Hiking allows us to get outside, exercise, and soak up some amazing views. We are so lucky to live in a place where we have access to hiking trails all around us. Hiking is family friendly and a lot of fun. Choosing a trail can be difficult especially when you have visitors. Deciding what they can handle in terms of difficulty is a tricky balance. You want your guests to walk away with a sense of adventure, not dread at the mention of the next hike. Here is a list of five hikes that are perfect for visitors or anyone looking to get out and hit the trails.
Red Rock Canyon Open Space
Everyone who comes to Colorado Springs knows about hiking Garden of the Gods making it one of the top tourist attractions. What most people may not know is that across HWY 24 lies Red Rock Canyon. Red Rock Canyon has a multitude of trails to choose from and they are ranked based on difficulty. Green is the easiest, blue is more moderate, and black is the most difficult.
From many of the hiking trails, you get beautiful views of the Garden of the Gods formations, but within the part itself are some stunning geological structures, a quarry, and even some small ponds. Because of the varying terrain, it’s a perfect place to take someone who may not yet be acclimated to the altitude. This is also a wonderful place for families. Many of the hikes meander through rocks creating tunnels and cool places to climb around. Plan on spending a couple of hours exploring. You can learn more at redrockcanyonopenspace.org.
Spruce Mountain Open Space
Spruce Mountain is located in Larkspur, just past Palmer Lake off of South Spruce Mountain Rd. This is another area where you can cater your hike to the ability of your guests. There is a section with minimal elevation gain which meanders through meadows past cow pastures and some interesting rock formations.
Alternatively, if you are ready for a little bit of a climb, there is a lollipop loop trail leading to the top of spruce mountain where you will get sweeping views of the area and elevate your heartrate a bit. At the midpoint of the loop lies windy point. This is a perfect spot to snap a photo. If you’re looking for a post hike treat, the town of Palmer Lake has Rock House Ice Cream where you can stop in and reward your endeavors.
Seven Bridges Trail
One of the best things about Seven Bridges is the drive through North Cheyenne Cañon. This is a spectacular drive for visitors to the area. Once you arrive at the parking lot located at the end of the road, you will begin walking down the dirt road with the metal gate towards the trailhead. When the road starts to bend towards the left, start to look for signs to the official trail marked by hiking marker 622 on your right.
Seven Bridges is aptly named as you cross 7 bridges to get to the top. You’ll see several small waterfalls and be walking along the creek the entire hike. The trail is 3.8 miles long and over 1,000 ft. of elevation gain so flatlanders may need to take a few breaks along the way. There are several beautiful locations to take a rest along the trail. This hike can get pretty crowded so go early and try to avoid weekends whenever possible.
The Columbine trail is also located in North Cheyenne Cañon but unlike Seven Bridges, you will be walking up the canyon instead of doing the drive. You can park at the parking lot just outside of the visitors center. There are three sections to this trail making it easily adaptable to the people with whom you are hiking. The lower Columbine trail will have you strolling along a creek, winding through trees without much stress or strain.
Once you arrive at the middle Columbine trail, the harder work begins. It’s here where you start to climb on switchbacks up to where you will be treated to views of both the city behind you and the canyon in front. This section does not have a lot of shade so make sure you are prepared. After a scenic vista and perfect photo opportunity, you reach upper Columbine trail. While still a bit of a climb, it is not quite as intense as the middle section.
Once you get towards the last mile of the trail, you have the choice to hike to Helen Hunt Falls or continue up to the Gold Camp parking lot at which point you have reached the top. This hike is an out and back with the entire hike totaling 7.6 miles and about 1,600 ft. of elevation gain. It may be a bit strenuous for visitors who are not used to exercising. If your guests are ready to take on the challenge, it is a beautiful and rewarding hike.
The Crags Trail
If you are willing to go on a short drive up HWY 24 to Divide, you will find the Crags trail. The actual trailhead is located off of a well-maintained dirt road off of CO-67 S. You will pass other trails on the road, but the Crags has a very large and well-established parking lot. The trail is a 4.8 mile out and back with a climb around 1,000 ft. making it a good choice for visitors.
This hike wanders through forests, meadows, and then up to a viewpoint that is well worth the effort. From the top you are rewarded by sweeping views of multiple ranges and a look back towards Pikes Peak and the many reservoirs in the surrounding area. There are a few good places along the way to take a break or have a picnic. Just be sure to pack out all of your garbage. The final climb to the top is a little bit steep and has some slippery scree on it so if you are with someone who is not as steady on their feet, you may want to consider some trekking poles.
An Experience Well Earned
As with all hikes, it’s always a good idea to plan ahead. Loading an app such as All Trails onto your phone can be very helpful in the event that you get lost. It also has recent reviews which may give you some insight into current trail conditions. Hiking is one of the most rewarding activities you can do with people who are visiting. It’s a great way to get a sense of the area and also a connection with the land we are so lucky to be able to explore. Getting out on the trails only requires some water and maybe a few snacks and you are ready to go. Here’s to sharing memories with guests and snapping some amazing photos along the way.