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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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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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.

baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes

Tips & Resources for Hiking Red Rock Canyon Open Space

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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

Tips & Resources for Hiking The Crags

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

Incline at Castle Rock

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

Trail Snapshot: Incline at Castle Rock

Parking & Trailhead Information for Incline at Castle Rock

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

The Hike: Incline at Castle Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

trail runners running loop trail at castle rock incllat sunset

Trail Etiquette at the Castle Rock Incline

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

castle rock challenge hill as sunset looking east

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

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

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

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

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Incline at Castle Rock

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

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shanahan ridge loop trail near boulder header

Shanahan Ridge Hike Near Boulder

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

Trail Snapshot: Shanahan Ridge Loop Trail in Boulder, Colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Shanahan Ridge Loop Trail

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

The Hike: Shanahan Ridge Loop Trail

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

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

red rock of shanahan ridge flatirons area outside of boulder colorado

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

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

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Shanahan Ridge Loop

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baby mountain goat on mount evans colorado more easy hikes


snow capped pikes peak in background and orange rock of garden of the gods in foreground

Garden of the Gods Ultimate Hiking Guide

Garden of the Gods is argueabley the best place to hike in Colorado Springs. Designated a National Natural Landmark, the park is known for its towering red sandstone formations and panoramic views of Pikes Peak. Hiking, Horseback riding, mountain biking, birding, and climbing are among the activities that can be enjoyed here. This guide to the Garden of the Gods features 6 different hiking trail options, spanning from easy to moderate and 1/2 mile to 2.5 mile hikes.

We've attempted to create the definitive guide to hiking in Garden of the Gods. In this guide, you'll find: Driving directions to Garden of the Gods, Trail Maps, Photography tips, Camping information for the Garden of the Gods area, and other Resources for planning your Colorado Vacation. This guide to Garden of the Gods is extensive, so we have created a table of contents to help you navigate. Have fun exploring!

Garden of the Gods Hiking Guide Contents

  1. Trail Snapshot
  2. Driving Directions
  3. Hiking Trails
  4. Central Garden Trail
  5. Ridge Trail
  6. Siamese Twins Trail
  7. Palmer Trail
  8. Scotsman & Buckskin Charlie Loops
  9. Balanced Rock Trail
  10. Photography
  11. Hiking with Kids
  12. For Out-of-State Hikers
  13. Things to Do Nearby
  14. History and Geology
  15. Protect Garden of the Gods

Trail Snapshot: Garden of the Gods

Driving Directions to Garden of the Gods

Take interstate I-25 to Colorado Springs. Exit onto West Fillmore Road and head West. Fillmore will change names to Fontmore Road. Take a right onto North 30th Street, and you'll find the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center just 1.2 miles up on the right/east side of the road. We recommend you stop at the Visitor Center to pick up a free color trail map. The main parking area for hiking is located on the North end of the park. You'll find Gateway Road (the access road into Garden of the Gods) directly across from the Visitor Center. Head west on Gateway road, then right at the intersection with Juniper Way Loop Road. The main parking area is located on the left-hand/South side of the first bend of the Juniper Way Loop. There are restroom facilities available at both the main parking area and at the visitor center.

Before you park, consider driving around the entire Juniper Way loop to take in the sites and get your bearings. It's one of the most beautiful drives in Colorado, especially during sunrise and sunset. The loop is one way, has a low speed limit, and is frequented by cyclists. So, it also makes for a great bike ride-- the northbound loop is a gradual but demanding climb. Be attentive to hikers and cyclists as you drive in the park.

6 Hiking Trails at Garden of the Gods

concrete path winding through red rock formations with scrub grasses and juniper trees

Central Garden Trail at Garden of the Gods Steve Walser

Trail Option #1 - The Central Garden Trails

We've put this loop hike first on our list because it takes you right into the heart of the park. It's also paved and wheelchair and stroller accessible. From the parking lot, hikers will head south on the main trail (pictured above). On your right will be the largest of the sandstone Monoliths, North Gateway Rock. The tower on its north end is called the Tower of Babel, and its south end marks the gateway into the famous central valley. But before you enter the valley, be sure to look up at the Kissing Camels formation located at the middle-top of North Gateway Rock.

