Hiking Boots vs. Trail Runners – Which Do You Need?

It’s a constant debate among hikers. Are hiking boots or trail runners better for exploring the backcountry? As professional hiking guides, we’ve heard this question countless times, and now it’s time to list the pros and cons of each option so you can make the best choice for your future adventure. 

So, let’s take a close look at trailer runners vs. hiking boots and what each option brings to the trail. But first, let’s define these two types of footwear. 

What Are Hiking Boots?

Hiking boots are sturdy footwear that can take on everything the trail can throw at you. They typically deploy heavy-duty materials (such as leather) with a proven track record of holding up against harsh trail conditions season after season. Hiking boot soles tend to be stiff and supportive, while the upper can be waterproof or not – depending on your preference.

Boots either sit above the ankle, providing improved support and protection, or below the ankle. The low-cut option can also be referred to as a hiking shoe. But boot or shoe, this dedicated hiking footwear shares the same material and construction.

The last defining characteristic of hiking boots is that they are often noticeably heavier than your average street shoe or runner. This point brings us to trail runners.

Photo by Joanna Nix-Walkup on Unsplash

What Are Trail Runners?

As their name implies, trail runners are designed for runners tackling any terrain that’s not pavement. It could be dirt trails, mud, gravel, rock, or any combination of these options. Since they’re designed for running, trail runners have a flexible and light design to facilitate moving fast and fluidly. Since they’re lighter, trail runners use less robust materials than dedicated hiking boots and offer less cushioning. But their naturally light movement and lower rigidity tend to make up for these drawbacks.

Now that we know the basics of hiking boots and trail runners let’s dive into each one’s benefits and drawbacks for hiking.

Hiking Boots – Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

Durability

Hiking boots are the burly tank of the hiking trail. Their heavy design is robust, long-lasting, and offers a great deal of support. Specifically, the heavier boot materials, such as leather, synthetics, and nubuck, are incredibly resistant to everything the trail can throw at you. They’ll hold up season after season (with proper care).

Support

Hiking Boots are also noticeably stiffer than your average footwear, thanks to their midsoles (the middle layer embedded in the sole of the boot). It may initially seem and feel counterintuitive to opt for stiffer footwear, but this design provides more protection and stability when you’re hiking for hours across rocky or uneven terrain.

Additionally, hiking boots offer significant ankle support. The lacing system typically extends above the ankle. This allows you to wrap your ankles in a stiff, supportive shell that significantly improves your stability on the trail. Such ankle support is absolutely crucial for hikers with a history of ankle issues or those tackling very loose or uneven terrain.

Warmth

The thick materials and increased coverage that hiking boots offer also improve warmth retention on chilly hikes. They can block a sharp wind and slow down how quickly heat escapes from your foot area. Combine these benefits with a thick sock, and burly waterproof hiking boots can get you through most 3-season hiking conditions. However, remember that regular mid-winter hiking in sub-freezing temperatures may require a winter-specific boot.

Drawbacks

Weight and Bulk

All the benefits and features that contribute to hiking boots’ benefits combine to form one glaring drawback – weight. Hiking boots are noticeably heavy on the trail – although recent technology advancements are helping – and can sometimes feel ungainly and bulky while hiking.

This bulkiness is often highlighted on longer hikes when your energy starts to dip, and all that added weight on your feet may feel ponderous.

Stiff Materials

While stiffer soles and materials help with hiking stability, they can also detract from your overall comfort on the trail. The uncompromising nature of tough hiking boot material often doesn’t automatically yield to accommodate your foot.

This leads to the common “break-in” period, where you wear your boots on several preliminary hikes before the material very subtly starts to conform to your foot size. Still, the material is stiff, and what may be comfortable at the beginning of a hike may not be hours later when your feet have swelled slightly from the hike.

Photo by Taylor Grote on Unsplash

Trail Runners – Benefits and Drawbacks

Trail runners are almost the exact opposite of hiking boots. Let’s take a close look at what sets them apart in the world of hiking, and where their benefits and drawbacks lie. As we progress through this section, keep in mind that trail runners are – as their name implies – designed first and foremost for running. However, they’ve recently gained an intense following in the hiking community for their comfortable and lightweight design.

Benefits

Lightweight

First off, they place a premium on lightweight materials. The shoes are designed to move light and fast, and every upper material choice reflects this goal. Therefore, trail runners don’t hold you back while hiking and make each step feel light and natural. 

This natural feel is further enhanced by trail runners’ flexible design, which we’ll discuss next. 

Flexible

The bottom sole and midsole (if it has one) on a trail runner feature lightweight and flexible material choices. This flexibility gives these shoes a very natural feel. Every step is fluid and unrestricted, making this footwear option feel much more comfortable than its heavier boot counterparts. 

Breathability

Exceptionally lightweight material choices also facilitate a wonderfully breathable design. Trail runners are often designed to shed heat and moisture very quickly. The result is footwear that helps keep your feet cool and comfortable when you’re working hard and also dry quickly when they get wet – either from a quick downpour or a sweaty hike. 

A note on weatherproofing: Many trail runners are available in a waterproof option. These options won’t be as breathable as their non-waterproof counterparts but offer improved resistance to bad weather. However, keep in mind that the thin and lightweight materials don’t retain the waterproofing treatment as long as full-sized hiking boots. 

Comfort 

As we’ve touched on while discussing flexibility, trail runners are exceptionally comfortable. The light and soft material easily conform to your feet to mitigate almost all rubbing, chaffing, and stiffness. The result is vastly improved comfort that has no break-in period. This point also tends to make trail runners an ideal option for hikers with exceptionally large or wide feet, as many trail runners (such as the Altra Brand) focus on naturally wide designs for optimum comfort.

Drawbacks 

Lower Durability 

The focus on lightweight materials means trail runners aren’t as durable as heavy-duty hiking boots. They’ll often wear down more quickly, and the thin upper material is more susceptible to scrapes or tears. Everyone’s expereince will vary, but we often see trail runners lasting for just one or two seasons of heavy-duty use before materials begin to fail.

Less Support 

Trail runners typically offer minimal support. Their low cut means no ankle support, while less cushioning in the sole leads to a rougher ride than hiking boots. Many trail runner shoes will include a rock plate – a hard plastic insert – in the sole to help lessen the impact of rocks underfoot. But nevertheless, trail runners undoubtedly offer much less support than a burly hiking boot. 

Bringing It Together

We’ve certainly covered plenty of information regarding both trail runners and hiking boots. So let’s bring all the benefits together to see where each option shines in the backcountry.

