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

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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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Tips & Resources for Hiking Ute Valley Park

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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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Tips & Resources for Hiking Red Rock Canyon Open Space

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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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View of South Boulder Peak from Bear Peak Near Boulder Colorado

South Boulder Peak

South Boulder Peak is a demanding 3.7-mile hike (one-way) situated above the South Mesa in the famous Flatirons region near Boulder Colorado. Hikers can bag nearby Bear Peak on the same trip and return via Fern Canyon to make an 8.7 mile loop. Explore the full South Bolder Peak hike profile below for the trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure near Boulder, Colorado.

South Boulder Peak Trail Snapshot

Parking & Trailhead Information for South Boulder Peak

Sign at South Mesa Trailhead South of Boulder Colorado with Parking Fees

The trail to South Boulder Peak begins at the South Mesa Trailhead off of Eldorado Springs Drive just South of Boulder, Colorado. From Denver, drive North on interstate 25 to 36 toward Boulder. Take the McCaslin Blvd exit and then go South/West onto McCaslin. At the intersection of McCaslin and Marshall, take a right onto Marshall Road. Marshall will eventually intersect with Eldorado Springs Drive. Take a left onto Eldorado Springs Drive. About two miles down the road, you'll find the South Mesa Trailhead on the right. The South Mesa Trailhead is a part of the Boulder County Open Space and requires a daily parking fee, or an annual pass. I went online and bought an annual parking pass through the Open Space website. This gives you access to all the southern fee parking areas as well as the parking areas on Flagstaff Mountain. There are restrooms at the trailhead but not potable water.

The Hike: South Boulder Peak

If you study a map of the South Mesa area, you'll notice that it's a complex network of trails. Tis is great for exploring the mesa, but when summiting a peak, you'll want to preserve as much energy as possible by taking the most direct route. The first trail choice presents itself after crossing the bridge over small bridge that spans Boulder Creek.
Boulder Creek at South Mesa Trailhead with willow trees arching over the creek

We took the Homestead Trail, a 1.3 mile segment to a connector segment of the Mesa Trail. It will be marked "Mesa Trail" and have an arrow pointing left to the Shadow Canyon Trail and Right to the Towhee Trail. The way to South Boulder Peak will be to head left toward Shadow Canyon. During this first segment, you'll gain great views down into the entrance of Eldorado Canyon .

sunrise view from south mesa into eldorado canyon pink rock and green rolling meadows

The first 0.4-mile segment of the Shadow Canyon South Trail is gradual. At any of the other trail intersections keep taking those marked "Shadow Canyon." Eventually, the trail leads into a densely wooded ravine where an old cabin is tucked away in the undergrowth

old cabin in shadow canyon on the way up to bear peak near boulder colorado

You'll know when you've entered Shadow Canyon because the trail becomes steep and demanding. It's more humid, too, so the rock can get slippery. Be mindful of your steps and prepared to ascend over a mile of fairly rugged terrain.

sign for trail split shadow canyon to bear peak and wildflowers in foreground

Shadow canyon is an access point for a prominent rock formation, Devils Thumb. Seasonal closures (see photo below) protect nesting raptors. Be sure to stay out of this area from Feb. 1st to July 31st. The Shadow Canyon Trail is not closed during this time, but refrain from going off-trail or taking social trails in the closure area during these periods.

devils thumb along shadow canyon trail with closure sign at bottom left of photo

The trail pops out of the canyon onto saddle between South Boulder Peak and Bear Peak. The first thing you'll notice is a burn area that stretches all the way to the top of South Boulder Peak. It's the result of the 2012 Flagstaff fire.

burn area on saddle above shadow canyon and below south boulder peak

At the saddle ridge, another trail sign notes the way to South Boulder Peak, a 0.3 mile trail climbs to the summit. You'll notice that the trail to the right leads the same distance to Bear Peak.

sign for trail split on saddle between bear peak and south boulder peak

At points, the trail becomes difficult to discern and requires a little bit of bouldering to make it to the top. Whenever I'm in these rocky segments, I try to be mindful of those behind me. It's easy to inadvertently cause a rock to shift and tumble toward the hikers below. Most of the rock is stable, but it's smart to be aware as you navigate these kinds of areas.

view along approach to south boulder peak summit to the Northwest with Longs Peak mountain in distance

The pink granite summit offers 360 degree panoramic views (see the video below).

view out to front range mountains near indian peaks from the summit of South boulder peak

You can also see the summit of Bear Peak just 0.6-mile to the Northeast. If you want to summit Bear Peak, be sure to review our Bear Peak Hike Profile.

