about 3 miles West on Cimarron/24 and take a left onto Ridge Road. At the roundabout, take a left (by going around 3/4 of the roundabout). The parking lot and trailhead for Red Rock Canyon will be on your right.

From the trailhead hikers can pick up two of the main trail arteries, the Mesa Trail that works its way through the middle of the park, and the Red Rock Canyon Trail, which runs along the east side. Both lead toward the most popular destination, the quarry.

trail leading to old quarry at red rock canyon open space in colorado springs

5 Hike Options in Red Rock Canyon Open Space

    • The Dog Loops: 1/2 and 1 mile

The upper dog loop is an approximately one-mile curcuit, while the lower is about 1/2mile. Both are great options for a quick walk with the dog after work in a space set aside for off-leash exercise and play. You'll find these two off-leash dog trails immediately South of the parking lot.

quarry pond in foreground and red rock formations on snowy afternoon with pikes peak in background on hike at red rock canyon open space in colorado springs

    • Contemplative-Sand Canyon Loop: 1.75 miles

This short loop hike offers more peace and quite because it's tucked away along some of the red rock formations, and the Contemplative Trail segment is designated a hiker-only trail. Pick up the Contemplative trail by starting at the Sand Canyon Trail (West end of the parking lot). This will lead to the Contemplative Trail. You can hike the Contemplative Trail out-and-back, but hikers also have a loop option by joining back up with the Sand Canyon Trail and taking it back to the parking lot.

ruins of old quarry at red rock canyon open space on hike in colorado springs

    • The Quarry Loop: 2 Miles

The most interesting destination in Red Rock Canyon is the old Quarry. If you've been in downtown Denver or Colorado Springs, you've probably seen old houses and buildings built with Red Rock cut from quarries like this one. One 2-mile loop option starts by taking the Red Rock Canyon trail to the east side of the Quarry (pick this trail up from the East end of the parking lot). This will run along to the back side of the quarry where you can take the old miner's steps up the side of the red rock. Once up and over, take the Quarry Pass Trail to the Mesa Trail, and hike the Mesa Trail North back to the parking area.

quarry steps at red rock open space on hike in colorado springs

    • Hogback Valley-Lion Loop: 3.3 Miles

Starting at the east parking lot, pick up the Lower Hogback Tail. The trail will lead up to the Red Rock Rim Trail, then the Hogback Valley Trail taking you into a mesa of meadows with views into Colorado Springs and of Pikes Peak. Take a trail map with you as several trails will tie in together. Connect with the Lion Trail (the upper Codell Trail is more demanding, so be aware of this if choosing that option). Taking the Lion Trail North (right), it will lead back towards the parking area.
dirt trail leading toward foothills south of red rock open space on hike in colorado springs

    • Mesa-Greenlee Loop: 3 Miles

This is probably the best hike in the park because it takes hikers through the heart of Red Rock Canyon along the gentle ridge of mesa where you can take in expansive views up to Pikes Peak and out to Garden of the Gods. Start at the Mesa Trail, taking it to the Southern end of the park where it connects with the Greenlee Trail. Return North via the Greenlee Trail to make this a 3 mile loop hike.

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castle rock incline challenge hill at base of steps looking up the 200 steps toward the top

Incline at Castle Rock

The Incline at Castle Rock is a 0.6 mile loop that begins with a 200 step climb up the Challenge Hill to the top of a promontory. From the top, a trail winds down the side of the mesa for 1/2 a mile back to the bottom. It makes for a great workout in the outdoors, and is about 30 minutes south of the center of Denver. Explore the full Castle Rock Incline hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you get active and enjoy the beauty of Colorado

Trail Snapshot: Incline at Castle Rock

Parking & Trailhead Information for Incline at Castle Rock

Take interstate 25 south from Denver to the town of Castle Rock, exiting at Wilcox/Wolfensberger exit, taking a right onto Wolfensberger. At the roundabout, go around and take the left-hand exit (3rd option on the roundabout) onto West Plum Creek Parkway. Go 0.7 mile on West Plum Creek Parkway and the Phillip S. Miller Park entrance will be on the right. After entering the park, go left to the area behind the MAC facility and the parking area for the incline will be at the base of the incline.