Trail Runner BenefitsHiking Boot Benefits
– Lightweight– Highly Durable
– Flexible– Supportive
– Natural Step– Excellent weatherproofing
– Breathable– Warm
– Quick Drying– Increased Cushioning

How to Choose Between Hiking Boot and Trail Runners

So which is best, hiking boots or trail runners? Well, the decision comes down to your preferences and what you expect from your footwear. To help you make that decision, let’s consider a few specific questions that dramatically influence which option is for you.

Do your ankles or arch require support in order to hike comfortably? Many hikers need additional support in these areas to prevent a rolled ankle or arch pain. Additionally, a previous injury may also necessitate increased support to avoid flare-ups. If this sounds like your situation, hiking boots may be the best option. Alternatively, do your feet ache in stiff or rigid shoes, or do you always get blisters from your toes rubbing against the inside material of stiff shoes? In this case, trail runners’ soft and flexible comfort will likely be a good choice.

You can see where we’re going with these questions. Think about what will make your feet happy. Everyone’s priorities and comfort levels are different, so consider what works for your feet, the terrain you’re expecting to encounter, and what you expect your footwear to provide out on the trail. Fill in these blanks, and you’ll be well on your way to finding the perfect shoes for your next hiking adventure.

Best Fall Hikes Near Colorado Springs

Crisp air, cozy fleeces, and stunning aspen colors make for some of the best hiking conditions. Autumn in Colorado is stunning, and fall hiking near Colorado Springs is not something you want to miss! Oh, and did we mention the jaw-dropping mountain views?

The landscapes near Colorado Springs offer something for everyone. Between the aspen and pine forests, soothing creeks, and glistening mountain tops, it is hard to know where to start. Below you will find all the information you need on some of the best fall hikes near Colorado Springs.

A Quick Note

While generally safe, hiking does have potential risks: animal encounters, weather, and terrain. To set yourself up for success, always bring a pack and be prepared with food, water, layers, and other essentials. For more tips on getting prepared, check out how to pack for a day hike in Colorado.

Because bears are native to our beautiful state, bear safety is a factor to consider while preparing for and enjoying a hike here near Colorado Springs. Be sure to learn and follow NPS Animal Viewing guidelines and suggestions in order to enjoy wildlife sightings safely. When done safely, wildlife encounters can be a true highlight of the Colorado hiking experience!

expansive field with mountains and family walking on trail
Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

Preachers Hollow

Location: Mueller State Park
Distance: 20-25 minute drive, 15 miles from downtown Colorado Springs
Parking: Mueller State Park Visitors Center, 21045 Hwy S. Divide, CO
Permits: Colorado State Park Pass required per vehicle or you can purchase a day pass
Stats: 2.1-mile loop, 462 ft of elevation gain, easy
Note: Dogs are not allowed in the park

If you are looking for a fun beginner hike, look no further than Preachers Hollow. This loop offers a friendly multi-use trail with minimal elevation gain. Additionally, the loop style ensures that you will be exploring new terrain the whole route! You’ll find yourself wandering through canopies of aspens that open up to meadows with gorgeous views of the mountains in the distance. If you find yourself looking for a longer day, there are many other worthy trails in this park to explore.

The Palmer, Buckskin-Charley, Niobrara, and Bretag Trail Loop

Location: Garden of the Gods
Distance: 15-20 minute drive, 7 miles from downtown Colorado Springs
Parking: 1805 N. 30th St, Colorado Springs, CO; Park in the North Lot
Permits: Open to all hikers, no permit required
Stats: 4 miles round trip, 449 ft of elevation gain, easy

Hiking in the Garden of the Gods is a must-do when visiting Colorado Springs. The terrain in Garden of the Gods is open with little shade, so in the cooler temperatures, fall is the perfect time to hike this popular park. On this loop, hikers pass all of the unique rock formations in the park. There may also be opportunities to spot local wildlife or rock climbers scaling the rock. This park has tons of fun activities for people of all ages, and this trail is an accessible way to explore all the park’s best features.

Photo by Justin Hu on Unsplash

The Crags Trail

Location: 615 Teller Co Rd 62, Divide, CO
Distance: 50-60 minute drive, 34 miles from downtown
Parking: The Crags Trailhead, 615 Teller Co Rd 62, Divide, CO
Permits: Open to all hikers, no permit required
Stats: 4.8 miles round trip, 820 ft of gain, easy/moderate difficulty

Glistening granite features are a highlight of this trail. Before you get there, you will meander through aspens on a well-maintained trail. The trail then opens up to meadows and eventually, you will reach the top of the Crags Trails and enjoy stunning views of Pikes Peak. This hike also offers the opportunity to see the unique and twisted Bristlecone Pines native to the area.

Seven Bridges Trail

Location: North Cheyenne Cañon Park
Distance: 20-25 minute drive, 7.6 miles from downtown
Parking: Seven Bridges Trailhead, N Cheyenne Cañon Rd, Colorado Springs, CO
Permits: Open to all hikers, no permit required
Stats: 3.7 miles round-trip, 912 ft of gain, moderate difficulty

Aptly named for its defining features, Seven Bridges Trail swerves its way across North Cheyenne Creek via seven bridges. Not only do hikers enjoy the babbling of the creek underfoot, but this trail also offers fall hikers a golden aspen grove near the seventh bridge.  The end of the trail has beautiful views of the creek, valley, and Colorado Springs below. This is a moderate hike with good protection from the elements, making it a good choice in breezy weather.

Mount Buckhorn Peak

Location: North Cheyenne Cañon Park
Distance: 25-30 minute drive, 8.2 miles from downtown
Parking: Starsmore Discovery Center, 2120 S Cheyenne Cañon Rd, Colorado Springs, CO
Permits: Open to all hikers, no permit required
Stats: 3.9 miles round trip, 859 ft of gain, moderate difficulty

While views from any mountain peak are magical and inspiring, nothing compares to the 360-degree views from atop this one. At an elevation of 8,380 ft, Mount Buckhorn will satisfy every mountain lover’s dreams. It is a little harder to get to, but definitely worth it. This is an out-and-back trail through thick forests ending atop a peak filled with budging boulders. The views from the top are spectacular year-round, but especially with the fall foliage, making this one of the best fall hikes near Colorado Springs.

rocky steps through forest hiking trail
Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash

Columbine Trail

Location: North Cheyenne Cañon Park
Distance: 15-20 minute drive, 6 miles from downtown
Parking: Starsmore Discovery Center, 2120 S Cheyenne Cañon Rd, Colorado Springs CO
Permits: Open to all hikers, no permit required
Stats: 7.6 miles round trip, 1,607 ft of gain, moderate/hard difficulty

The Columbine Trial is a great hike close to town that offers stunning views, opportunities to see tons of flora and fauna, and flexibility for different hiking abilities. This trail has three different starting points, lower, middle, and upper trailheads, which allow you to customize the hike length depending on how much time you have. No matter where you start, you will follow the creek up the canyon and be treated to the sounds of birds and views of the surrounding mountains. 

