March 27, 2022
Colorado Springs sits at the foot of the southern portion of Colorado’s Front Range mountains. Pikes Peak, one of the tallest peaks in the range, looms large over the area and, on a clear day, is visible for miles and miles away.
Since the city basically begins in the foothills of the mountains, it’s not difficult to find a variety of hiking trails to suit your needs and skill level. For this post, I’ve chosen six hikes that are either in Colorado Springs or only a short drive away.
The hikes below are typically rated as ‘easy’ on trail rating apps, but I think rating systems that simply describe trails on the easy-moderate-difficult scale are subjective and rated from the perspective of someone who is athletic and able-bodied. I use ‘easy’ here for lack of a better word.
The fact of the matter is that ‘easy’ trails are not easy for everyone. Instead, the trails I selected are ‘easy’ because of the length and change in elevation. All trails outlined here have little elevation gain.
1. Garden of the Gods - Scotsman Trail Loop
If you haven’t visited Garden of the Gods Park while in Colorado Springs, it’s a must! The park offers 21 miles of trails, a visitor’s center and a trading post, and is free entry to the general public.
Scotsman Trail Loop is a 1 mile trail that begins at the Scotsman Picnic Area and opens up to some spectacular views of the fiery red sandstone and limestone formations. This trail is a wide trail, open to horses and dogs as well as foot traffic, and offers access to the central garden trails as well as the longer Palmer and Buckskin Charlie Trails. There are several steps on the north end of this loop so this trail isn’t fully accessible.
2. Pike National Forest - Mule Creek Trail
Mule Creek Trail is one of my favorite trails around Colorado Springs during the warm summer months. This trail is mostly shaded and follows the meandering Troutman and Mule Creeks with little elevation gain. There are several creek-side spots along the way that would be ideal for a summer picnic or just to rest and splash your feet in the water.
I especially like this trail because it meets the needs of the two arthritic hikers in my family: myself and my american bulldog. Both my dog Texie and I need relatively ‘easy’ trails and Texie is always a fan of some cool, flowing water to soothe her achy wrist joints. While I highly recommend this trail, it is far from a secret spot. The small parking lot at the trailhead can fill up quickly in the summer, so plan ahead and arrive early!
3. Cheyenne Mountain State Park - Blackmer Loop
Cheyenne Mountain State Park is a great option for hikers looking for more of a wilderness feel while remaining close to the city. This state park is located on the southwestern edge of town right in the foothills below Cheyenne Mountain.
While there are lots of trails at this park, and one that stretches nearly to the peak of Cheyenne Mountain, my favorite is Blackmer Loop. This trail has slightly more elevation change than the previous trails and can be narrow in spots, but opens up to some great views of the mountain and the city sprawl below. We have encountered many deer along this trail and one giant black bear right before winter hibernation, so be prepared and be safe!
4. Red Rock Canyon Open Space - Greenlee & Quarry Pass Trails
To me, Red Rock Canyon Open Space is a sister park to Garden of the Gods. The open space is located directly south of the more popular park and features a strand of red rock formations that are only slightly less spectacular than those found at Garden of the Gods Park.
This large open space offers numerous trails (and an enormous fenced in dog park), but I recommend exploring the quarry area–remnants of an old sandstone and gypsum quarry from the late 1800s. If starting south on the Quarry Pass Trail, hikers enter the quarry by a cool stairway cut into the rock. There are some rock steps on this path both to enter the quarry and to explore within the quarry, but the short climbs are well worth it!
5. North Cheyenne Canyon Park - Lower Columbine Trail
One great thing about a city that stretches along the edge of a mountain range is the sheer number of outdoor recreation opportunities. Another great park to visit is North Cheyenne Canyon Park in southern Colorado Springs. This park features a narrow road that winds up the canyon with several trailheads along the way, some more difficult than others, and eventually arrives at the parking lot for Helen Hunt Falls.
The Columbine Trail is split into three sections: Upper, Middle and Lower. The entire trail stretches nearly 8 miles all the way up the canyon for a total elevation gain of around 1,600 feet. But the Lower Columbine Trail is just over 2 miles and follows North Cheyenne Creek for minimal elevation gain. The trail is wide, with no stairs and several picnic tables scattered along the way.
6. Rampart Reservoir Recreation Area - Rainbow Gulch Trail
Rampart Reservoir, within the Pike National Forest, is located close to the town of Woodland Park. While at a high elevation (approximately 9,000 feet above sea level), the Rainbow Gulch Trail itself features a flat, even terrain. The trail itself stretches about 1.75 miles from parking lot to the reservoir, and follows a creek for much of the way.
Rampart Reservoir Recreation Area makes for a great day trip from Colorado Springs. The Reservoir is a popular spot in the summer for fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding, camping and picnicking. The longer Rampart Reservoir Trail follows the entire length of the reservoir’s shoreline for a total of nearly 11 miles and mostly shaded. The shorter Rainbow Gulch Trail is beautiful in the summer with wildflowers sprouting all around, therefore the trail is popular and the parking lot fills quickly.