Rocky Trail between South Boulder Peak and Bear Peak

From the summit of South Boulder Peak your options are to 1) Descend via the approach route (7.4 miles round trip), 2) Summit Bear Peak and return via the approach route (8 miles total), or 3) Summit Bear Peak and return via Fern Canyon (approx. 8.7 miles). It's important to know that the descent into Fern Canyon is more demanding than the return via Shadow Canyon. For the loop route via Fern Canyon, explore our Bear Peak Trail Profile.

Tips & Resources for Hiking to South Boulder Peak

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Hiker on summit of bear peak near boulder colorado

Bear Peak Near Boulder

Bear Peak is a demanding 7.4-mile hike (round trip) through the broad meadows of South Mesa, up through the rocky trail of shadow canyon, to the granite summit with sweeping 360 degree views of the Colorado Front Range. You can summit South Boulder Peak on your way and make a loop hike out of your adventure by returning via Fern Canyon. Explore the full Bear Peak hike profile below for the trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure near Boulder, Colorado.

Bear Peak Trail Snapshot

Parking & Trailhead Information for Bear Peak

south mesa trailhead with sign near boulder hike for bear peak

Access to Bear Peak is from the South Mesa Trailhead off of Eldorado Springs Drive just South of Boulder. From Denver, drive North on interstate 25 to 36 toward Boulder. Take the McCaslin Blvd exit and then go South/West onto McCaslin. At the intersection of McCaslin and Marshall, take a right onto Marshall Road. Marshall will intersect with Eldorado Springs Drive. Here, take a left onto Eldorado Springs Drive. About two miles down the road, you'll find the South Mesa Trailhead on your right. The South Mesa Trailhead is a part of the Boulder County Open Space and requires a daily parking fee, or an annual pass. I went online and bought an annual parking pass through the Open Space website. This gives you access to all the southern fee parking areas as well as the parking areas on Flagstaff Mountain. There are restrooms at the trailhead.

The Hike: Bear Peak

From the South Mesa Trailhead, the trail leads across a small bridge spanning over Boulder Creek. Willow trees arch over the stream making it worth a short pause to take in the sounds of water before you set off across the meadows of South Mesa. There are many trail options, but the most direct is to take the Homestead Trail, which heads West across a gentle grade toward Shadow Canyon.

bridge across creek with bear peak and flatirons in distance trail for bear peak hike

This first mile or so of the hike is easy and offers stunning views of the Flatirons and views of the entrance of Eldorado Canyon. An old stone building, part of an early homestead is the first marker you'll pass early in the hike.

old stone building along south mesa homestead trail on hike to bear creek

After about 1.3 miles, the trail will split. Take the left (West) trail, which leads to the South Shadow Canyon Trail. After about a 1/2 mile, you'll encounter a 2nd trail split. The Shadow Canyon Trail will again bear to the left and begin heading up steeper terrain.

bear peak lit by sunrise south of boulder colorado

As the trail ascends, you soon leave the meadow and enter into more dense ponderosa pine forest. The vegetation in the understory grows tall and green at the entrance to the canyon. You'll see another cabin with a metal roof (pictured below). Soon past the cabin will be another important trail juncture. Again, the trail up Shadow Canyon will bear left (West).

old cabin in shadow canyon on the way up to bear peak near boulder colorado

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Once in Shadow Canyon, the trail now becomes much more steep and requires navigating over rock and tree roots. This segment of the trail traveling up through the canyon is over a mile, so be ready for a steady and demanding climb.

sign for trail split shadow canyon to bear peak and wildflowers in foreground

The canyon is an access route for Devils Thumb, a prominent rock formation along this ridge. There are seasonal closures (see photo below) because of nesting raptors. Be sure to stay out of this area from Feb. 1st to July 31st. You are welcome to stay on the Shadow Canyon trail--it's not closed during this time--but refrain from going off-trail or taking social trails during this time up to Devils Thumb.