The Hike: Incline at Castle Rock

Officially, these 200 steps are called The Challenge Hill, but the locals call it "the incline," and rightly so, because it's inspired by the Manitou Incline near Colorado Springs. Because it's just 5 minutes down the road, we've turned this into a regular family workout. It's a perfect place to get in some exercise and take in amazing sunsets over the Colorado Front Range.

castle rock challenge hill hikers climbing the 200 steps to the top

The first segment of the Castle Rock Incline is a 1/10th of a mile climb up 200 steps with close to 200' of elevation gain. This will kick your butt, especially if you take the steps back down. We prefer to run down the 1/2 mile loop trail, usually doing the loop a couple times. We've categorized this as a moderate trail because it has under 500' of total elevation gain and is only 0.6 miles, but many will find it difficult because of the grade of the ascent.

photo of map of the challenge hill loop at castle rock phillip s miller park

At the top of the Challenge Hill, you can take in views to the north and west of Longs Peak and Devil's Head. There's a wood bench if you want to rest or use it for stretching your legs after the climb. If you decide to descend via the steps be aware that the late afternoon sun can make it very difficult to see the steps.

child looking west at sunset at the top of the castle rock incline

A Zipline platform stands at the peak of this promontory. It's fun to watch zipliners fly through the air across the park. The Zipline tours are operated by Castle Rock Zipline Tours. But don't keep your eyes on the sky because the trail down has a lot of loose gravel and the trail demands your attention.

castle rock challenge hill at top of promontory zipline platform at dusk

The trail wraps around the mesa back to the West facing side. Snow and ice can take a while to melt free from the trail, especially in shaded spots. You can check on the trail conditions using the Castle Rock Trail Conditions Map online.

castle rock challenge hill trail looking south at sunset to pikes peak

On the back side of the hill, you'll find panoramic views of Pikes Peak and the broad rolling country to the South of Castle Rock. This segment starts out rock then gives way to a gravel trail.

trail runners running loop trail at castle rock incllat sunset

Trail Etiquette at the Castle Rock Incline

  • The trail is popular with trail runners, so be aware of approaching runners and keep right to allow them to pass.
  • Dogs are prohibited on the challenge hill, because--well, you can imagine why.
  • Keep to the right on steps and in single file, especially when others are trying to pass or are coming the opposite direction.
  • Let others know when you intend to pass them.
  • Descent via the steps is not discourage by the park signage because it's easier to get injured.
  • Hours are Dawn to Dusk

castle rock challenge hill as sunset looking east

From the photo above, you can get a feel for the scale of the Challenge Hill. Much of the lower trail is in scrub oaks, and this next part may seem a bit overly cautious, but after reading a ton mountain lions, I always keep my kids close. As a local ranger told me, "On the Front Range, where there are deer, there are mountain lions." And a kid running fast through an area like this can incite the instincts of a lion. That I know of, we've not had any attacks in this area, but this is just a protocol our family follows on any hike or run--kids and adults always stay together.

playground and workout stations at the phillip s miller park in castle rock colorado

Speaking of the kids, the Phillip Miller park complex recently added (2019) a workout playground that looks like something out of Ninja Warrior competitions. After running the loop a couple times, we spend some time with the kids catching our breath and stretching at the playground.

man painting red rocks at trading post trail in red rocks park near denver with red rocks in background hikes 30 minutes from denver

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Incline at Castle Rock

  • Check out Trail Conditions: Before going, check the trail conditions at the Challenge Hill at the Castle Rock Trail Conditions page.
  • Pace Yourself: On the ascent, start with a sustainable pace. It gets way more steep and challenging at step 140.
  • Trail Map: Incline at Castle Rock
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get the list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Since I'm a local, I've got two absolute favorite spots for after the hike. The first is CRAVE Burgers. We love the Love Stinks Burger and the Not Yo Mamma's Burger (on the hidden menu) Crave Burgers in Castle Rock. The second is Manna, a a restaurant in the local hospital. But this is by no means hospital food! It's locally sourced food at great prices. Manna in Castle Rock

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