The loop begins right after you enter through the gateway at the twin spires of Sentinel Rock. Going left will take you on a clockwise circuit around the valley. You'll first pass between the Three Graces and Pulpit Rock before the trail bends to the North. Finally, the trail will bend South and meet back up with the trail that leads back to the main parking lot. There are many other trails that come off of the main loop trail, so bring a map with you if you plan to explore some of the nooks and crannies of the park.

snow covered pikes peak with red sandstone and tree in foreground

View of Pikes Peak from the South End of Garden of the Gods Courtesy of John Kalla


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

Looking for more places to hike with your dog? Explore more Dog-Friendly hikes near Denver by visiting our 25+ Dog Friendly Hikes and our Top 10 Dog Hikes Near Denver.


Trail Option #2 - The Ridge Trail at Garden of the Gods

The Ridge Trail is a short, half-mile loop on the southeastern end of the park. From the parking area indicated in the table above, the trail is located across the street to the left by takign a crosswalk. Before you cross, be aware of cars and cyclists (often the cyclists come around the curves of the park much faster and can take you by surprise). The Ridge trail makes it way to the foot of The Sleeping Giant formation before bending back toward the parking area.

two red rock towers rock formation with pikes peak mountain in background

Siamese Twins Rock Formation - Courtesy of Matt Santamarco

Trail Option #3 - The Siamese Twins Trail

To hike to the Siamese Twins formation, take the trail on the north end of the parking lot that leads North. As you hike, you'll observe a very different landscape to the West, desert terrain that stretches out and up to Rampart Range Road. At the Siamese Twins, be sure to grab a photo of Pikes Peak framed by the window in the rock. Be sure to adjust your camera to take it's light reading from the distant mountain rather than the foreground (on your phone, simply press your screen to readjust the reference point for the lighting and focus). The trail heads South and will pass the parking area as it bends around and back up to it.

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View of Central Garden From Palmer Trail - Courtesy of John Fowler

Trail Option #4 - The Palmer Trail (Chambers/Bretag Loop)

This 2.5 mile loop hike is a great way to take in the full spectrum of terrain and rock formations in the park. The route, as describe below is about 2.5 miles, and mileage may vary depending on the side trails you decide to take. From the main parking area/trailhead, the Palmer Trail can be picked up by crossing Juniper Way directly North of the lot. Heading left/West on the Palmer trail, it will wind around South, roughly following the main road through Garden of the Gods.

To make the loop, at about 1.3 miles on the Palmer Trail hikers will cross Juniper Way at the Scotsman Picnic Area and join up with the Scotsman Trail. It will dips South initally, then heads Northeast to meet up with the trails of the Central Valley. This area can be quite a labyrinth and the best way to pick up the Eastern side of the loop will be to keep an eye out for the gateway, the space between North Gateway and South Gateway Rocks. Once through the gateway, hikers will pick up the Garden Trail, head East, and join up with the Susan G. Bretag Trail, by crossing Juniper Way where it intersects with Gateway Road. Heading North on the Bretage Trail, it will eventually come to a fork. Taking the left-hand/West trail (Palmer Trail) will lead back to the parking lot.

Trail Option #5 - The Scotsman and Buckskin Charlie Loops

These are two loops found just South of the Central Valley area. The parking area is small and will likely be full during most days during the Summer months. One alternative is to begin your hike at the main lot, then pick up the Scotsman trail on the South end of the Valley.

The Scotsman Loop is 1.1 mile in its entirety. Picking up the trail from the Scotsman Picnic ground by following social trails East, the Scotsman dips South then winds Northeast before making a sharp turn South and back to the parking area. Bring your trail map, or have it up on your phone to keep oriented.

The Buckskin Charlie Trail can be added to double your hike. Hikers will pick up the Buckskin Charlie Trail on the southern bends of the Scotsman. The trail winds around until it begins again to head North, following the line of the main road, Juniper way, until it joins back up with the Scotsman and returns home to the Scotsman Picnic area.


above bear lake in rmnp looking to glacier gorge colorado hike finder


giant red rock balanced on rock fulcrum in garden of the gods

Balanced Rock - Courtesy of Chica-Tika

Trail Option #6 - The Balanced Rock Loop Hike

You don't have to hike to Balanced Rock (see driving directions in the table above). In fact, this loop hike is named "the Balanced Rock Trail" only because it is near Balanced Rock, not because it takes you there. For visitors entering through the South end of the park, Balanced Rock will be the first stop, then on to the Trading Post. In fact, the best way to pick up the Balanced Rock Trail is from the Northern end of the Trading Post lot. Hikers will find a connector trail that goes directly from the lot North, crosses the road, and immediately picks up the Balanced Rock Loop trail. Hiking counter-clockwise, the trail follows alongside Garden road, then leads North until it terminates at another section of the road. Hikers can cross the road (watch for cars and cyclists) and pick up the Cabin Canyon Trail across the street. Taking the Cabin Canyon Trail South, it will come to a crosswalk where you can pick the Balanced Rock Trail up again and back to the parking area.

