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.

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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.

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

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Fallen Timbers Loop

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

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

Petrified Forest Hike at Florissant Fossil Beds

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

Trail Snapshot: Petrified Forest Loop at Florissant Fossil Beds

visitor center entrance at florissant fossil beds national monument in colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

The Scenic Drive Option

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

Directions Via Interstate 25

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

Visitor Center and Trailhead

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

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

The Hike: Petrified Forest Hike

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

Petrified Forest Loop

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

winding trail across meadow at florissant fossil beds in colorado

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

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

The Ponderosa Loop

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

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

baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Petrified Forest at Florissant

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

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

Ute Valley Park Loop in Colorado Springs

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

Trail Snapshot: Ute Valley Park

Parking & Trailhead Information for Ute Valley Park

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

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

The Hike: Ute Valley Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tips & Resources for Hiking Ute Valley Park

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lakeshore at palmer lake in palmer lake colorado with willows and cottonwoods and frosted front range mountains in background along santa fe trail hike

Santa Fe Regional Trail in Palmer Lake

The Santa Fe Regional Trail begins in Palmer Lake, Colorado, about 1 hour South of Denver. It's an easy trail with 17 miles from Palmer Lake to Colorado Springs along the old path of the Santa Fe Railroad. Explore the full Santa Fe Regional Trail hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this hike or bike adventure near Colorado Springs.

Trail Snapshot: Santa Fe Regional Trail

Parking & Trailhead Information: Santa Fe Regional Trail

From Denver, take Interstate 25 south through Castle Rock and Larkspur, exiting onto County Line Road/Palmer Divide Road at exit 163, taking a right onto County Line Road. Stay on County Line Road for about 2.5 miles. Just before crossing the railroad tracks, the entrance to Palmer Lake Regional Recreation Area will be on your left. You'll see a sign and the first parking area. Drive past this parking lot to the larger lot. Here, at this south lot, you'll find restrooms, a playground, and the trailhead for the Santa Fe Regional Trail.

The Hike: Santa Fe Regional Trail

The Santa Fe Regional Trail begins in Palmer Lake and runs South for 17 miles where it merges with the Pikes Peak Greenway Trail. Because the trail follows the railroad grade of an abandoned railroad line, its relatively level, descending about 900 feet on its 17 mile course into Colorado Springs. This makes for a nice family bike ride, especially if you take two cars and drop a shuttle car off at the Edmondson Trailhead on the northern end of Colorado Springs. Here's a map link of both trailheads , and a link to the Edmondson Trailhead with driving directions from Denver.

santa fe train in palmer lake with lake in background along santa fe trail hike

North Trail Segment

In Palmer Lake, you have North and South hiking options. You can go North via the Santa Fe to Greenland Trail Link to pick up the Greenland Trail which winds through the wild green meadows and towering buttes south of Larkspur. That stretch from Palmer Lake to the Greenland Open Space Trailhead is 5.4 miles.

hay bales and cottonwood trails near palmer lake along santa fe trail hike

South Trail Segment

The South Trail segment of the Santa Fe Regional Trail runs through Palmer Lake and the town of Monument. Just south of Baptist Road the trail enters the Air Force Academy and runs parallel for a while with interstate 25. Then the trail makes a hard bend to the west, taking hikers and bikers away from the noise of the roads and winding
through into the draw of Monument Creek. It then bends its way behind (West of) the Air Force Academy airfield. This segment gives visitors a unique view of the Academy seen by few people. The trail then exits the Academy and enters the City of Colorado Springs. Just south of the Edmondson Trailhead, the Santa Fe Regional Trail merges onto the Pikes Peak Greenway.

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Map to Santa Fe Regional Trailhead


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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crags hike spires of pink granite with snowcapped mountains in background and pine trees in foreground

Crags Hike Near Colorado Springs

The Crags Trail takes hikers up a 2-mile gradual hike to the the dramatic granite pinnacles on the shoulders of Pikes Peak to take in views of snowcapped peaks. A shaded creekside hike great for families and out-of-town guests, the Crags shows off summer wildflowers in mountain meadows. Explore the full Crags hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and more tips and details to help you enjoy this adventure in the Pikes Peak region.

Trail Snapshot: The Crags near Colorado Springs

Parking & Trailhead Information for The Crags

From Denver, you can get to the Crags by driving a direct route via I25 and HWY 24 or you can take a more Scenic Route through the foothills on 67.