sign for area closure in shadow canyon on way up to bear peak near boulder

Eventually, the trail emerges from the canyon onto the saddle between South Boulder Peak and Bear Peak. This area is marked by a burn area, and in the late summer, raspberry plants grow trailside full of ripe berries. The burn was ignited by lightning in June of 2012. Named the Flagstaff Fire, it consumed about 300 acres before being contained by firefighters.

above shadow canyon looking down into canyon from a burn area on the saddle between south boulder peak and bear peak in the flatirons

Another trail sign notes the way to Bear Peak, a 0.3 mile trail segment curving North up the back of the summit.
sign for trail split on saddle between bear peak and south boulder peak

You'll notice more burn area on the left (West) side of the trail. The rock on the trail becomes increasingly brittle as you go, so be aware of those hiking below you and be sure to hike on the most secure and durable surfaces.

trail through burn area leading up to bear peak in the flatirons near boulder colorado

The final segment requires a scramble along about 25 yards of angled rock. Take your time and scope out the safest route to the summit. Most peaks along the Front Range have broad tops, but Bear Peak is tapered to a point. Several USGS markers are set into the rock (I think I counted 3--which is unusual). The views are great, both to the East and to the mountains in the West.

View from Bear Peak Near Boulder Colorado Orange granite peak looking down toward rolling green and trees landscape

There are two options for the return hike: 1) to hike the 3.7 miles back through Shadow Canyon, retracing the same trails, or 2) to make a loop out of the hike by descending via Fern Canyon (about 4.7-mile return). The rest of this profile will follow the Fern Canyon to Mesa Trail return.

trail sign at split just below the summit of bear peak pointing to fern canyon

A sign marking the trail down Fern Canyon is located right at the base of Bear Peak (where the trail turns into a scramble up the summit). The descent into Fern Canyon is very steep and the rock is very loose. Hikers will also encounter people making their way up the trail, so be sure to move off to the side and grant right-of-way to hikers who are doing the harder work of ascending the trail. I would not recommend hiking up to Bear Peak from this route because the trail is way more demanding than the Shadow Canyon approach.

descent trail that is very steep and rocky leading down into fern canyon from bear peak in the flatirons

After about 1/2 of a mile descending this steep saddle, the trail will bear right (East) into Fern Canyon via a series of switchbacks. Eventually, the trail will emerge from Fern Canyon back onto the more gentle slopes of South Mesa. Look for signs for the Mesa Trail, and follow them South back to the South Mesa Trailhead.

mesa trailhead sign below flatirons near boulder colorado

The hike back on the Mesa Trail travels in and out of the shade of Ponderosa pines and along the pink and orange Flatiron mountains that make this area so spectacular. We took the Upper Bluestem trail to some small connector trails leading back to the trailhead. Another approach is stay on the Mesa Trail (see map) until it connects back to the Homestead Trail.

meadows and ponderosa pine along mesa trail in the south mesa area of the flatirons south of boulder colorado with the flatirons in the background

Tips & Resources for Hiking to Bear Peak

  • Hiking with Your Dog: Though dogs are allowed on leash, and I've encountered people hiking with their dogs on the trails up to Bear Peak, I wouldn't put Bear Peak on the dog-friendly list because of the steep rock at the summit summit and the difficulty of the terrain leading up through the canyons.
  • TIP: Be ready for a hike that is really demanding on your legs, especially the descent through Fern or Shadow Canyon. Trekking poles would be helpful on the descent.
  • TIP: Hike to South Boulder Peak. It adds just 0.6 mile to your trip.
  • Trail Map: Bear Peak Map from South Mesa Trailhead
  • 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 Cafe: Walnut Cafe in Boulder
  • After the Hike Brewery: Sanitas Brewing Company

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long lake in indian peaks wilderness colorado clouds and blue sky with jagged moutnains, evergreen trees and lake

Long Lake Loop in Indian Peaks

Long Lake offers an easy 1.5 mile loop hike in Indian Peaks Wilderness. Located about 1 hour West of Boulder, Colorado, Long Lake is an easy-to-access alpine lake with stunning scenery. It's a popular spot, especially in the Summer months, so be sure to read the details on access fees and the notes below on the Long Lake Trailhead. Explore the full trail profile for trail maps, driving directions to Long Lake and more.

