Eleven Mile State Park Interpretive Trail

Eleven Mile State Park feels like the proverbial "hidden in plain sight" gem. Situated off the commonly traveled Highway 24 between Colorado Springs and Buena Vista, this loop hike blesses visitors with uncommon beauty. Trekking around the 3.5+ mile trail serves up a superb buffet of Colorado's classic outdoors: aspen and evergreen forests, meadows, rocky crags, vistas of mountain ranges, and a shoreline. Rarely do trails achieve a true "all-year" rating, but this loop qualifies. This hike near Denver could function as an along-the-way pit stop or a destination in itself, perfect for a swift pace or a lingering stroll with the family. Explore the full Eleven Mile State Park hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this treasure outside Lake George, CO.

Trail Snapshot: Eleven Mile State Park Loop

eleven mile coyote ridge trailhead

Parking & Trailhead Information for Eleven Mile State Park

Cruising south out of Denver on I-25, take Exit 141 for Highway 24 West. Just barely outside of Lake George, turn left onto County Road 90 and go four miles -- here the pavement will curve left onto County Road 92. After about 5.5 miles on CR-92, look for the Coyote Ridge sign indicating a left-hand turn. Follow this road for 1/2-mile to the parking lot. (Alternately, following Highway 285 South out of Denver, pick up CR-9 South at Fairplay to Highway 24 East at Harstel. On Highway 24, just beyond the gorgeous Wilkerson Pass, look for CR-90 on the right. This is a graded gravel road that will intersect with CR-92, as described above.)

The Hike: Eleven Mile State Park Loops

One of the many reasons to plan a trip here is the Coyote Ridge Interpretive Trail, one of four loops. At less than 1.5 miles in length, it offers a family a fun exploratory and engaging getaway. The recommended route takes advantage of the best of each smaller, individual loop (Ponderosa, Aspen, Midland, Black Bear). Going clockwise from the parking lot brings hikers through crags, meadows, forests, ridges, and the spectacular shoreline. Spring brings flowers, summer the bluebird skies; in autumn it bursts with golden aspens, winter the arresting contrast of snow and rock, evergreen and ice.

dog on leash at coyote ridge

Joining up with the trail on the north side of the parking lot, the route heads up and onto slickrock terraces dotted with pines. Even this early in the hike views break open into the meadow and onto the water. After 1/3-mile, a right-hand turn at the juncture leads the Ponderosa Trail past a small stand of trees, then quickly encounters another juncture, this one with the Aspen Trail. The route continues on for another 1/3-mile to the next juncture, where the trail turns right, joining the longer Midland Trail.

midland trail sign

Trail sign at Aspen and Midland Trail juncture

Crossing a faded service road and passing by an old cattle corral, the route slowly rolls into the wetland meadow before rising gently to enter an evergreen and aspen forest. Throughout the forest, vistas of distant mountain ranges punctuate the trail to the hiker's right. At approximately the two mile mark, the trail crosses the service road again and begins descending toward the shoreline. Within 1/3-mile a lookout point trail branches off to the left (south) where those with time and a desire to soak in the sun can rest overlooking the water. (Note: the lookout trail is a mere 1/10-mile one-way.) Turning back northwest, the trail arrives at the Black Bear Trail options. Here, pay attention to signs with the "hiker" symbol for guidance on the route's flow. Consider also using this interactive trail map (Eleven Mile State Park Loops) for more precision than the state park PDF map.

sign with hiker symbol

Trail sign with Hiker symbol

If at any point the Black Bear Trail loops feel complex, realize that they simply give hikers a choice to either scamper along the shore or journey inland. Both pass through a handful of tempting camp sites...plan far ahead to secure a spot! Once back on the main Midland Trail around the three mile mark, the route hugs the shore while looking back over the wetland meadow to the east. A well-timed hike can catch the sunrise or sunset with broad, open views for either. Reaching the north edge of the shore signals that barely 1/10-mile remains before reaching the parking lot.