Colorado Springs is a perfect destination for fall hikers. With easy access to a multitude of trails and nature areas, adventure awaits hikers of all skill levels. If you are new to hiking, Broadmoor Outfitters offers Guided Hikes so you can be sure you will see some of the best hiking trails in Colorado Springs. There’s no better time than autumn in Colorado, so lace up your boots and get out there!

Where to See Wildlife Near Colorado Springs

Heading out on a hike in beautiful Colorado? Our state includes incredible wildlife, many of which live right here in Colorado Springs. With the stunning Rocky Mountains in our backyard, there are so many opportunities to spot interesting and stunning wildlife when you are out enjoying nature. 

If you are an animal lover, an amateur wildlife photographer, or just looking for some unique hiking spots, we’ve got you covered. We will get into the many species that call Colorful Colorado home, how to identify the animals you might encounter, and the very best places to see wildlife near Colorado Springs. 

Before we get into it, it is important to note that you should always give wild animals space, at least 25 yards, unless the park specifies otherwise, and at least 100 yards for predators. If you are wondering about solo hiking safety, learn best practices, including staying on designated paths and telling a friend before you go.

Photo by Jéan Béller on Unsplash

American Bison

While many people confuse buffalo and bison, they are in fact not the same animal. For those of us in North America, we are most likely seeing bison. Bison have wooly sweaters with shorter hair after their shoulders and small, pointy horns that curve up like the letter ‘J.’ While they were previously near extinction, many conservation efforts, including some here in Colorado, have helped create a healthy recovery to a stable population.

If you are hoping to catch sight of these majestic beasts, there are a few different conservation areas nearby in Denver. The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City is a great day trip idea for Colorado Springs residents. It is home to over 330 species, including almost all on this list. The Buffalo Herd Nature Preserve in Golden and Daniels Park near Sedalia are two other local hiking areas that are some of the best places to spot bison in Colorado. 

Black Bears

Colorado has a large black bear population living all over the state, making them some of the most prevalent wildlife near Colorado Springs. It is not advisable to search for black bears, but you should be aware that they are most populous in Rocky Mountain National Park and southern Colorado near the San Luis Valley. Black bears typically live in brush and forested areas, which allows them to forage for their omnivorous diet of berries, nuts, and grasses. As they hibernate between November and May, you are most likely to see a black bear in the summer.

Please take the time to learn about important black bear safety protocols in case you happen to see one. Black bears do not attack humans without reason, so if you see one, you can likely back away slowly and be okay. Just be careful not to get too close, get between them and their cubs, or run away as they will chase you. 

Elk

The Rocky Mountain Elk is a member of the deer family and a popular animal to see when out in nature. It is always a surreal experience to find a big male elk with its recognizable antlers just grazing next to the hiking trail. A hundred years ago, elk were nearly extinct due to the popularity of hunting them. However, they have made a great recovery, and now the state abounds with them. 

Elk mostly eat grass and find it in meadows in the winter and higher on the mountain in the summer. The absolute best place to see this wildlife near Colorado Springs is in Rocky Mountain National Park. They are iconic to the area to the point that Estes Park has an annual Elk Fest the first weekend of October. It’s free, too, so if you are looking to find elk, that’s where to go.

Photo by Byron Johnson on Unsplash

Bighorn Sheep

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep are one of four native species in the U.S. but the only one here in Colorado. The males, also known as rams, have those iconic curly horns used for fighting. The female ewes have thinner and shorter horns that arc backward. 

These intrepid mountain climbers are often present at high elevations in the summer and lower elevation pastures in the colder months. Therefore, depending on the time of year, you may be more likely to find a native bighorn sheep in the canyons or the mountains. If you are looking to spot some of these bovines, you can check out the Bierstadt Trailhead at Guanella Pass near Georgetown, Rocky Mountain National Park up in Estes Park, and the Waterton Canyon Trail at the Denver Audubon Nature Center.

Gray Wolves

Gray wolves are native to Colorado, but sadly there are not many in the wild. The population suffered in the past century, along with other species on this list, as their prey, like elk and bison, had drastic population losses due to hunting. When the wolves had fewer food resources and turned to cattle, they were vilified by farmers and killed off in government-sponsored initiatives.

Today, the population has made a rebound thanks to being on the endangered species list. You may not find them on a hike near Colorado Springs, but you can visit with some wolves very close by at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center in Divide.

Photo by Pete Nuij on Unsplash

Mountain Lions

The mountain lion is one native species that is very hard to find in nature. They tend to be difficult to spot for a number of reasons. These reasons include generally stealthy behavior and natural camouflage coloring. Mountain lions live in densely wooded areas around the foothills and hunt game such as deer and elk.

Mountain lions have many names – cougar, puma, panther, and catamount – but they are all the same species. It is not advisable to seek out a mountain lion, as attacks can happen when they feel threatened. Like other big cats, they are best left with plenty of space. 

Final Thoughts

Before you hit the road for your wildlife search, make sure you are properly prepared by reviewing how to pack for a day hike. Don’t forget to bring binoculars and extra camera batteries or a portable charging pack for your phone. If you are looking for a little extra help finding the best hiking spots near Colorado Springs, consider getting started with a guided hike.

Cycling Events Near Colorado Springs this Fall 2022

If you are looking forward to hopping on your bike this fall, you’re going to want to check out these awesome cycling events near Colorado Springs. Colorado is known for its gorgeous landscape, and the fall is the absolute best time to take advantage and explore the state’s natural beauty. 

Within a couple hours of Colorado Springs, you can find tons of fun and exciting opportunities to ride with other cycling enthusiasts. There are plenty of courses available for beginnings, youngsters, and competitive riders alike. Here are just a few of the best Colorado cycling events you can enjoy this fall in 2022. 

CU Boulder Buffalo Bicycle Classic

When: Sunday, September 11, 2022

Where: Boulder, CO

Register Here

This historical ride is celebrating its 20th year this September, and now is a great time for you to try it out. There are nine different courses for riders of all ages and abilities, ranging from 14 to 100 miles, and all riders are welcome, even those with e-bikers and trailers. The longer routes head west to the foothills of the Rockies and take you to Nederland, then up to Allenspark. If you haven’t been cycling in Boulder, it is a beautiful place!

