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Happy places

Trek outside and experience the Springs' natural havens

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If you can't find something to love about our green spots, you aren't trying hard enough. The region's parks, open space and public lands span five ecosystems, from the grasslands of Cheyenne Mountain State Park to the harsh alpine environment at Pikes Peak's summit.

Go CO

Only two of Colorado's 42 state parks are in the Pikes Peak region, but they're both worthy destinations. At Cheyenne Mountain State Park, 21 miles of trails wind through 1,600 acres of prairie, woodlands and pine and fir forests. Further west, Mueller State Park offers a different sensory experience, with dense pine and fir forests and aspen groves. (For more on both, see parks.state.co.us.)

Open, open

Open space is undeveloped public land, and in the Pikes Peak region, its primitive character attracts hikers, runners, mountain bikers and horseback riders. Red Rock Canyon lies south of Garden of the Gods, and features smaller versions of the Garden's famous red sandstone formations. Red Rock is a favorite destination for area climbers, and on weekends its trails are busy. Mountain bikers know all about Stratton Open Space on the Springs' west side. It features the Chutes, one of the most popular local bike trails, as well as a maze of trails for hikers. West of Colorado Springs, Catamount Ranch Resource Protection Area offers a pathway into the vast North Slope Recreation Area on Pikes Peak. (More: springsgov.com.)

County-wide

A park for all seasons, Bear Creek Regional has it all — sports fields, tennis courts, picnic areas, a nature center, trails and a dog park. Fountain Creek Regional, south of Colorado Springs alongside its namesake creek, is a bird-watcher's paradise, frequented by 300 species including a regular, the great blue heron. On the eastern plains, a bizarre collection of mineral-painted canyons and hoodoos marks the spot for the Paint Mines Interpretive Park. (More: adm.elpasoco.com/parks.)

Citified

What can you say about a park named Garden of the Gods? That it deserves the title. At one time, fans of the Garden attempted to get it a national park designation, but today it is the sandstone-slabbed gem of the Springs city park system. North Cheyenne Cañon Park, on the city's west side, is a tangle of evergreens and waterfalls. Downtown's newest gem, America the Beautiful Park, provides access to the Pikes Peak Greenway, which will take you north through Monument Valley Park, a great place to walk or run during the day.

Palmer Park, in the city's geographic center, dates back to the 1800s, when city founder William Jackson Palmer waxed poetic about its "distant view of the kind that gives wing to the imagination." Today, it still attracts romantics looking for a city view, and the outdoor sports enthusiasts who startle them. Just east of downtown, Memorial Park is a much-loved urban space featuring Prospect Lake, which has been adopted by a gregarious flock of Canada geese. (More: springsgov.com.)

acord@csindy.com

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