Photography: Great Photos in Garden of the Gods

  • All year round and any time of the day, Garden of the Gods is already photogenic. However, the best times to take photos are during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset when the rock faces are lit up and cast their shadows across the landscape. Going early in the morning will also help you avoid having people in your photos.
  • Snow adds its white contrast during the Winter months and early Spring. If you want a snowcapped Pikes Peak in the background, you'll likely need to get that shot before mid-June.
  • Wildflowers appear most noticeably in April through July.
  • After heavy rains, standing water can form what look like small ponds (but are really giant puddles). These offer the rare opportunity to capture the reflection of the rock formations on water.
  • One classic vantage point is to take your photo from the North End of the Palmer Trail at Sunset. This will give you one of the best photographs of the Central Valley area.
  • For sunrise, a great place to capture Garden of the Gods with Pikes Peak in the background is from the parking area up on Mesa Road that overlooks the park.

Hiking with Kids at Garden of the Gods

  • Hydrate: This goes for adults as well, but is even more important with kiddos. Almost all the trails in Garden of the Gods are exposed to the sun. You're also in a High-Plains Desert environment, so you simply need more water. Then add onto that physical exertion. So, bring water and hydrate.
  • Pack Snacks or Bring a Lunch: Even though the hikes are not long in Garden of the Gods, it always helps to have fuel. Plus, nothing beats finding a great view of Pikes Peak and kicking back to rest and enjoy a picnic.
  • Climbing can result in injury: Having hiked often in Garden of the Gods, I've witnessed people--usually young people--who have climbed up into areas and gotten themselves in a tough spot. Children should know that climbing up into an area is a lot easier than getting down.
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Visiting Garden of the Gods From Out-of-State

  • Download our Hiking Guide for a list of hiking tips, 10 essentials that everyone should pack for their dayhike, and recommended hiking snacks.
  • Free Full-Color Map: Don't get lost. Pick up this freebie at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center information kiosk.
  • Bring Lots of Water: It can be very hot and dry, and there may not be a chance to refill, so bring a full water bottle.
  • Altitude: If you are visiting Colorado from out-of-state, chances ar that it will take you a few days to adjust to teh altitude. The good news about hikes in Garden of the Gods is that they are relatively easy. However, a little exertion at altitude can result in feeling naseauted, winded, and just plain tired. So, don't overdo it if you are not feeling well. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate (because it oxygenates your blood), and get good rest.
  • Camping Near Garden of the Gods

    Camping is prohibited in Garden of the Gods, and it's important to understand that the Park is located in the town of Colorado Springs--it's not a backcountry experience. Those looking to camp will need to explore campgrounds and tent camping options outside the immediate area. However, there is a nearby campground in Manitou Springs that offers cabins, bunkhouses, and RV spots. It's pet-friendly and even offers bike rentals. You can find current rates and more at Garden of the Gods RV Resort. Most of the tent camping is going to be out near Rampart Range Reservoir or further West past Woodland Park, CO.

    Things to Do and Places to Eat Near Garden of the Gods

    History and Geology of Colorado’s Garden of the Gods

    Imagine a prehistoric landscape of sand dunes plunged and crushed into the earth by some violent upheaval involving tectonic and hydraulic forces. That's how the red rock fins of Garden of the Gods were formed in the womb of the earth. Then another cataclysm. The Pikes Peak massif gets thrust to the sky along with the surrounding red sedimentary rock. Some at angles and some perpendicular to the land. Then the forces of wind and water began to wear down the loose rock creating the unusual holes and across the surfaces of the rocks. You'll find these types of rock formations stretching from North of Ft. Collins down into Southern Colorado. Some of the most notable are Roxborough State Park and South Valley Park near Littleton and Red Rocks Park in Denver.