Aside from how fun the courses look, this cycling event is also the largest scholarship fundraising event in Colorado. Registration and donations support local “scholars” – Colorado residents attending CU Boulder. At less than two hours driving from Colorado Springs, this cycling event is a great opportunity to challenge yourself.

Pikes Peak APEX 

When: Thursday, September 22, 2022

Where: Colorado Springs, CO

Register Here

This epic cycling event is something you do not want to miss. It is a four-day mountain biking challenge with a total of $25,000 in prize money. The course is, on average, about 30 miles and 3,000 feet elevation per day and takes you cycling through all the must-see locations near Colorado Springs. You will get to explore Gold Camp Road, Palmer Park, Pikes Peak, Cheyenne Cañon, Royal Gorge Park (including biking over the Bridge!), and so much more. It is not too challenging on technical biking abilities, though it will certainly challenge your endurance. If you have checked out the Pikes Peak Cog Up Bike Down tour, then you might have some idea of what to expect.

There are also two options for folks looking for something a little less intense. You can sign up to cycle for just one day – either Thursday or Sunday – and complete the route without worrying about the competition. This option is perfect for beginner cyclists looking to get started in more formal events as it follows USA Cycling regulations and will give you a great feel for the spirit of the competition. If you are considering signing up, don’t wait: because of permit and preservation limitations, there are only 370 slots available, so get yours today.

Photo by Axel Brunst on Unsplash

Denver Century Ride 

When: Saturday, September 24, 2022

Where: Denver, CO

Register Here

This Colorado cycling event is a really unique opportunity. All of the courses are urban and take you through the streets of Denver. Not only is this a really cool way to explore the city, but also it will get you used to street cycling and show you all the ways the bike-safe streets of Denver connect. If you are considering commuting to work or cycling more in urban areas, this is a great way to get started and learn how to stay safe as a biker on the road.

The routes are 25 to 100 miles long and open to riders of all ages on all types of bikes: tandem, e-bikes, trailers, and more. The shorter routes take you through downtown, City Park, and the Denver Botanical Garden for what is surely a quaint, scenic ride. The longer rides will give you a tour through the greater Denver area, all the way down to Chatfield State Park and up to Golden. This supportive cycling event is a fun way to see Denver and get comfortable with cycling on urban roads. 

Gravel Locos 

When: Saturday, October 1, 2022

Where: Pueblo, CO

Register Here

The Gravel Locos cycling events happening on October 1 are epic. There are four race options, the shortest (La Pequeña) being a non-competitive 30-mile course and the longest (La Loca) a ridiculous 170-mile race with a 13,242-ft elevation gain. The three competitive, timed races will give you the chance to compete against some high-profile cyclists and see how you match up. 

Just an hour south of Colorado Springs, this event is a great day trip during a consistently beautiful time of year. You will enjoy a picturesque ride through Pueblo and the front range of the Rockies. One nice plus is that the ride is for a good cause: the event is supporting the Red Creek Volunteer Fire and Rescue to help them expand their firehouse.

The ‘Rad Dirt Fest

When: Saturday, October 8, 2022

Where: Trinidad, CO

Register Here

In a beautiful part of Southern Colorado, just two hours south of Colorado Springs, you can enjoy one of three invigorating cycling events. These races are wonderfully scenic, as you will bike past the Spanish Peaks, mesas, and plateaus and surely see some interesting wildlife. The roads are maintained but gravel and dirt, so it is definitely a different feel than biking on paved city streets.

The course options are The Frijole, at 38 miles, the Anteloop at 99 miles, and the longest Stubborn Delores at a killer 166-mile race with an 11,213-ft elevation gain. The longer two races will take you west from Trinidad toward the Spanish Peaks Wildlife Area and San Isabel National Forest. The races may be tough, but the views will surely make it worth it. 

Final Thoughts

There are so many fantastic cycling events near Colorado Springs, not just in the fall but year-round. If you are thinking about getting into cycling or mountain biking and are not sure where to start, you can check out a guided mountain biking tour. This will allow you to see if you like it, learn some helpful safety tips and techniques, and learn more about Colorado’s cycling community.

National Parks Near Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs is full of beautiful destinations to explore, such as Garden of the Gods or Pikes Peak. But one of the most common questions visitors ask is, are there any National Parks near Colorado Springs as well? The answer is yes! Colorado has many phenomenal national parks, and several are within easy driving distance of Colorado Springs. So, let’s take a look at what these parks are, what they offer, and how to get there.

Additionally, there are several fascinating national historical sites and monuments near Colorado Springs. Therefore, we’ll also cover these destinations and what they offer.

Photo by Wallace Bentt on Unsplash

National Parks Near Colorado Springs

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Distance: ~90 miles southwest (2.5-hour drive)

Only 90 miles from Colorado Springs is the breathtaking Great Sand Dunes National Park. Boasting the tallest dunes in North America, with the stunning Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, this park offers spectacular views that you won’t find anywhere else. Be sure to try sandboarding or sand sledding if you visit! There are also many fascinating and scenic hikes in the area, but be sure to follow the Park Service’s recommendations for a safe hike.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Distance: ~120 miles north (3-hour drive)

Heading north from Colorado Springs and passing the big city of Denver, you’ll encounter Rocky Mountain National Park. This massive park encompasses about 415 square miles and features everything the rocky mountain range has to offer. From rugged peaks to lush meadows and icy alpine lakes to cascading waterfalls, there’s plenty to do and see in this park. Naturally, hiking is one of the primary attractions for this national park, along with multi-day backpacking trips. But don’t worry, there are certainly activities for everyone in this massive park – including RVing, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Distance: ~225 miles (4.5-hour drive)

Often overshadowed by Rocky Mountain or Arches National Parks, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is an underappreciated marvel. This park features a river-carved rock canyon with some of North America’s steepest cliffs. The rock itself is also fascinating, and geology aficionados will love the two million-year-old formations and spires that make up this park. What’s more, it’s one of the national parks near Colorado Springs that’s within a day’s drive.

However, keep in mind that Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is very remote. Research your last opportunity for gas and services, and be sure to take everything you need with you for your visit. But the benefit of this remoteness is that you won’t have to jostle with massive crowds at this park.

Mesa Verde National Park

Distance: 336 miles (6-hour drive)

Tucked away in the southwestern corner of Colorado lies this incredible testament to the Pueblo People’s culture and history. For centuries, these peoples built stunning villages in the cliffs and mesas of this area, and these ancient structures are now included in Mesa Verde National Park. This World Heritage Site offers a very unique look into how the Pueblo People lived and what happened to them as the Spanish encroached northward from modern-day Mexico and, afterward, the American frontiersmen westward.