midland trail along shore

Midland Trail nearing return to trailhead

Tips & Resources for Hiking Eleven Mile State Park

  • TIP: Other than a small general store, supplies are limited. Be sure you have plenty of water and food with you.
  • TIP: Familiarize yourself with the various trail junctions that intersect in this area. Wooden signs mark the junctures, but from time to time the weather (or wildlife!) can disrupt the signage.
  • Trail Map: Eleven Mile State Park Loops
  • 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: Regardless if this happens as an along-the-way pit stop or a destination, take heed: there's not much around for food! Depending on the day, consider Honey Badger's Mountain Grill (note carefully their open/closed hours), or simply plan to pick up something in Woodland Park, CO. And remember, the remote location is a good thing!

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Mt. Buckhorn hike near Colorado Springs

The Mt. Buckhorn Hike, taking the shape of what hikers often call a "lollipop loop," forms the bridge between the Section 16 hike and the Seven Bridges & Kineo Mountain hike.

As with those hikes, the surprising aspect is its immediacy -- within minutes of turning off the highway the trailhead appears. And if parking has filled, other options await in the vicinity. Explore the full Mt. Buckhorn Hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this year-round adventure just south of Denver.

Trail Snapshot: Mt. Buckhorn Lollipop Loop

 
rock formation mount buckhorn

The horns of Mt. Buckhorn

Parking & Trailhead Information for Section 16 Trail

From Denver, cruising south on I-25, take exit 141 for Highway 24 West. After approximately 1.5 miles, turn left (south) onto 21st Street, and then shortly thereafter, right (west) onto Lower Gold Camp Road. Turning left at the 4-way stop (junction with Bear Creek Road), the Bear Creek Canyon pullout parking trailhead appears on the left just prior to the 3-way junction with a bend of Gold Camp Road. This parking lot offers head-in spots and fills fast; other pullout parking lots dot the road before and after this one.

The Hike: Mt. Buckhorn Lollipop Loop Hike

Leaving the parking lot, continuing toward the junction with Gold Camp Road, the route joins High Drive. High Drive meanders up into the backcountry past split-rail fences, over rock bridges, and through wide slot canyons. At approximately the 1-mile mark, less than 1/4-mile past the Section 16 Hike trail junction, the junction for the ominously named Trail 666 branches off to the right.

Mt. buckhorn trail junction 666

Mt. Buckhorn trail junction off of High Drive

Over the next 1.5 miles, Trail 666 traces the valley wall, gracing hikers with unobstructed views of the basin below, crags on the opposite valley wall, and view of Colorado Springs in the rearview mirror. After ascending nearly 1,000ft, the route meets the junction with Trail 776. Taking a sharp left, Trail 776 tugs toward a 180-degree turn up the valley slope.

trail 776 junction toward Buckhorn

The sharp junction of Trails 666 and 776

Now as the trail levels, more vistas break open to hikers' delight. Approximately 1/2-mile up the trail, another key junction helps guide the backcountry adventurer. Trail 776 (aka Buckhorn Trail) crosses paths with Trail 667 (Upper Captain Jack's Trail). Here one finds the connecting point to the Seven Bridges & Kineo Mountain hike. Staying slightly left by joining Trail 667, the route moves further into the backcountry and a stunning new valley. At the end of the elevation shelf, approximately 1/3-mile ahead, those with energy and gumption can trek to the top of Mt. Buckhorn. This adds about 1/2-mile total to the hike.

off-route trail to Mt. Buckhorn

Unmarked trail to top of Mt. Buckhorn

Continuing along Trail 667, the route begins its steady descent to meet up again with High Drive, but at a different juncture. At High Drive, a broad open space with signage and fencing, the lollipop loop turns left down the wide High Drive road and rolls 1.5-miles back to where Trail 666 first appeared. (Note carefully that Trail 667 (Captain Jack's) crosses over High Drive and resumes climbing up the facing ridge. Taking the trail, instead of High Drive, will pull hikers far into the backcountry and away from the originating parking pullout.)