    After his death in 1907, the children of railroad tycoon, Charles Elliott Perkins, fulfilled their father's wishes by donating 480 acres of Garden of the Gods to become a permanent park and free to the public. The park has expanded over the years to over 1,300 acres. The park got its name from a German surveyor mapping out the land in 1859.


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    How You Can Protect the Garden of the Gods Area

    • Stay the Trail: The sandstone in the parks is easily eroded, and because this area sees a lot of visitors the impacts of individuals quickly adds up. So keep on established trails during your hikes.
    • Keep Dogs on a 6' Leash: And be sure to bring bags for picking up after your pet.
    • Pack Out All Trash: It should go without saying but be sure to pick up after yourself. In the last few years it seems that litter along trails in Colorado has grown to be a real problem. Do your part to keep the park and our State beautiful. One of our family hiking habits is to pick up trash as we hike.
    • Climbing and Bouldering: Climbing and Bouldering in Garden of the Gods require both the proper equipment and permits. You can pick up permits at the Visitor Center or online at the City of Colorado Springs climbing permit page.
    • Thanks goes out to Joel Tonyan for his great photo of Garden of the Gods and snow-dusted foothills.
    • Care for the Rock: This should also go without saying, but don't carve or deface the rock in any way.
    • Let them sit and grow: Removing rocks, plants, or animals is prohibited.
    • Mountain Biking: Mountain biking is limited to designated trails.

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


snow capped front range mountains of colorado from panorama at golden gate canyon state park along raccoon trail hike

Raccoon Loop Hike in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Our kids loved this 2.5 mile loop hike in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. The trail sports lots of shade, panoramic views of snowcapped peaks, wildflowers, and trickling brooks. Be sure to see the details below regarding an annual raptor closure that detours one segment of this hike. Explore the full Raccoon Loop Hike profile for trail map, driving directions, and many of the details you need to enjoy this adventure in Golden Gate Canyon State Park.

Trail Snapshot: Raccoon Trail Loop at Golden Gate Canyon

Parking & Trailhead Information for the Raccoon Loop Hike

You can begin your hike at either the Panorama Point Trailhead or at the Reverend Ridge Campground Trailhead. Our family hiked this from the Panorama Point Trailhead. Though parking is limited, there is additional parking located directly across the street in a dirt lot. Reverend Ridge Trailhead, while a larger parking area, can fill up fast because it is located at the campground. Either one, however, is a good option. Driving directions for both trailheads are located in the trail snapshot above.

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The Hike: The Raccoon Loop Hike in Golden Gate Canyon

We hiked the Raccoon Loop counter-clockwise from the Panorama Point Trailhead and found it to be easy to moderate in difficulty. Our kids (at the time of this post) are 5 and 8. Both were wearing tennis shoes and did well on the trail. There was a steep segment with loose rock, where our youngest needed me to hold her hand as she navigated here way down the trail.

The trail begins with incredible views of the snowcapped Indian Peaks stretched out against the western sky. Soon, views of Thorodin Mountain and Starr peak dominate the landscape as the trail winds to the east and crosses a seasonal brook. Raccoon Trail then gently drops into aspen groves and green meadows full of wildflowers.

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Entering a more mature stand of aspens, the trail begins a more steep descent. This is where hikers will want to watch their footing on the loose rock and gravel surface of the trail. After this short descent, the trail crosses another brook over a small footbridge, then begins to climb a bit further west before turning sharply to the south.

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Shortly after the brook is where we encountered the closure of approximately 0.5 mile of the Raccoon trail. These closures are announced on the front page of the Golden Gate Canyon State Park website, and we knew about it before making our trip.

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One of the Nesting Raptor Closure Signs

This rerouted us up to the Reverend Ridge Campground, then required that we hike down State Park Road for about 0.5 mile until we were able to pick up the Raccoon Trail again. Because the detour wasn't clearly marked, we've provided an image of the normal route vs. the detour route we took below.

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It probably goes without saying, but do exercise caution when walking the road, and assume that cars will not see you. There are several sharp turns/switchbacks. We were able to pick up the trail down where the road comes to a stop sign, then hike back to Panorama Point. The detour adds approximately 1 mile to the original hike, making this into a 3.5 mile loop hike.

