Best Of » Best Of 2001

Best of Recreation: Work that Body

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Best Hiking Trail

Readers' Poll Winner
Waldo Canyon
Approximately one mile west of Manitou Springs on Highway 24

There are hundreds of miles of excellent hiking trails in and around Colorado Springs. And there are epic hikes to be found farther afield. But Waldo Canyon has many qualities that set it apart. Waldo is close, a short drive up Ute Pass, no more than 15 minutes from downtown. It also has varied and beautiful terrain. The trail twists its way into a 7-mile loop through dense stands of scrub oak, then under a canopy of pine and fir trees, through a wonderful meadow of grass and wildflowers and along rocky ledges. As mountainous trails go, it isn't too difficult, nor is it too easy. If the exercise doesn't make your heart go pitter-patter, the scenery will. The views of Williams Canyon (to the east) with its painter-palette cliffs are inspiring. From the higher parts of the trail, a good look at Pikes Peak to the southwest will provide an inner peace and remind you why you live here. But the coolest thing about Waldo is that it provides a sense of escape. It starts along Highway 24, and the first mile of the trail sort of parallels the highway. As you climb, the highway, noise and everything you came to escape gradually fades from sight and mind. Do yourself a favor and hike it on a weekday morning. Obviously, a lot of people know the magic of Waldo Canyon. -- tb


Best Park Nobody Knows About
Roswell Park
South of Fillmore Street off Polk Street

This is a great old park, with lots of tall trees and shade for hot summer days. You've got your basic sand for playing in (and flinging when your parents aren't looking), jungle gyms, those little teeter-tottery things on big springs that you bounce around on, slides, swings and benches for tired mommies and daddies. There's lots of green grass, and hardly ever a crowd. Just be aware that Polk Street has a lot of heavy trucks trying to set land-speed records past the park; be sure the little ones don't wander toward the street. -- mbp


Best Fishing Holes
The North Slope lakes on Pikes Peak

By name they are Crystal Reservoir, Lower Catamount and Upper Catamount. To area fishermen, they are simply a great place to wet a line. Trout are the standard fare and they come in several varieties, including rainbow, cutthroat, brookies and lake trout. Crystal Reservoir is located along the Pikes Peak Highway. There is a large parking lot, a visitor center near the dam and excellent trails that lead to some nice shoreline locations. Bait fishing is permitted at Crystal and Lower Catamount for folks who want to chuck a worm in the water and kick back. Only artificial flies and lures may be used in Upper Catamount, which is the largest of the three lakes and which holds the best fish. Some truly huge lake trout are swimming there -- we're talking 20 pounds. But the favorite fish in Upper Catamount have to be the cutthroat trout, which average about 14 to 16 inches and are eager to slurp dry flies from the surface. There are miles of shoreline to these lakes and it is easy to find a secluded bay for yourself, even on the weekends. Mountain bikes are permitted in some places. Literature is available at the Pikes Peak Highway tollgate and at the parking areas; be sure to read it because it contains trail-use rules, plus information on limits of fish. Rangers heavily patrol this area -- which is a good thing, really. With Pikes Peak as a backdrop, these lakes are in a jaw-dropping gorgeous location. It'll cost you $3 (for folks 16 and over) to fish. It's worth it. -- tb


Best Golf Course

Readers' Poll Winner

Patty Jewett Golf Course
900 E. Espaola St., 385-6938

I used to think of golf courses as oversized playgrounds for retired businessmen eager to sport their most expensive, and hideous, pair of plaid pants -- but then I visited Patty Jewett Golf Course. Even though my ensembles never resemble anything so chic, and even though my game is truly laughable, I feel right a home. The golfers at Patty Jewett humor my inexperience, offering kind words in the wake of humiliating swings. My image of golf as an elitist pastime has washed away -- along with a bucket's worth of balls in the water hazards. -- tp


Most Strenuous Workout Accompanied by Children
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Road, 633-9925

Sure, it seemed like a good idea at the time to build a zoo on the side of a mountain. Who knew it would test the aerobic fitness of generations of adults? Your legs will get a workout no matter what. To make sure your arms get equally buff, alternate zoo trips with pushing a stroller and pulling a wagon. Pack plenty of water (for yourself and your wee beasties), along with sunscreen, snacks, hats and cameras. Be sure you have on nonskid shoes, or your trip down some of those inclines will consist of sliding on your butt behind your little red wagon, shouting "Look out, below!" As always, consult your doctor before embarking on any serious zoo-walking program. -- mbp


Best Way to Get in the Christmas Spirit
Decorating a Tree at the Fine Arts Center
30 W. Dale St., 634-5581

The Fine Arts Center has an annual display of Christmas trees (called Holiday Lights) that various organizations sign up to decorate. This is especially nice if you have a group of kids who can get together and make decorations, because after they put their own creations on the tree, you can wander around the FAC and view the other trees in progress. Everybody is in a good mood, it's Christmas-y without being schmaltzy, and it doesn't involve fake Santas, large sums of money or new clothes. Of course, it's great to go back with the whole family and see the finished products, too. If you have a group that would like to participate, call the FAC at 634-5581 for more details. -- mbp


Best Place to Take Out-of-Town Visitors

Readers' Poll Winner

Garden of the Gods
Entrances from 30th and El Paso streets, 634-6666

Imagine the looks on the faces of the pioneers when they humped it over the Bijou hills and bespied the freakishly huge red slabs sticking up from the ground. They're ain't nothin' like that back East. They must have been blown away, and most likely frightened. There are paths, educational signs and a visitors' center now, but the statuesque garden still holds a powerful sway over those who come to see and touch the red rocks, even the locals. There's something spiritual, elegant and terrifying about those formations, and it would be a shame to go home without seeing them, even if for just a few moments. -- ks


Shooting Range with Best Ambiance
Dragon Arms
1200 Dragonman Drive, 683-2200

It's all too over-the-top to really be creepy. It's more like Second Amendment art -- and it certainly puts you in the mood to fire at something. As you drive up Dragonman Drive on the eastern prairie, headed toward the Dragon Arms shooting range, you pass some quite creative dioramas -- overturned cars, shot through and through with bullet holes; a trio of hanging dummies, all wearing ATF jackets, waving you toward the parking lot. Every piece of wood or metal not serving a function is riddled with buckshot. Even if you're not a marksman, it's worth a drive east to check out the simulated destruction. -- ks

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