High Drive and Captain Jack's

High Drive descends to left, Captain Jack's (Trail 667) ascends past the sign

The last part of the Mt. Buckhorn lollipop loop hike simply follows High Drive all the way. Generally staying straight, with a couple hard curves along the way, the trail flows back down and out approximately 2.5 miles to the parking pullout.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Mt. Buckhorn near Colorado Springs

creek crossing bridge along Trail 666

Creek Crossing along Trail 666

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Seven Bridges to Kineo Mountain Loop

Immensely popular in the summer, the Seven Bridges trail beckons hikers up and across North Cheyenne Creek multiple times, meandering by and over tumbling creek waterfalls. The route described below launches from the Seven Bridges trail out onto a loop around Kineo Mountain, reaching a connection point with the Mt. Buckhorn hike. These two loops, along with the Section 16 hike, create opportunity for a longer figure-8 adventure, or even a double-helix hike for those wanting an all-day excursion.

Due to its easily accessible trailhead, crowds are common -- those wanting a simpler, quieter experience aim for an early morning start or a winter hike. Depending on recent weather in winter months, traction may be required, but the frozen waterfalls, snow-laden evergreens, and shimmering valley views make it worth it. Explore the full Seven Bridges to Kineo Mountain Hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this year-round adventure just south of Denver.

bridge Cheyenne creek

Ridge ascent after crossing Bridge #7 along Cheyenne Creek

Trail Snapshot: Seven Bridges to Kineo Mountain Loop

 

Parking & Trailhead Information for Seven Bridges Trail

From Denver, cruising south on I-25, take exit 140 for Tejon Street. After turning right onto Tejon, curve slightly right through the traffic circle to jump onto Cheyenne Blvd. In 2.5 miles, stay right and begin the ascent up North Cheyenne Canyon Road. About 3 miles up the road a large dirt parking lot sits at the junction of Cheyenne Canyon Road, Gold Camp Road, and High Drive (gated). (Note: just prior to reaching this junction, daytime sightseers can stop at Helen Hunt Falls.) The Seven Bridges parking lot fills fast and sometimes attracts unscrupulous thieves, so we recommend going early and placing valuables securely out of sight.

The Hike: Seven Bridges to Kineo Mountain Loop

The trail commences at the far end of the parking lot, beyond a stout gate, heading up the decommissioned section of Gold Camp Road. At about 3/4-mile, the road crosses North Cheyenne Creek and immediately after, on the left, appears the Seven Bridges Trail (#662) junction.

seven bridges trail junction 662

Seven Bridges Trail junction off of Gold Camp Road

Over the next 1/4-mile, Trail 662 follows the creek, crossing it seven times. This short stint offers nearly endless opportunities to stop, listen, marvel and wonder. After Bridge #7, the trail steepens considerably as it stretches toward its junction with the overlapping Jones Park (#701) / Kineo Mountain / Captain Jack's (#667) trails. Just under 1.5 miles ahead, a bypass trail curves off to the right, marked by bright fuchsia blazes. Taking this bypass reduces the total hike lengthy by approximately 3/4-mile. If staying straight to reach the multi-trail junction, continue for another 1/4-mile along the creek and then turn sharply right onto Trail 701/667. The route levels and lingers along the backcountry ridge through evergreen and aspens, providing respite from the steady ascent.

trail signage for Kineo

Signage shortly after taking the Trail 701/667 turn

Now the joyful task is simply plodding along a valley ridge for about 2.5 miles, up to the connection with the Mt. Buckhorn hike trail. The route weaves in and out of trees, punctuating the hike with vistas of the trail hiked 2.5 miles ago, etched into the opposite valley wall.