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Where we picked up the Raccoon/Mule Deer Trail after Walking the Road Detour

This last section had some elevation gain, but still was moderate in difficulty. This is a great hike for visiting friends and family, but those who have not acclimatized to the altitude, or who are not in the best shape, may find this last part challenging. There is a bench strategically placed on the ascent, and rocks where you can rest your legs.

At Panorama Point, hikers will find a large deck and viewing area. It's one of the best accessible views you'll get of the Front Range near Denver.

panorama-point-golden-gate-canyon-state-park

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

Tips & Resources for Hiking the Raccoon Loop Hike

  • Be Aware of Closures: The Raccoon Loop has seasonal closures when raptors are nesting. However, it's just one segment of the trail that is closed, and a (not-so-well-marked) detour is available.
  • Look out for Mtn Bikers: We always find mountain bikers to be considerate on the trails near Denver. There is an established etiquette and they will call their pass. Still, it's good to know that this trail is popular with both mountain bikers and hikers, so keep your eyes and ears peeled and give them plenty of room to pass.
  • Trail Map for Golden Gate Canyon State Park: Trail Map Link
  • 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: Windy Saddle Cafe in Golden, Colorado

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bridal veil falls waterfall pouring over cliff face with waterwheel at base among green trees in idaho springs colorado

Bridal Veil Falls in Idaho Springs

Bridal Veil Falls is best viewed from Water Wheel Park, a short and easy walk from the downtown of Idaho Springs, Colorado. The legacy of steam locomotives and gold mining make this a historic hike in an historic Colorado town. Explore the full Bridal Veil Falls hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and many of the details you need to enjoy this waterfall in Idaho Springs, Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Bridal Veil Falls in Idaho Springs

Parking & Trailhead Information for Bridal Veil Falls, Idaho Springs

The parking area for this short hike/walk is in downtown Idaho Springs, at the corner of 17th and Water Street, which is situated behind the downtown restaurants and shops. Use the driving directions above, which lead to Harold Anderson Park. At this small park, just across from the parking lot, you'll pick up a concrete path that leads under interstate 70 to Water Wheel park (scheduled to open early June of 2016). See the marked map below for a visual of the parking area, trail (yellow dots), and the location of Water Wheel Park.

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The Hike: Bridal Veil Falls, Idaho Springs

It's a little hike (more of a stroll) with a lot of history. Starting at Harold Anderson Park, you'll want to take a gander at Locomotive #60, one of five remaining steam engines that ran on the narrow gauge rails of the Colorado and Southern Railway. Kids will love the train and the other sites along this short jaunt.

The Charlie Taylor Waterwheel Trail leads under Interstate 70 then goes west for about 1/10th of a mile before it arrives at the best viewing area for Bridal Veil Falls. The waterfall spills out of Soda Creek high above, making its way then into Clear Creek, a stream famous for its gold, river rafting, and Coors Beer. The water wheel that's just north of Bridal Veil Falls was built in the late 1800's by a local miner, Charlie Taylor. Taylor used the water wheel to drive a machine called a stamp mill--imagine a big hammer that grinds and crushes rock to get silver and gold ore out of it. It was relocated from Ute Creek to its present location by a group of volunteers in the 1980's and now belongs to the Idaho Springs Historical Society. The Colorado Department of Transportation is renovating Water Wheel Park during the Spring of 2016 with a goal to have the project completed and reopen the park in early June.

There are several Bridal Veil falls in Colorado. For Bridal Veil Falls at Hanging Lake, view our Guide to Hiking Hanging Lake page. Or Explore our trail profile for Bridal Veil Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park.

If you are vacationing in the area and looking for more places to explore with your family, we recommend checking out Echo Lake, the Mt. Evans Summit Hike, or the Mt. Bierstadt Trail on Guanella Pass. See our day trip recommendation in the tips section below.

waterfall in canyon with bridge in foreground fish creek falls waterfall in colorado