Don’t forget to also stop by Hovenweep National Monument, just North of Mesa Verde, which we will discuss next.

Photo by Lauren Lopes on Unsplash

National Monuments and Historical Sites

Hovenweep National Monument

Distance: ~400 miles (7-hour drive)

Located just northwest of Mesa Verde National Park, Hovenweep offers another rare glimpse into the history of the native American peoples. This series of 6 villages was built sometime between 1200 and 1300 (hundreds of years before the first Europeans arrived in the area) and feature stunning architectural achievements and structures built into the canyons. Modern historians believe that around 2,500 people once lived in these villages, and their construction skill is genuinely something to behold.

Also directly adjacent to Hovenweep is the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. This sprawling landscape contains the highest concentration of Native American archaeological sites in the country. Experts estimate that the area has been inhabited for over 10,000 years and includes more than 30,000 documented historical sites.

Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site

Distance: ~115 miles (2-hour drive)

For the history buffs out there, Bent’s Old Fort is a must-see and is close enough for a day trip from Colorado Springs. The Site features a reconstructed adobe trading post from the 1840s period. Complete with tours, demonstrations, and historical recreations and performances, this is a definite stopping point for folks interested in western frontier history.

Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

Distance: ~143 miles (2.5-hour drive)

The western frontier history is full of conflict, culture, and controversy. All of this, and more, is preserved at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, which memorializes the terrible events that occurred on November 29th, 1864, when U.S. cavalrymen attacked the villages of White Antelope, Left Hand, and Black Kettle – leaders of the Cheyenne and Arapaho people. Today, this site offers informative ranger talks that discuss the awful events of that day and their significant impact on the region’s history.

 

Photo by Himiway Bikes on Unsplash

Final Thoughts

Colorado has so much to offer with its plethora of National Parks, Monuments, and Historical Sites. With almost any outdoor activity imaginable, from boating to hiking, plus its wealth of history, everyone is sure to enjoy a trip here. Best of all, there are several National Parks near Colorado Springs in addition to historical sites, making it an ideal location to visit as a springboard to your greater Colorado adventures.

And don’t forget that Colorado Springs itself offers several fantastic outdoor destinations of its own. Our hiking tours are an easy option to check out the best areas. But if you prefer to explore alone, don’t forget to consult a trail guide for Colorado Springs!

Tips for Hiking in Rain

Are you headed out for a hike and worried about the weather? It’s important to always be prepared for any conditions, so we’ve got some tips for hiking in rain. First, make sure you know how to pack for a day hike in general, and then we’ll discuss specific gear for hiking in rain and other considerations for staying safe and dry.

Image by Drew Tadd from Pixabay 

Do Your Research

First things first, always check weather reports before you head out. There is a difference between a drizzle and a thunderstorm, both in terms of comfort and safety. If there are severe weather warnings or if your hike includes a potential flashflood area like a canyon, consider postponing your trip. Either way, be sure to tell a friend about your planned whereabouts in case the weather becomes hazardous. Lastly, pack the ten essentials to be prepared for every situation.

Pack a Hot Drink

When packing for a day hike, you should always bring plenty of water and snacks. When packing for a rainy day hike, you may want to add a nice warm beverage to the mix. You can prepare a thermos ahead of time and leave it in the car for when you finish the hike. If you are backpacking for a couple of days, drink mixes like hot cocoa can be a real treat to warm you up. 

Wear the Right Rain Gear

As is best practice for every hiking trip, you should wear moisture-wicking inner layers. Dry-fit shirts and wool socks will keep you dry even when you sweat or get caught in the rain. These proper layers insulate body heat, help prevent blisters, and can be the difference between a safe rainy hike and a dangerous wet one. 

Rain Jacket

For outer layers, a waterproof rain jacket is a must. Something light that fits in a day pack is a smart choice to avoid bulk in good weather. The most important thing to note is the distinction between water-resistant and waterproof materials. A water-resistant jacket might stay dry if you spill your drink or walk through a sprinkler. However, it is not suitable for hiking in the rain. After a while, the material gets bogged down with water and can become extremely uncomfortable. To avoid being cold, wet, and miserable, a certified waterproof raincoat is an absolute necessity.

Rain Pants and Proper Footwear

Waterproof pants and hiking shoes are the two other essential pieces to stay dry on a rainy day. Waterproof boots are my go-to even on clear days. If I happen to step in a puddle or hop a small stream, my feet stay dry. The one downside with waterproof shoes is that they are not breathable. If rain does get in, it will be extremely hard to get them dry, and you will find yourself walking in puddles the rest of the day. The main concern with wet feet is blisters. When skin gets wet, it is more susceptible to breaking and forming blisters. This is why waterproof pants and shoes (that don’t have a gap at the ankle) are the best way to keep dry.

Two other helpful pieces of gear are a towel and an extra pair of socks. You may choose to leave these in the car to dry off when you return. Having a towel for wet hair and drying off wet skin is really helpful, and there is nothing as comforting as putting on warm, dry socks after a wet hike.

Photo by Andy Køgl on Unsplash

Waterproof Your Gear

Next, unless your day pack is truly waterproof, you will want to make sure the stuff inside is well protected. Your phone, cash, food, and other personal items can be kept dry by putting them in dry bags or plastic baggies. A waterproof phone case will help make sure you always have access to navigation tools and emergency services.

If you are backpacking for a couple of days, rather than just on a day hike, you will especially want to ensure your sleeping bag, clothes, and toilet paper do not get wet. One great way to keep all your gear dry at once is with garbage bags. Rather than put each item individually in small plastic bags, you can line your entire pack with a garbage bag and then pack everything like normal. As long as you secure the bag shut and get the water off before you open it, you should be able to keep your important belongings free from the rain. 

Know Safety Protocols

There are a few important rules to keep in mind for hiking in dangerous weather conditions. First, assume everything will be slippery. Rocks, wooden steps, mossy tree roots: everything is easy to slip on when wet. Be sure to keep your eyes on the trail and tread carefully.

If you find yourself caught in a thunderstorm, seek shelter, head to lower elevation, avoid the tallest trees, and avoid open meadows. If you are with a group, you should spread out to reduce the number of injuries in the event that there is a lightening strike.

Finally, if you were planning on crossing a stream on your hike, remember that it will be larger in the rain. You should always have an established path with branches or rocks to hold onto for safety. Added water means added current, so be extra careful not to get your feet swept out from under you. Check the National Park Serivce advice for river crossings for more information.