Kineo trail etched into valley wall

Looking back onto a completed portion of the Kineo Mountain trail

After the junction with Bear Creek Trail (#666), the Kineo Mountain loop continues by swinging back right, down the slope onto Trail 776 (Buckhorn Trail). Following this for about 1 mile, another bypass greets hikers on the left, permitting them to quickly regain Gold Camp Road and stroll back to the parking lot.

kineo mountain loop

Ridgeline turn along Kineo Mountain loop

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Seven Bridges to Kineo Mountain Loop

  • TIP: Parking fills fast, but an early start helps noticeably. Once back to the vehicle after the hike, a drive down Gold Camp Road cruises through chiseled tunnels and by more trailheads, used by hikers and bikers alike. Please note: this stretch of road is maintained but not paved and has several narrow turns. Do not drive this return route unless accustomed to mountain driving.
  • Trail Map: Seven Bridges to Kineo Mountain Hike
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get the list and dayhiking packing checklist. Additionally, take some time to review our 10 Winter Hiking Tips.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: A local favorite, Wild Goose Meeting House (or their counterpart, Good Neighbors Meeting House), captures the essence of downtown COS. Grab a craft coffee and chef-level dish, or later in the day, a local beer on tap. For unique local fare, consider Edelweiss, a Old World treat.

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Section 16 Hike near Manitou Springs

Nestled between Manitou Springs on the west and Colorado Springs on the east, the Manitou Section 16 Open Space overlaps with the Red Rock Canyon Open Space to the north, just off Highway 24. Both of these systems connect to two other regional parks, creating a massive complex of trails that delights hikers of all ages and abilities. This route follows three trails through two territories for one heckuva hike! For the eager, this route can be augmented with the Mt. Buckhorn hike, and even the Seven Bridges & Kineo Mountain hike for the all-day trekker.

The surprising aspect of this Section 16 hike is its immediacy -- within minutes of turning off the highway the trailhead appears. Within minutes of leaving the trailhead the cityscape disappears. Even better, this hike delights hikers in all seasons: the new growth of spring, the full blossom of summer, the changing colors of fall, and the magically reflective light of winter's snow. Explore the full Section 16 Hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this year-round adventure just south of Denver.

Trail Snapshot: Section 16 Trail

 
moon and sunrise on the mountain on section 16 hike near colorado springs

The moon illuminates High Drive near the trail junction for Section 16 Hike

Parking & Trailhead Information for Section 16 Trail

From Denver, cruising south on I-25, take exit 141 for Highway 24 West. After approximately 1.5 miles, turn left (south) onto 21st Street, and then shortly thereafter, right (west) onto Lower Gold Camp Road. Staying straight through the 4-way stop (junction with Bear Creek Road), the Palmer Red Rock (Section 16 Open Space) trailhead is just under one mile up on the right. This parking lot offers about a dozen head-in spots and fills fast; another pullout parking lot is available up the road on the left.

Section 16 parking lot Trailhead

Section 16 Trailhead

The Hike: Section 16 Trail in Red Rock Canyon Open Space

While many hikers jump straight into the trek by ascending the stairs at the trailhead, taking a counter-clockwise tack, the following notes describe a clockwise path. This direction provides a spectacular viewing angle on Pike's Peak, and positions hikers for a fun descent through the trees at the end.

Leaving the parking lot, continuing up Gold Camp Road (which actually heads southwest), the route joins High Drive after 1/4-mile just as the road turns sharply left. High Drive meanders up into the backcountry past split-rail fences, over rock bridges, and through wide slot canyons. At approximately the 1-mile mark, the junction for the Section 16 Trail branches off to the right.

Section 16 Trailhead marker

Section 16 trail junction off of High Drive

Now on Section 16 trail officially, the trail weaves in and out of forest, gently ascending toward a top elevation of nearly 7,900ft. At this point, around the 3.5 miles, watch for a connector trail shooting off to the left. For the curious, a short jaunt out and back affords sweeping views of peaks around Manitou Springs, as well as Garden of the Gods outside Colorado Springs.

trail junction along Section 16

One of many junctions along the Section 16 Trail

Staying right and beginning a descent, the Section 16 Trail continues another 3/4-mile to an excellent excursion on an unmarked overlook trail. The tributary is heavily trafficked and easy to identify: it runs straight out from the main trail just prior to a moderate lefthand descent deep into the forest and rounds of switchbacks. The overlook ridge out-and-back adds approximately 3/4-mile to the overall milage of this loop. Once at the ridge edge, the sprawling plains of Colorado Springs spread out like a carpet from the forest's edge. Turning back toward the main trail, hikers gaze on Pike's Peak, perched between two converging foothill peaks.