Tips & Resources for Hiking Bridal Veil Falls, Idaho Springs

  • Plan a Day Trip: Make this a family day trip by arriving early at Echo Lake to see the reflection of Mt. Evans in its mirror waters, then drive up to the Summit of Mount Evans. After your drive back down, take in the sites of Bridal Veil Falls at Water Wheel Park, then grab lunch at Beaujo's Pizza in downtown Idaho Springs.
  • Add a Railroad Hike Tour: The Georgetown Loop Railroad still operates on what remains of track of the old C&S Railroad. Located just a few minutes drive from Idaho Springs, they offer a hike + railroad tour, a great family adventure near Denver. Explore more at our Georgetown Railroad Hike page.
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • Photo: We would like to express our gratitude to John Weitzel for sharing such an amazing photograph of Bridal Veil Falls in Idaho Springs, Colorado.
  • After the Hike: Beaujo's Pizza

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Monarch Lake Loop Hike

The Monarch Lake Loop is a perfect family hike that leads 4 miles through shaded forest, across creeks, and along the shore of the lake. It's one of the more diverse, but easy, hikes in the area. Monarch Lake is a popular destination for canoeing, kayaking, and access to the Indian Peaks Wilderness area. Explore the full Monarch Lake Loop hike profile below for trail map, driving directions, and many of the details you need to enjoy this adventure in Grand County, Colorado.

Trail Snapshot: Monarch Lake Loop, Colorado

Parking & Trailhead Information for Monarch Lake, Colorado

Following the driving directions in the above trail snapshot for Monarch Lake, the road will end at the Monarch Lake Trailhead. Here, you'll find parking spaces for about 40 vehicles. The parking area fills fast and cars and trucks often line both sides of the road to the trailhead. An Arapahoe National Recreation Area day use pass is required and can be purchased at the kiosk at the Arapahoe Bay Pay Station. This pay station is located shortly after you turn onto County Hwy 6 and before crossing over the dam. While Monarch lake is open in the winter, and Hwy 6 is plowed, the approximately 1 mile final segment of road that leads into the trailhead is closed from Nov. 15 to June 15. Because of this, hikers will have to park and snowshoe, cross-country ski, or hike in to the trailhead.

The Hike: Monarch Lake, CO

From the trailhead, a shaded tunnel of trees leads down a short gravel path to the Wilderness Information Cabin. Here you can pick up trail maps and information about hikes up into the Indian Peaks Wilderness area. The trail description here is of hiking the Monarch Lake Loop in a clockwise fashion. Begin on the Cascade Creek trail #N1. This will follow the shoreline of the lake and soon enter the forested area along the Northern end of the lake. After approximately 1 mile, the landscape changes and enters a wetland marsh. Keep your eyes peeled for moose and other wildlife here.

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Wilderness Info Cabin at Monarch Lake

After 1.5 miles on the Cascade Creek Trail, the loop will be continued by taking a right onto the Arapaho Pass Spur Trail. This will head south, crossing Buchanan Creek, then Arapaho Creek. Here, after .8 mile, the spur trail ends and the Arapaho Pass trail begins. This last segment on the Arapaho Pass trail #N6 is 1.7 miles long.

Because of the pine beetle kill, there are many dead trees throughout the Monarch Lake Loop hike. Be alert for falling trees, especially when gusts of wind blow through. Hikers may also encounter deadfall across the trail. Be careful going under any fallen trees as they are often unstable and may only be supported by a few small, dead branches.

The hike continues on the south shore of the lake, passing an old, rusty steam engine. These "steam donkeys" were used to pull logs down out of the mountains back in the logging camps of the 1800's. After the steam engine, the trail will cross two more creeks, and finally make its way across the dam at the northwestern end of the Lake.

Because this hike is so perfect as a family outing, or for visiting family and friends, we recommend the following day trip:
1) Leave early (take breakfast with you) and arrive at the trailhead at or before 8AM (better chance of seeing wildlife and better parking)
2) Hike Monarch Lake
3) Drive over Trail Ridge Road (fee required--but worth every penny)
4) Eat a late Lunch in Estes Park (so bring snacks)
5) Head back home or drive in to Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Tips & Resources for Hiking the Monarch Lake Loop

  • Fishing: Monarch Lake is a popular fishing spot for trout. Colorado State fishing regulations apply.
  • Falling Trees: Because of the amount of dead trees in this area, hikers should be on alert for falling trees.
  • Trail Map for Monarch Lake Area: Trail Map Link
  • Packing List: Always pack the 10 Essentials. Download our Hiking Guide to get list and dayhiking packing checklist.
  • Colorado Road Conditions: Colorado Road Conditions
  • After the Hike: Mavericks Grill in Granby, CO

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