Long Lake in Indian Peaks - Trail Snapshot

Parking & Trailhead Information for Long Lake Loop

Note: This trailhead can only be reached by using Brainard Lake Road, which has seasonal closures. Because the Brainard Lake Recreation area is extremely popular, this entrance road experiences high amounts of traffic during weekends on the Summer. See the USFS page for details. For Brainard Lake Road closure status, see the Boulder Ranger District roads page.

From Boulder, Colorado, head North on US36/28th Street. Take a left onto Lee Hill Road. Lee Hill Road will dead-end at an intersection with Left-Hand Canyon Road. Take a left onto Left-Hand Canyon Road heading West. Eventually, Left-Hand Canyon Road will turn into Indiana Gulch Road and will turn into Utica Road upon entering the town of Ward, Colorado. Utica turns into Nelson Road (lots of name changes on this trip) then ends at an intersection with 72/Peak to Peak Highway. Take a right onto 72, then the almost immediate next turn will be on your left for the Brainard Lake Road. Travel on Brainard Lake Road 2.2 miles to the entry station where you will need to pay the fee for the recreation area. As you approach the lake, bear right to continue on the Brainard Lake Road for another 1/2 mile, then turn right onto Mitchell lake Road. Go less than 1/10th of a mile, then turn left onto Long Lake Road. After about 1/3 of a mile, you will have arrived at the Long Lake Trailhead and parking area.

In the winter, the Brainard Lake Recreation area is a popular snowshoeing and cross-country skiing destination. However, all parking is at the Brainard Lake Gateway Trailhead (near the access gate). It is approx. 4-miles one-way from the Brainard Lake Gateway Trailhead to the Long-Lake Trailhead.

The Hike: Long Lake Loop Hike

From the Long Lake Trailhead, it's an easy and short 0.3-mile hike to Long Lake. Returning via this trail makes this a 0.6-mile out-and-back trip. However, to really take in the best of the Rocky Mountain Scenery, we recommend doing the full 1.5-mile loop.

Having reached the northeastern edge of Long Lake, head south over a footbridge and pick up the Jean Lunning Trail. The Jean Lunning trail travels alongside the southern perimeter of Long Lake and offers stunning views of the jagged mountain peaks surrounding the lake. Eventually, the Jean Lunning trail will intersect with the Pawnee Pass Trail. Take a right on the Pawnee Pass trail to head east and back to the short connector trail that leads back to the trailhead.

long lake brainard lake recreation area

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shanahan ridge loop trail near boulder header

Shanahan Ridge Hike Near Boulder

The Shanahan Ridge Loop Hike is an easy, 4-mile lollipop-loop trail with stunning views of the Shanahan Ridge of the Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado. Explore the full Shanahan Ridge Loop hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this hike in Boulder.

Trail Snapshot: Shanahan Ridge Loop Trail in Boulder, Colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Shanahan Ridge Loop Trail

The Shanahan Ridge Trailhead is located just along Lehigh Street south of Boulder. From US 36, follow Table Mesa Drive West to its intersection with CO 93. Turn left onto 93 and follow it for less than a mile. Turn right onto Greenbriar Boulevard which eventually becomes Lehigh Street. The trailhead is on the left/southwest side of the road and marked by a trail post and trash receptacle. There is actually no parking lot because the trailhead is located in a residential area. Because of this please exercise extra care and respect for the residents as you park along Lehigh or adjacent streets. Be aware of city parking signage.

The Hike: Shanahan Ridge Loop Trail

The Shanahan Ridge loop is best hiked clockwise in order to gain the best views of the Flatirons and surrounding countryside. Going left on the first junction will take you onto a connector trail that will next intersect with the South Fork Shanahan Trail. This trail begins with a gradual ascent which becomes more demanding. If you are acclimatized to the altitude and hike a fair amount, you'll find this segment easy; but beginner hikers and those of us who are not in the best of shape will find this a moderately demanding trail.

Continue on the South Fork Shanahan Trail for about 1.8 miles as it weaves through ponderosa forest and opens out to captivating vistas of the Flatirons. The trail will terminate at a junction with the Mesa Trail. Follow this trail North (right) as it winds along the base of the Shanahan Ridge of the Flatirons.

red rock of shanahan ridge flatirons area outside of boulder colorado

After approximately a 1/2 mile on the Mesa trail, it will intersect with the North Fork Shanahan Trail. Taking a right onto the North Fork Shanahan leads backdownhill for about 1.3 miles to the trailhead.

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

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Shanahan Ridge Loop

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