Entire books and websites have been assembled on the topic of hiking in the Pikes Peak region, and it'd be silly for this guide to even try to compete. But we had to give some credit to our local trails. So for the uninitiated, here are a few eminently worthwhile sites.
1. Garden of the Gods' Ridge Trail (easy)
Distance: 0.5-mile loop
Access point: South Garden parking lot
For any newcomer looking to explore the playground of fascinating, towering red rocks, this trail puts you right in the thick of them — promising great views with only a hundred-foot rise in elevation.
2. Seven Bridges Trail (easy)
Distance: 4.75 miles out and back
Access point: Trailhead off of North Cheyenne Cañon and Gold Camp roads, past Helen Hunt Falls
Crossing North Cheyenne Creek seven times, the path strolls through forest land with views of small waterfalls, making for a peaceful outing. Great for hiking novices, as the trail is well-marked.
3. Helen Hunt Falls (easy-moderate)
Distance: 0.8-mile out and back
Access point: parking lot off North Cheyenne Cañon Road
Though challenging for some, this trail offers a number of benches and scenic overlooks along the climb to the bridge by the falls, offering spectacular views of the canyon.
4. Red Rock Canyon Open Space's Hogback Valley Trail (easy-moderate)
Distance: 2.5 to 3.3 miles
Access point: Parking lot off of 31st Street
This trail meanders through a grassy valley blooming with wildflowers, depending upon the season, and even a deer or two. With varying sections of steady incline, the trail offers wonderfully diverse views and fewer crowds than others nearby.
5. Palmer Park's Templeton Trail (moderate)
Distance: 4-mile loop
Access point: Lazy Land turnoff to Yucca Flats trailhead on the Palmer Park mesa
Offering panoramas of the city, the trail gives way to bewildering "hoodoos"— ancient eroded sandstone formations — in a tranquil city park oasis. Pay close attention to trail markers, or if lost, climb a trail to the top of the mesa.
6. Ute Valley Park Loop (moderate)
Distance: 2.5-mile loop
Access points: main parking lot off Vindicator Drive, or back entrance off Mule Deer Drive and Centennial Boulevard, on the east side of Piñon Valley Park
A gem in the middle of suburbia: The outermost trail is the perfect combination of alternating terrain and incline, offering a stunning view of Pikes Peak. Expect an oasis of sandstone cliffs, mesas and forest unscathed by the Waldo Canyon Fire.
7. Palmer Trail Loop/Section 16 (moderate)
Distance: 5.5-mile loop
Access point: trailhead and main parking lot off Upper Gold Camp Road
This well-maintained trail never feels crowded, even on days when the parking lot is full, and transports hikers through secluded pine forest. It's been nicely renovated after last fall's flood damage.
8. Manitou Incline (difficult)
Distance: 0.9 miles to the top, 3.7-mile round trip with Barr Trail
Access point: Barr Trail, above Manitou Springs
Climbing the old cable railway bed is the fitness enthusiast's outdoor Stairmaster and often the overzealous tourist's conqueror. The arduous 2,000-plus steps pay off with an ego boost, elevation-induced euphoria and incredible views of the city below. Warning: Don't be fooled by the false summit.
9. Blodgett Peak (difficult)
Distance: 6.4 miles out and back
Access points: Blodgett Peak Open Space off of Centennial Boulevard, or Pine Drive at the U.S. Air Force Academy
Despite its proximity to the Waldo Canyon Fire, Blodgett remains one of the most accessible peaks in town. Today this steep, strenuous climb offers an up-close look into the fire's aftermath, as well as views of the city, the eastern plains and Pikes Peak.
10. Pikes Peak from the Crags Trail (difficult)
Distance: About 13 miles out and back
Access point: Crags Campground off State Highway 67
On this route, you can bag the Peak without trekking 12.6 miles one way via Barr Trail. The steeper backside offers spectacular mountain scenery amid a variety of terrain; keep an eye peeled for cairns (stacks of rocks) that mark the path near the final boulder field, and for flabbergasted train-riding tourists who might buy you a donut at the top.