ridge scramble overlook

Rugged marker for a regal overlook

ridge scramble overlook Pike's

Pike's Peak graced with the moon as a crown

The last part of the Section 16 Hike loop presents hikers with multiple connector trails. Generally staying straight, the trail flows back down and out of the valley approximately 2.25 miles to the parking lot.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Section 16 in the Red Rock Canyon Open Space

Colorado Springs from Section 16 Trail

Colorado Springs viewed from the Section 16 Trail

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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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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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blodgett peak in distance on hike near colorado springs with pine trees in foreground

Blodgett Peak Hike Near Colorado Springs

Blodgett Peak requires a challenging 3.2 mile ascent through the passage of rocky canyon to the summit where hikers gain panoramic views of Pikes Peak, Rampart Reservoir, and the United States Air Force Academy. Located on the northwestern edge of Colorado Springs, Blodgett Peak is a local favorite for those looking for demanding workout or just to enjoy the 360 degree views of the plains and mountains.

Trail Snapshot: Blodgett Peak

Parking & Trailhead Information for Blodgett Peak Open Space

From Denver, take Interstate 25 South and take Exit 149 onto Woodmen Road. Continue on West Woodmen Road until for 2.4 miles, then turn left onto Orchard Valley Road. Proceed for 1.1 mile, then turn right onto West Woodmen Road again (Yes, that's the same West Woodmen road. It's a curcuit, so it wraps around). The road will bend north, and after 0.8 mile you'll see the Blodgett Peak Open Space on your left. It's a small lot, and because this is a popular trail, it fills fast on the weekends. There is a portable restroom at the trailhead. The City of Colorado Springs is developing additional parking to the south.

blodgett peak open space near beginning of trail with green foothill in background near colorado springs

The Hike: Blodgett Peak

The trail up to Blodgett Peak begins on a wide, gravel road that heads west into the foothills and up toward a watertower built into the lower flanks of the mountainside. At just over a 1/2 mile, the trail encounters a double-track path named the Hummingbird Trail. Take the Hummingbird Trail until it ends at a broad gravel space near the entrace to the canyon. The correct trail up to Blodgett Peak will be on your left. Avoid other social trails and take this more established route up into the canyon.

blodgett peak in distance on hike near colorado springs with pine trees in foreground

You'll know that you are on the right trail when, just a little ways up the trail, you see a large boulder. Here is where the trail becomes more steep and demanding. As always, it's important to stay the trail to reduce human impact, especially the erosion that can quickly damage the scree surface and drainage ecosystem of this area. The upper regions of the Blodgett Peak trail were impacted by the 2012 Waldo Canyon fire and are going to take many years to reestablish, making it that much more critical that hikers stay the trail.

usgs topo map of blodgett peak near colorado springs

This trail segment continues for about a mile then, at 2.3 miles encounters an intermittent waterfall on the left side fo teh trail. Depending on rain and snowmelt, Blodgett Falls may be dried up or a quaint but beautiful spill over about 50' of granite cliffs. Just before the waterfall, the trail up Blodgett will bear to the right taking hikers between cliffs and the boulder field.

Again, stay the trail here as you enter a wooded section (which bears to the left or to the west of the boulder field) because the boulder field has a lot of loose rock and it would be easy to inadvertently trundle rock down onto hikers below. Good friends had this happen to them on this hike several years ago.

Next, the trail crosses the intermittent stream bed again and bends to the north, where hikers will notice the scars and deadfall from the Waldo Canyon fire. Be aware that this segment has many dead trees and snags that can be toppled by the winds that run up through the canyon. The trail continues to be steep and demanding with a wall of cliffs on the left side.

view down into colorado springs along mt. blodgett peak hike near colorado springs

At 3 miles, the trail emerges from the steep canyon onto the broad southern saddle of Blodgett Peak. Keep alert because, this last segment of the trail along the saddle to the summit it littered with more deadfall and snags.