The Direct Route

Take interstate 25 south to Colorado Springs, exit at 141 onto US 24 West. You'll drive for about 25 miles into the mountains and through the small town of Divide. Turn left/south onto Hwy 67. Signs should point the way to Mueller State park, which is also on this stretch of road. Just after the entrance to Mueller (on the left), the road you need for the Crags is on the left, CO RD 62. Taking a left onto 62, and drive for about 3 miles. The parking area for the Crags will be on the right side of the road and the trail will start on the left side of the road. Note that this last segment of road is improved dirt road, so the quality of the drive will depend on the current conditions, and may require 4WD in the Winter months.

The Scenic Route

From Denver, take Hwy 285 South toward Pine Junction. Take a left onto Pine Valley road. Here your journey becomes scenic and the roads curvy. Pay close attention while driving and be prepared for the drive to take longer than the 2 hours and 15 minutes posted by mapping software. You'll have some beautiful segments in here, especially the drive along the South Platte River. Cell service is spotty out here, so I always recommend having on hand the Colorado Gazetteer Map printed by DeLorme. The Road changes names to Deckers Road when it passes through the Buffalo Creek area. Eventually, it Deckers road will weave its way down into Deckers. There is a small restaurant here where we've stopped for ice cream. In Deckers, you'll continue straight (south) on 67, passing through Westcreek, until it ends at a stoplight in Woodland Park. Go right at the light, West on 24, until you come again to Hwy 67 just outside of Divide. Then follow the directions above on 67 to the Crags Trailhead.

The Hike: The Crags

This is my favorite hike in the Pikes Peak Region because it's relatively easy, shows off a variety of landscapes, and has incredible views at the top. The trail starts off at the end of the Crags Campground loop and follows the drainage of Fourmile creek. Early on, hikers will come to a fork in the trail. The left-side branch is a more demanding hike, gaining elevation more quickly and has less shade. This trail profile will follow the right-branch, which is more gradual and offers more shade than the left branch. The left branch and right branch can be connected via a scramble at the top to form a loop trail. If taking this route, be aware of the conditions (snow and ice accumulate October through June). Scrambling is fun, but it's also easy to find yourself in a difficult and dangerous circumstance.

trail at sunset at the crags near colorado springs hike with purple clouds and evergreen trees in background

Taking the right branch, the trail will follow alongside Fourmile creek through evergreens and aspens until it opens out into a broad valley surrounded by orange and pink granite cliffs. Wildflowers, like the Indian Paintbrush, bloom in these meadows during the summer months. An interesting fact about Indian Paintbrush: the "flowers" are actually its leaves and there are oranges, reds, and even yellow types of this plant in Colorado.

indian paintbrush red wildflowers on the crags trail hike near colorado springs

In the valley, the trail will come to another fork. The main route goes straight up a gradual ascent to the crags and the right-branch is more steep, leading to another vista point. Continuing on the main route, the trail makes its way up gentle slopes, the grassy terrain giving way to cubic granite rock.

trail along the crags hike near colorado springs with hiker and dog below on trail and sunlit rock formation above cliffs in top of photo

The pink and orange granite pinnacles come into view and the ground eventually opens up to a broad area where hikers gain views of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains in the south, of Pikes Peak, and Mueller State Park. This hike is great for families, but do keep a close eye on children as the rock gives way to steep segments of cliffs at the edges.

crags rock formations of pink granite on crags trail near colorado springs

I'm not sure what the locals have named this formation pictured below, but I think of it as the Twin Bears, because it looks like a couple bears sitting on their haunches taking in the views.

twin bears rock formation at the crags hike near colorado springs

I considered grading this an easy hike because the trail is so gradual, the total elevation gain is under 1000 feet. However, those who are hiking with kids or out-of-town guests, should consider it more moderate because it's almost 5 miles total and does gain 800 feet. It makes for a perfect picnic hike with friends.

hiker looking toward mountains on rock formation at crags trail near colorado springs

If hiking in the later hours of the day, it's important to know that because most of the hike is in the folds of the mountain, it gets dark quickly. I always pack my headlamp, but it's especially relevant if you are hiking during these hours.

rock pinnacles at the crags hike near colorado springs pink and orange granite with evergreen trees in foreground

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

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