The south of Colorado Springs is flagged by the antennas atop tree-covered Cheyenne Mountain. And when discussing this area, a good place to start is just downhill at North Cheyenne Cañon Park (2110 N. Cheyenne Cañon Road, springsgov.com, tfocc.org).
The 1,600-acre regional park boasts eight hiking, biking and equestrian trails, plus rock-climbing locales for those who have a permit. Maps and more about the area — which also includes 318-acre Stratton Open Space — are available at Starsmore Discovery Center (2120 S. Cheyenne Cañon Road). Come this summer, you can also look for a new Helen Hunt Falls Visitor Center (3440 N. Cheyenne Cañon Road), a much-anticipated replacement for a century-old building razed in March.
The Seven Bridges trail is a good start for first-timers, with a stream running the length of the trail. Among families and photographers, Helen Hunt Falls and Silver Cascade Falls (both under a mile, round-trip, with easy access from a single parking lot) are popular. The tougher, five-plus-mile hike to St. Mary's Falls is a local favorite. Meanwhile, the challenging switchbacks of Captain Jack's draw in technically skilled mountain bikers.
Farther south comes Cheyenne Mountain State Park (410 JL Ranch Heights, parks.state.co.us), a 1,680-acre park with 20 miles of well-manicured trails for hiking, biking, wildlife viewing and bird watching near Fort Carson. Areas for camping and picnicking are available, as well as the Prairie Skipper and Prairie Falcon event facilities, each of which can be reserved for up to 200 people.
OK, OK, there's plenty off NORAD's old mountain, too. For instance, the Fountain Creek Nature Center (320 Peppergrass Lane, Fountain, adm.elpasoco.com/parks). Children's programs and interpretive hikes are among the ways to learn about the ponds and creek, and the white-tailed deer, muskrats, beavers, lizards and birds nearby. Fountain Creek Regional Trail starts at the center and heads north, joining the Pikes Peak Greenway and the New Santa Fe Regional Trail, which extends to Palmer Lake. Wander to the nearby Duckwood Active Use Area for volleyball, soccer or horseshoes, or just horse around on the playground equipment. Want a little less nature and a little more sport? Visit the 17-acre Widefield Community Park (Fontaine Boulevard at Drury Lane, adm.elpasoco.com) for tennis and basketball courts, softball and soccer fields, a playground and one of the area's few disc golf courses. Another one happens to be in the south, too, at Cumberland Green Open Space (Campground Drive and Jimmy Camp Road, ci.fountain.co.us) in Fountain.
Also visit Cheyenne Meadows Park (3868 Glen Meadow Drive, springsgov.com) for a playground, soccer field, baseball diamond, basketball court, horseshoes and walking paths. At the dog park there, the pups can host their weekly pick-up soccer game.
Kids will enjoy the inline skating rink and batting cages at El Pomar Youth Sports Park (2212 Executive Circle, csyouthsports.org), as well as baseball/softball fields, soccer/lacrosse fields and a synthetic turf field. If you let them, they might also enjoy the skate park and BMX jumping track among other offerings at John Metcalfe Memorial Park (704 E. Ohio St., ci.fountain.co.us). But the biggest hit, at least during summer months, may be Deerfield Hills Park (4290 Deerfield Hills Road, springsgov.com), with its 16 water features at the outdoor "spray ground," as well as a garden and greenhouse.
For more water activities, visit Quail Lake Park (Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard and Quail Lake Road, springsgov.com), which offers non-motorized boating, fishing and sledding, as well as volleyball and basketball courts and the Quail Lake Fitness Trail. Or Big Johnson Reservoir/Bluestem Prairie Open Space (South Powers Boulevard and Bradley Road, springsgov.com), which teems with different species of birds during migration season.
Farther south, Lake Pueblo State Park (640 Pueblo Reservoir Road, Pueblo, parks.state.co.us) is the closest thing we've got to an ocean around here. The 4,600 surface acres of water can be used for sailing, motor-boating, waterskiing, river tubing and fishing; the 60 miles of shoreline and almost 10,000 acres of land also include three campgrounds and a swim beach.
There are a few options for more "refined" sports in this area, as well. Hershey's Heavenly Horses (hersheysheavenlyhorses.com) offers boarding, lessons, training workshops, trail rides, multi-day trail camps and day camps. Then there's Fountain's MM Equestrian Center (12393 Squirrel Creek Road, mmequestrian.com), with its lighted outdoor arena, looping track, derby field and miles of riding trails. It offers lessons, boarding and training, schooling shows and clinics.
For golf, the Broadmoor Golf Club (1 Lake Ave., broadmoor.com) has three courses, all with mountain views. And yes, it's pricey, with greens fees ranging from $75 to $245, depending on time of year and course played. There are also six tennis courts, two covered by a lit, heated dome for playing in the cold, which host some lessons and camps.
Finally, coming back to the mountain where we started, Cheyenne Mountain Resort (3225 Broadmoor Valley Road, cheyennemountain.com) boasts an 18-hole course, and even golf instruction, perched next to a private 35-acre lake.