Dry Out After a Wet Hike

If you head home after your day of hiking in the rain, you can throw your clothes right in the wash. If you’re out for a couple of days, hang everything to dry. Put your hiking shoes in the sun or near a fire (not too close!). It is easy for mold to develop in gear that does not dry properly, so dry out your boots to extend their life. 

Photo by Yann Allegre on Unsplash

Consider a Guided Hike

One great way to avoid the hassle and confusion of preparing for hiking in the rain is to book a guided hike. You can learn so much from professional hiking guides on how to prepare and navigate a rainy hike, and you’ll also benefit from someone bringing along those essential first aid supplies.

If you are feeling dispirited that the rain ruined your hiking trip, know that it is very possible to have a great time in any weather. With a little preparation and the right gear for hiking in rain, you can ensure a comfortable experience with Mother Nature’s wetter side. Be sure to check out the Colorado Springs trail guide to find your next great adventure, and enjoy your time outdoors! 

How To Stand Up on a Paddle Board

Stand-up paddle boarding (SUPing) is a widely recognized water sport that involves standing on a board, similar to a surfboard and using a paddle to move around the water. It’s been a method people have used to move in the water since around 3000 B.C. but has only become popular since the early 2000s. You’ve likely seen spectacular photos on social media or other advertisements of people posing on their stand-up paddleboard (SUP) while on a beach vacation – but what you don’t see is the clumsiness that often preludes their picture-perfect pose. 

Stand-up paddle boarding may look like a piece of cake, but it isn’t entirely intuitive. Balancing on a floating board while steering with a paddle takes a lot of coordination and core strength. But don’t let the challenge stop you! After all, paddle boarding is so popular partly due to how beginner-friendly and inclusive it is. All you need is a good attitude and this guide we’ve created for you to learn how to stand up on a paddle board. 

Photo by Peter Csipkay on Unsplash

How to Get On The Board

If you’re a beginner, mounting the SUP in calm, shallow waters (about knee deep) will be the easiest. Trying to get on the board while in deep waters or strong currents as a beginner could leave you up a creek without a paddle. To get on the board from the water, stand beside the board and lay your paddle across the nose of the board (horizontally) with the handle on your side. Hold the board on both sides, with the hand closest to you holding both the paddle handle and the board. Lift your alternate knee out of the water and onto the board, then pull the rest of your body onto the board, ensuring the nose stays in the water. Different SUPs have different balancing points, but you should be near the middle of the SUP. Continue kneeling and get your balance before attempting to stand up. 

Go From Kneeling to Standing

Once you’ve paddled around on your knees and gotten your balance for several strokes (or however many it takes!), you may feel comfortable transitioning into the standing position. This will be easier for some than others. For those with stiff knees, choosing a wider board might make standing up on your board easier. Staff at Broadmoor will definitely help you choose the perfect board for our Stand Up Paddle Board Tours. Now, here are a couple of methods to stand up on your board.

If you’re a reasonably agile person, you can lay your paddle down across the nose of the board, then lean down to place your hands on the board in front of your knees to balance. At this point, you should be able to bring your knees up and get your feet under your torso, then lift your body up into the standing position.

For those who aren’t exactly spring chickens or who aren’t as limber, follow the steps above, except instead of laying your paddle down, use it as a prop to help you bring your body to standing upright.

Once you’re standing, you will want to make sure your feet are in the same position on your SUP as your knees were. That way, you already know where the sweet spot of balance is on your SUP.

Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

How to Balance

The number one tip for how to stand up on a paddle board is: Don’t look down. SUPing is one of those sports that requires you to get out of your head and into your body, so really try to feel it in your feet, hips, back, shoulders, and core while learning. Place your feet around the middle of the board, about hip-width apart, and point your toes forward. Keep your posture solid but not too rigid. Also, move from your hips and core rather than trying to walk around on the board. And last but not least- prepare to fall. It happens!

How to Paddle

Now that you know how to stand up and balance on a paddle board, you need to learn how to use your paddle. Believe it or not, there is a wrong way to paddle a SUP, and most beginners do it incorrectly when left to their own devices.

First, you want to ensure that the paddle’s T-grip handle feels comfortable in your hand. You’ll be paddling on both sides, but start with the handle in your dominant hand, so you can get the hang of the paddling technique. Hold around the middle of the paddle with your other hand.

To paddle, put your blade in the water, ensuring that the angled part of the paddle blade is pointed toward the nose of your SUP and that the entire blade is submerged in the water. Now, make a big sweeping motion, pushing down with your top hand, as opposed to pulling the paddle through the water toward you. Paddle from about two feet in front of you, back to your ankles, and lift the paddle out of the water. Keep your arms straight during the paddle motion, and only move with your torso and upper body. Keep in mind that you should be paddling with your core strength, not with your arms. 

Prepare Your Body

If you’re planning on spending a big chunk of time SUPing or want to SUP several days in a row, you’ll be wise to exercise first. Building your core muscles as well as increasing stamina will pay off on the water! And, you might not be as sore after paddle boarding as you might be if you don’t work those muscles in the days and weeks before your SUP adventure. Plank (traditional and side plank) exercises, mountain climbers, and squats are a good starting point if you want to stand up on a paddle board. 

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the basic steps for how to stand up on a paddle board, you’re ready to get on the water and rock it. Remember, to be good at something, you’ve got to be bad at it first. So don’t be afraid to practice and perhaps take a couple of falls. But this beginner’s guide to stand up paddle boarding will send you on your way! 

Zip Lining Colorado Springs – How to Do It

How to Get Started Zip Lining Colorado Springs

Beginning as a way to transport goods and materials across rough terrain and rivers, ziplines quickly became a safer alternative for the workers, too. Nowadays, the sport has become more and more popular, with zip lines popping up in tourist areas all over the world. Zip lining is a great summer activity, a way to see awesome views of the surrounding area, and a thrilling ride for those looking for a rush of adrenaline.

What Is Zip Lining?

In zip lining, riders sit in a harness and hang under a long cable that starts higher on a slope and ends somewhere in the distance. You are connected to the cable via a pulley, whose wheels coast seamlessly along the cable, allowing you to fly through the air at awesome speeds, upwards of 40 miles per hour. 

Ziplines are often set up in forests or jungles, high in the trees. You may also find a zipline across a river or canyon or going down a mountain. In addition to a harness, zipliners must wear helmets. It is also suggested to wear pants and gloves to protect yourself from scratches by rogue branches. 

