The boastful mountain range to the city's west enjoys its hold on residents' thoughts and most play-day destinations, but the east's subtler plains scoff at any claim to recreational monopoly. The countless activities in this overshadowed area are described below with corresponding website links — except where we're talking about city parks (all their info can be found at springsgov.com/parks), or county parks (adm.elpasoco.com/parks).
It's only in the east where the Dragon Man compound (1200 Dragon Man Drive, dragonmans.com) offers bang and boom for your buck. You're welcome to whichever strikes your fancy — whether it's firing a Class III, high-caliber machine gun at a target 200 yards off at the shooting range, or decorating your opponent's outfit with beads of vibrant color in the paintball arena. Elsewhere in this amusement park of sorts is a dirt bike trail with 50 jumps, but you'll have to ask Dragon Man if you can use your Vespa Italian motor scooter.
Even farther east, but worth the drive, is Paint Mines Interpretive Park (29950 Paint Mine Road, Calhan). The gorgeous colors of clay and stone layers double as a timeline of the environmental changes the area has experienced. The land was a tropical hardwood forest 55 million years ago, but here we go dating ourselves.
Just as secluded from civilian and noise pollution, the county's Homestead Ranch Park (16444 Gollihar Road, Peyton) provides a playground and four-plus miles of trails where you can (deliberately) get lost under evergreen trees on foot or equine. There's a 1.5-acre, spring-fed pond that can be fished by those properly licensed, and a pretty picnic pavilion where you can eat the poor suckers. Don't confuse this site with the city's lengthy Homestead Trail, which runs north-south from Stetson Hills Road to Galley Road.
When it comes to Colorado Springs parks, a few tips: Don't count on working water fountains; be pleasantly surprised by the garbage service or pet waste disposal kits, courtesy of different park adopters; and have mixed feelings while reading signage that explains several parks have been funded by the Colorado Lottery.
The city is still planning how best to use its recent purchase of Corral Bluffs Open Space (savecorralbluffs.com) before building trails and opening it to the public, but at the website you can sign up for guided hikes. The park isn't expected to be open for another couple years, but a guided hike happens to be the way this area should be experienced. There's a lot the area can teach us about nature, history and pre-history.
Of course, geology lessons can also be learned in town, just a few grateful steps away from purveyors of Coke and Funyuns. Fossils of ancient forest, like those at the mines, are also petrified in the rock at the city's Palmer Park (3650 Maizeland Road). Look closely for other fossils, like shark teeth, preserved in the sedimentary rock composed of seafloor, and be cautious on the trails, as your enthusiasm for winding your way around the park can disorient you. There are also baseball/football/soccer fields, volleyball courts and a most popular dog park here where pups can do their thing (i.e., play poker).
Laura Gilpin Park (7415 Kettle Drum St.), another city spot, has an immaculate basketball court (that should be cool on hot days) whose design allows it to be used as an inline skating rink as well. Rollerbladers also have a half-pipe and tabletop they can ride and grind. The perimeter of the park is ideal to jog around.
The city's segment of the Rock Island Trail covers the track of what once was the Rock Island and Pacific Railroad line, a product of the Rails to Trails Act that Congress passed to make use of abandoned railroad grades. A good access point with plentiful parking is off Powers Boulevard, just south of Constitution Avenue. Find stops along the way that take you through the history of the railway and its effects on the city, or make connections to the aforementioned Homestead Trail, or Shooks Run (click here for more). On a macro level, Rock Island makes up a stretch of the America the Beautiful Trail running from Cripple Creek to Peyton.
Although signs at most city parks say "Golfing is prohibited," city-owned Valley Hi Golf Course (610 S. Chelton Road, valleyhigolfcourse.com), as well as Antler Creek (9650 Antler Creek Drive, Peyton, antlercreekgolf.com) and Cherokee Ridge (1820 Tuskegee Place, cherokeeridgegolfcourse.com), are all legal alternatives.