A couple weeks ago, I wrote about being prepared for winter outdoor activity
. Today, some suggestions on where to go snowshoeing and cross country skiing in and around the Springs.
First, locally, the closed section of Gold Camp Road
, above North Cheyenne Cañon Park, is easily and quickly accessible from the Springs. Besides snowshoeing on the road itself, you can also take side trips on the 7 Bridges and St Mary's Falls trails
7 Bridges Trail
The road gets plenty of sun — you’ll want to get up there soon after it snows — but the side trails keep their snow cover into early spring. Take North Cheyenne Cañon Road past Helen Hunt Falls to the large parking area; Gold Camp Road is past the gate at the west end of the parking lot. The 7 Bridges trail starts on the right side of the road, just shy of a mile from the parking lot. The St. Mary’s falls trail is another half-mile past the 7 Bridges trail. Take the trail to the top of tunnel and look for the sign to St Mary’s Falls, or continue over the tunnel to stay on Gold Camp Road.
Another great place for snowshoeing in town, if you can get there while it's snowing or shortly after a snow storm, is the Red Rocks Canyon Open Space
. I snowshoed out there during a snow storm last winter and it was great, but it's exposure to the sun and heavy traffic gives you only a day or so (depending on the snow amounts) for good snowshoeing.
West of the Springs, almost any trail in Mueller State Park
makes for good snowshoeing or cross country skiing. Most trails are short but it's easy to create your own route by joining trails together. The Cheeseman Ranch Trail
on the north side of the park is my favorite loop, about five relatively easy miles. To get there, take Highway 24 west from Colorado Springs to Highway 67 in Divide. Go south on 67 for about 3.5 miles. Check in at the MSP visitor’s center for trail maps and current trail conditions. There is a fee to enter the park.
Just past Mueller State Park on Highway 67, the Crags Trail (Trail 664)
is an easy/moderate six-mile out-and-back trail with little bit of uphill at the beginning and at the actual rocky crags at the end of the trail. This trail gets plenty of snow early and hangs on to it for quite a while. The views from the end of the Crags trail make for a great payoff and definitely worth the effort.
To get there, take Highway 67 past Mueller State Park and look for Forest Road 383 on the east side of the road. Take FR 383 for approximately 3.5 miles to the trail parking lot. The road is fairly well maintained until you pass the Mennonite camp, after which you’ll likely need four wheel drive and some good driving skills. it’s not uncommon to find vehicles off the road and buried in the snow.
Snowshoeing and great views can also be found at the Dome Rock State Wildlife Area
, bordering the south end of Mueller State Park. Although the back half of the area is closed until July due to bighorn sheep breeding, there are still plenty of trails available. To get there, take Highway 67 past Mueller State Park to the fork in the road at Teller County Road 61 and bear right. Continue on Teller 61 until you reach Dome Rock.
The Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument,
approximately 35 miles west of the Springs and just south of Highway 24, offers a number of good snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails as well. My favorite is the Shootin' Star
and Twin Rock Trails
that make for an easy six-mile round trip trek. Stop in the visitor’s center for up-to-date information on trail conditions. Entrance fees do apply.
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
And finally, to the north, just over the county line from Palmer Lake, Douglas County's Spruce Mountain Open Space
is definitely worth the trip for snowshoers. The loop around the top of the flat mesa is easy and the views along the way and at Windy Point, at the west end of the mesa, are very nice. To get there, take I-25 north to County Line Road, then go west on County Line Road to Spruce Mountain Road, turn right and follow it for a few miles to the marked parking lot on the left.
Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor and business owner who has lived in Colorado Springs for over 23 years. He is the president of the Friends of Cheyenne Canon and a member of the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board. You can follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: firstname.lastname@example.org.