As I wrote in a column about a year ago, the Highway 165 corridor from Colorado City to Highway 96 has plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities. Hiking, biking, fishing and camping can all be done in the shadow of Greenhorn Mountain. On a recent visit there, I explored a couple of trails, including one that gives the hiker a few options.
The South Creek Trail #1321 in the San Isabel National Forest connects Highway 165 near Bishop Castle and the Pueblo Mountain Park, near the small town of Beulah, about 20 miles west of Pueblo. With a little planning, this hike can be a mostly downhill 7.2 mile hike from the west, starting at the Lion Park Trailhead on Highway 165, or a mostly uphill hike from the east, starting at the Tower Trailhead in the Pueblo Mountain Park. If you are particularly ambitious, you can do this trail as a 14+ round-trip hike from either trailhead.
I started my hike from the Lion Park Trailhead, a short drive from the campground we were staying at. From here, the trail does go mostly uphill for about 1.3 miles before starting to generally make its way downhill to PMP. In mid-July, the trail was green, with an abundance of wildflowers. At about 3.6 miles from Lion Park, the trail meets with the "coupler trail" that connects to the Squirrel Creek Trail to the north. At about 3.8 miles, the trail starts a series of very steep, tight switchbacks, which will be tough going if you return this way or are starting from PMP.
Once at the bottom of the switchbacks, the hardest part of the trail is behind you, and other than a few rolling hills, it's a nice hike through the woods. Descending deeper, the trail makes a few easy crossings of South Creek, and at about 6 miles — at the ruins of an old building — the trail meets another that connects to the Ranger Trail in PMP. The sign will indicate that the South Creek Trail continues to the right, but it dead ends a short distance away at private property. Instead, turn left and head for the Ranger Trail.
Take the Ranger Trail uphill a short distance, and turn right. A few hundred feet later, a spur to the right leads to an old fire tower. If you have time, visit and climb the tower for some sweeping views of the Beulah Valley. Otherwise, continue downhill on the Tower Trail until you reach the end. If things go right, your ride home will be waiting here. Or, this is where you turn around and go back.
To get there: The trailhead is on Colorado Highway 165, approximately 22 miles from the Colorado City exit on I-25, or about 4.5 miles north of the Lake Isabel Recreation Area. The trailhead and parking lot are marked. If you encounter Bishop Castle, you've gone too far.
Things to know: This is a difficult hike, even going downhill, due to distance, steep sections, loose, fist-sized rocks and is even more difficult if you do it from Pueblo Mountain Park, or as an out-and-back hike. There are no water or restroom facilities at the trailhead, and the parking area can only accommodate a handful or vehicles. The trail is open to hiking, biking and equestrian use. Other than the section on Pueblo Mountain Park property, the trail is open to 2-wheel motorized use. Dogs are allowed, but must be leashed while in Pueblo Mountain Park.
Aug. 1 is Colorado Day, commemorating its becoming the 38th state in 1876. As is custom, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will celebrate the event by waiving admission fees to all 42 Colorado State Parks for one day only, Monday, Aug. 2. Other fees, such as for campsites, etc. will still apply.
Aug. 7 is "Adventure Day" at Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Participants make their way around different stations and then enter to win raffle prizes. Park activities include: hatchet throwing, atlatl throwing, archery, lassoing, GPS challenge, .22 rifle trailer, laser trailer, wildlife watching and more. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Limekiln Trailhead parking lot, and is open to all ages. The event is free, although park admission fees do apply.
Be Good. Do Good Things. Leave No Trace.