Image by AaronHM from Pixabay 

Why You Should Try Zip Lining

If you’re not already thrilled at the opportunity to fly through the air, there are plenty of other reasons to try ziplining. First, it’s a great way to experience nature. Ziplines often start at great heights – Broadmoor’s highest point is more than 500 feet in the air. You’ll get amazing views of the Front Range as you soar over the trees on this upside-down roller coaster. 


Next, zip lines immerse you in nature. These courses, which are among the best Colorado Springs attractions, include rope bridges, hikes, and rappels. While you’re on the zip line, you’ll get views of the forest canopy like you’ve never seen before. Colorado Springs has some amazing wildlife and scenery, and these zipline courses are unique and thrilling ways to experience that nature.

Is Zip Lining Safe?

All outdoor and adventure activities come with some risks, but zip lines in the United States are certified by an agency that notes a one-in-a-billion chance of one breaking. When properly constructed and run by trained professionals, ziplines are one of the safest ways for adrenaline seekers to get that rush.


The Broadmoor’s ziplines also have a minimum weight requirement of ninety pounds to make sure that riders can properly wear their safety equipment. All this is to say that a zipline course is an awesome family-friendly activity, and you can rest assured that ziplines are safe for kids.

Image by sebastian del val from Pixabay 

Zipline Courses in Colorado Springs

Now that you’re convinced to try it, let’s discuss the best zip line courses Colorado Springs has to offer. Between the Woods and Fins Courses, the Broadmoor property has eight zip lines of up to 1,800 feet in length and heights up to 500 feet.

The Woods Course

The first and more beginner-friendly course offered at Broadmoor for zip lining Colorado Springs, the Woods Course, travels over Midnight Falls and includes 5 zip lines ranging from 250 to 1500 feet long. The tallest starts 150 ft high in the air, and you’ll reach speeds upwards of 45 miles per hour. 

This thrilling course starts with two shorter zip lines to allow riders to get used to the experience. After a short walk, the third zip line takes you over a beautiful granite canyon and creek 150 feet down below. The fourth zip line leads riders to the top of Seven Falls, and the final 1,500-foot ride brings you back to the hiking trail. 

The Fins Course

If you want something a little more blood-pumping, the Fins Course is the way to go. This extreme ziplining adventure takes you to high altitudes, steep drops, and an experience in the Front Range like you’ve never had before. 

This half-day adventure has 5 zip lines of 250 to 1800 feet long and heights up to 500 feet. The course also involves two rope bridges, and a 180-foot assisted rappel. This awesome journey is definitely not for those who fear heights!

The course has two introductory zip lines, just like the Woods Course, before the third zipline takes you to Seven Falls Canyon and its rock fins. You’ll walk across two rope bridges and enjoy views of Colorado Springs before the fourth zipline takes you over the canyon to the south side of Mt. Cutler. Being 500 feet above the canyon road provides stunning view and an experience you’ll never forget. Finally, the last zip line leads back to the canyon, where you will rappel 180 feet down to the canyon floor.

The Combo Course

If you can’t choose between these awesome options, you’ll be relieved to know that you don’t have to! The Broadmoor’s combo course allows you to experience both the best zip lines in Colorado Springs. 

This four-hour day starts with the Woods Course, including the introductory zip lines and the awesome Midnight and Seven Falls rides, then all of the Fins Course, from the rope bridges to the thrilling ziplines to the assisted rappel. All in all, this exciting course has 8 zip lines and a 25-minute hike between the two courses. This great half-day adventure introduces you to the world of ziplining and provides other unique experiences in nature.

Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

When Is the Best Time to Go Ziplining In Colorado Springs?

If you are wondering when you can go zip lining here in Colorado Springs, Broadmoor’s courses are open year-round. While it is fun to go zip lining anytime, there are definitely better months and some weather tips to keep in mind. Summer is the best time for zip lining Colorado Springs. With the sunny, hot weather, the relief of wind and fast speeds will feel great. Spring and fall are also beautiful times to enjoy the weather from a zip line, and don’t forget about the gorgeous foliage you’ll see.

If you choose to go zip lining in the winter or colder weather, be aware of the temperature drops. On top of the mountains, it will be colder and windier. And with the ziplines propelling you to speeds greater than 40 miles per hour, you will want warm clothes and wind protection. Gloves and face protection are necessary for certain conditions to prevent frostbite. The only other risk is storms or lightning, which might result in closed courses until the bad weather passes.

Final Thoughts

Zip lining is an invigorating way to experience nature and see the stunning vistas of Colorado’s Front Range. This family-friendly activity is accessible from downtown, where you’ll have access to some of the best ziplines in Colorado. Simply make a reservation, dress well, and you’ll be all set. At Broadmoor, we include all the gear and instruction from trained guides. So all you need to do is show up and you’re sure to have a memorable time zip lining Colorado Springs – Enjoy!

Best Colorado Springs Activities for Families

Not many states call-in visitors from all over the world quite like Colorado does, and for good reason. Sitting at the Eastern foot of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado Springs is often ranked one of the best places to live and retire. Its residents are also known to be some of the happiest people in America. Maybe it’s the picturesque mountain views that are always accessible, or the neverending list of things to do outside that makes Colorado Springs one of the best destinations for families. 

Either way, whether you’re considering moving your family to the area, already live nearby, or just want to have an unforgettable summer vacation with your kids, we’ll help inspire your list of things to do in Colorado Springs.

Photo by Pragyan Goswami on Unsplash

1: Explore Pike’s Peak

Pike’s Peak, dubbed “America’s Mountain,” is a National Historic Landmark and even claims to be the most visited mountain on the continent. We added this to our list of Colorado Springs activities for families not only for its fame but also for its easy access. Pike’s Peak is one of the only Fourteeners (mountains above 14,000 feet elevation) accessible by more than just foot. You can summit Pike’s Peak by hiking, biking, driving, or train. Additionally, Broadmoor Outfitters offers an exciting combination of two modes of transportation: ride up and bike down!

2: Cave of the Winds Mountain Park

Believed by the Apache to be home to the Great Spirit of the Wind, the Cave of the Winds cavern is a geological time capsule. The main cavern is around 4 to 7 million years old. However, there are no written records of the cave until two school-aged boys discovered it in the 1800s. This is one of the best Colorado Springs activities for families because the Cave of the Winds Mountain Park offers customized plans for your family’s day based on your group’s adventure level and how much time you have to explore.

