Even though vacations are winding down and school is starting, it’s still summer. The days are warm, the sun shines brightly and sets late, and moms, dads and the kids still have summer fever. How do you fit in outdoor activity with a busier schedule in summer's waning days?
You can always hit the trails on the weekend, but do you really want to wait until Saturday or Sunday, when you have other things to do and when the trails and parks are crowded? Here are some suggestions for hikes or bike rides that you can squeeze in after work or school any day of the week.
offers a variety of trails, none of them too long to be done in the late afternoon. The best area for the late afternoon/early evening is the mesa area at the north side of the park, since it gets daylight right up until the sun sets behind Pikes Peak. The Templeton Trail goes completely around the top of the park, but there are other easy trails of varying lengths. An added bonus is the off-leash dog run area on the Yucca Trail, so your pooch can get some exercise, too. Park at the Yucca Flats lot and head out from there.
Red Mountain and Iron Mountain in Manitou Springs
can be done either one at a time or as a two-for-one, and work well for late afternoon hikes. Both offer great places to watch the sunset illuminate Garden of the Gods.
Red Mountain is a little harder of the two and does require a short rock scramble at the top. To get to Red Mountain: Start at Spring Street and Ruxton Avenue in Manitou Springs. Walk up Spring Street to the dirt road switchback and continue up to the gate marking the Intemann Trail. Continue east on Intemann and watch for a sign marking the intersection with the Red Mountain Trail. When you’re at a small saddle near the top, reach your destination by scrambling up the rocky outcropping to your left (approximately three miles round-trip). Or, to go a little longer, head east on Intemann and follow it to Pawnee Drive.
The trail to Iron Mountain is just a hundred or so feet to the south on Pawnee Drive. The moderate trail to the top of Iron Mountain is two miles round-trip from the trailhead. You can also hike to the top of Iron Mountain from Crystal Park Road, just before the gatehouse. Look for a small parking area on the left with a sign marking the Intemann Trail; the trail to Iron Mountain is on the opposite side of the road from the parking area. The summit of Iron Mountain is a little more than a mile from this trailhead, or just shy of three miles round-trip.
in North Cheyenne Cañon Park
is one of the most popular trails in the area and easily doable for most people on late summer afternoons. The newly re-built Mount Muscoco Trail, which starts about a half mile up the Mount Cutler Trail, is more difficult, going to the highest point in any Colorado Springs city park and just over four miles round-trip. You may want to wait for the weekend to hike Mount Muscoco.
Cheyenne Mountain State Park
, just south of the Springs on Highway 115, has a number of easy/moderate trails, and the wide open areas keep you out of the early shadows. Try the Sundance Trail in the late afternoon with the kids. Note: Since this is a state park, there are fees for entry.
North of the El Paso/Douglas county line, just off of Highway 83, the Lincoln Mountain Open Space
is one of Douglas County’s newest parks. It offers two easy loops, each just over four miles. The trails are mostly in the open, making them ideal for late afternoon and early evening. Take Highway 83 north of County Line Road to Jones Road (Douglas County Road 80), and turn left to get there.
Trail marker in Lincoln Mountain Open Space
Lastly, Red Rock Canyon Open Space
offers a plethora of trails catering to all skill levels.
A special note for Manitou Incline
The Incline will be closed Saturday until 11 a.m. and Sunday until 2 p.m. for the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon, respectively. And due to expected heavy traffic and congestion, officials are asking that Incline users avoid the area all weekend if possible.
My suggested alternatives:
The Heizer Trail
in Cascade offers a steep trail climb coupled with a great view at the top. Take Highway 24 to the Cascade (Pikes Peak Toll Road) exit. Turn left onto Emporia Street, then left on Park Street, and then another left on Anemone Hill Road. The signed trailhead is at the top of the hill. Park on Emporia Street near Highway 24 and walk up to the trailhead. Roundtrip distance from the trailhead is approximately 4.75 miles.
Also, Castle Rock's “Mini-Incline”
isn't as long as the Manitou Incline, but it's till a challenge. I wrote about it shortly after it opened
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.