At the summit of Blodgett Peak, you'll to take in great views of Pikes Peak to the South, and Rampart Range Reservoir to the west. The Air Force Academy will be below you to the Northeast and Colorado Springs spreads itself out across the eastern plains.

Hike back down the way you came for a total hike distance of about 6.4 miles. Avoid alternative routes down the mountain as these can lead to being cliffed out or cause more damage to a landscape that's in need in of our care.

Tips & Resources for Hiking Blodgett Peak

  • Not Dog Friendly: Dogs are allowed on the lower trails at Blodgett Peak Open Space, but due to the terrain, narrow trail sections, this hike up the peak is not considere a dog-friendly hike.
  • Trekking Poles and Traction: At Blodgett Peak hikers will encounter a lot of steep terrain and scree. In the winter months, the trail can get icy and muddy in spots. Because of this, we recommend Trekking Poles. During the winter season, it's a hike that may require traction devices. I'm a huge fan of trekking poles because they take so much impact off the knees when hiking and backpacking, and allow us to navigate more demanding terrain. Check out Trekking Pole options at REI.
  • 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 Joel Tonyan and Tim Marshallfor sharing such an amazing photographs of Blodgett Peak.
  • After the Hike: Check out Arlene's Beans and Salsa in Monument.. If you are looking for a local brew, drop by Pikes Peak Brewing Company, also in Monument.

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view from the summit of mt culter hike near colorado springs with yellow granite rock and green foothill mountains

Mt. Cutler Hike in Colorado Springs

Mt. Cutler in Colorado Springs is an easy, 1-mile hike to the summit of a foothill peak that overlooks Seven Falls, the canyon system of Cheyenne Canyon, and offers panoramic views that make this hike a great option for visiting friends and family. Because it's just 2 miles out-and-back with less than 500 feet of elevation gain, this hike offers a lot of reward with less effort. Explore the full Mt. Cutler hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in Colorado Springs.

Trail Snapshot: Mt. Culter

trail sign at trailhead for mt cutler in colorado springs

Parking & Trailhead Information for Mt. Cutler

From Denver, take Interstate 25 South to Colorado Springs. Exit onto Tejon St. via Exit 140 then take a right onto S. Tejon St. Stay in the right hand lane so that you can turn right onto Cheyenne Boulevard. Follow Cheyenne Blvd. for about 2.5 miles. Here road will fork as it enters Cheyenne Canyon. Take the road to the right that leads into North Cheyenne Canyon. Proceed for about 1.5 miles until you see the Mt. Culter Trailhead roadside parking area on your left. There are no ameneties at the trailhead. The lot will fill fast on the weekends. If it is full, there are other hike options in North Cheyenne Canyon if you continue up the road to Helen Hunt Falls and to the Seven Bridges Hike that also offers a view of a small waterfall, Undine Falls.

trail up to mount cutler near colorado springs

The Hike: Mount Cutler in Cheyenne Canyon

The Mt. Culter trail begins at the blue trailhead sign as a broad path ascends on a gentle grade under the shade of pine trees. The trail passes through some deadfall, evenutally opening out to a more level area where red rock formations have been pushed up into what might otherwise be a dull landscape. Like the Royal Arch in the Flatirons and the formations in Red Rocks Canyon in Colorado Springs, these orange and red granite fins are part of a formation that begins 14,000 feet under the surface and runs almost the entire length of Coloroado.

view from mount cutler trail down into the canyon of seven falls near colorado springs

At approximately 0.8 mile, the views open up to the south, where you can look down into Seven Falls. In the Spring and after a good rain, the distant waterfall is quite stunning. To get a close up tour of the falls, you'll need to make a reservation. See our full trail profile on Seven Falls for more details.

view from the summit of mt. cutler with granite rock in foreground and foothills in background near colorado springs
The last segment of the hike to the summit of Mt. Cutler offers great views to the south and the north. At the Summit of Mt. Cutler, look to the North to take in the foothills and views down into the canyon, and to the Southeast you'll gain views out to the great plains of Colorado. Return via the same trail you hiked to the summit.

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 Mt. Cutler

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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.

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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