While there are dozens of things to do at the Park, two main (and exhilarating!) tours explore the entire cave system. The Discovery Tour is 45 minutes and perfect for everyone in the family! The Haunted Lantern Tour is a little longer, 90 minutes, and is a thrilling, deep exploration into the mountain with only candles lighting the way. The Haunted Lantern tour is only suitable for children 8 years old and up. All tours fill up quickly, so be sure to reserve yours as soon as possible. 

Photo by Colin Lloyd on Unsplash

3: Broadmoor Hunt

This scavenger hunt activity is probably one of the most unique experiences on our list of things to do in Colorado Springs. It also happens to be located on the same property as some of the best lodging in Colorado Springs! The Broadmoor Hunt is perfect for families and large groups of up to 100 people. You’ll download the app on your phone to access the scavenger hunt’s challenges and explore every bit of the historical property around The Broadmoor. All the while taking photos, solving riddles, and even asking Broadmoor staff for tips! This is a highly interactive game-like activity that lasts about two hours.

4: Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge and Park

The Royal Gorge Bridge and Park is home to the tallest suspension bridge in the United States. What’s more, it also has Colorado’s #1 Bucket List Zipline, and the World’s Scariest Skycoaster. Visiting the park and walking across the tallest bridge in America is a must-do for adventurous families. This attraction is so thrilling. It also made it onto our list of Best winter activities for families in Colorado Springs. Assuming everyone in your family is ok with heights, this park has tons to offer the thrill-seeking family, from walking the bridge that hangs 1000 feet over the river to riding in aerial gondolas.

Photo by Jonathan Chaves on Unsplash

5: U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center

If you’re a family who likes to gather around the television to cheer on your favorite nations and athletes during the Olympic Games, you’ll not want to miss out on the opportunity to visit the Olympic Training Center. This is America’s hub for the country’s top-performing athletes and their coaches. This facility in Colorado Springs offers lodging, dining, training, and recreational facilities. It can accommodate 500 athletes and coaches. You’ll need a reservation to embark on one of the three tours offered at Bronze, Silver, and Gold tiers. Each tour offers varying levels of access to the facilities. For example, Bronze tours will show you around some major areas of interest, whereas the more expensive Gold tour will get you inside access to pools, basketball courts, and even the dining hall. On occasion, when their schedules allow, Olympic athletes offer exclusive tours.

6: Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center

This is one of the top destinations and things to do in Colorado Springs. Picturesque views of sandstone rock formations and mountain passes make this Nature Center a must for your family-friendly activities! Among the activities offered with breathtaking views as the backdrop are hiking, canoeing, ziplining, and open-air Jeep rides. Additionally, there are indoor activities like museums and informational videos covering the stunning rock formations and towers. There’s something for everyone at Garden of the Gods. 

Conclusion: 

We’re hopeful this list offers you a starting point and inspiration for things for families to do in Colorado Springs. This is by no means an exhaustive list, as Colorado Springs has thousands of attractions, trails, and activities to explore. “Fun” could be a full-time job in this city, and we hope to be part of yours! 

Colorado Springs Trail Guide – Best Hiking Trails in Colorado Springs

The city and area surrounding Colorado Springs have gorgeous scenery and ample ways to enjoy the great outdoors, perhaps one of the best parts of Colorful Colorado. Whether you are looking for a quick walk or a long, tiring trek, there are plenty of hiking trails in Colorado Springs at every difficulty level. And for those just getting started, be sure to check out our guided hiking tours.

If you are looking for the absolute best trails in Colorado Springs, we have an in-depth review of our top 5 favorite hikes near Colorado Springs. You’ll also see them on this list along with many other excellent options for hikers of all abilities. This list is organized roughly by difficulty level, as determined based on reviews from fellow hikers, length, and elevation gain. So if you are wondering where to hike in Colorado Springs, look no further. 

Easy Hikes

Memorial Park Prospect Lake Loop Trail

Parking: 280 S Union Blvd, Colorado Springs, CO 80910 (Tons of parking available in the park along Memorial Dr)

Elevation Gain: 26 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 1.3 miles

Highlights:

  • Paved loop, very accessible for wheelchairs, strollers, etc.
  • Great views of mountains and scenic lake
  • Beach area and playground

Palmer Park Cheyenne and Grandview Trail Loop

Parking: Palmer Park Trail Cave Outlook, 3120 N Chelton Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80909

Elevation Gain: 183 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 1.8 miles

Highlights:

  • So much to see here including a botanical reserve, horse stables, canyons, ravines, bluffs, and more
  • Tons of wildlife: Palmer Park is popular among birdwatchers

Stratton Open Space The Chutes, Laveta, and Chamberlain Trail Loop

Parking: North Cheyenne Cañon Park & Stratton Open Space Trailhead, N Cheyenne Canyon Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80906 (on the right, just past the Starsmore Visitors Center)

Elevation Gain: 705 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 3.8 miles miles

Highlights:

  • Most popular hiking trail in Stratton Open Space
  • Excellent wildflowers and wildlife
  • Beautiful views of the Gold Camp Reservoirs

Garden of the Gods The Palmer, Buckskin-Charley, Niobrara, and Bretag Trail Loop

Parking: 3105 Gateway Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80904

Elevation Gain: 449 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 4.0 miles

Highlights:

  • Gorgeous views of the National Natural Landmark that is Garden of the Gods
  • Combines four popular trails around the park
  • Access to horseback riding, rock climbing, and biking trails
  • A Top 5 Pick! Learn More.

Ute Valley Park Ute Valley Park Trail

Parking: Ute Valley Trail Head, Ute Vly Trl, Colorado Springs, CO 80919

Elevation Gain: 488 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 4.3 miles

Highlights: 

  • Excellent views of Pikes Peak
  • Plenty of side trails to explore
Photo by Bailey Galindo on Unsplash

Moderate Hikes

North Cheyenne Cañon Park Mount Buckhorn Peak

Parking: Upper Gold Camp parking lot, 4415 Gold Camp Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80906

Elevation Gain: 859 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 3.9 miles

Highlights:

  • Beautiful views along the way 
  • Boulders to climb at the summit (the tallest offers panoramic views)
  • A Top 5 Pick! Learn More.

North Cheyenne Cañon Park Seven Bridges Trail

Parking: Seven Bridges Trailhead, N Cheyenne Canyon Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80906 (right before Helen Hunt Falls)

Elevation Gain: 912 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 3.5 miles

Highlights:

  • Very popular trail due to its history and uniqueness
  • Meanders alongside a creek and crosses over via seven charming bridges
  • Close to Helen Hunt Falls and Silver Cascade Falls

Pike National Forest The Crags Trail

Parking: Crags/Devil’s Playground Trailhead, 615 Teller Co Rd 62, Divide, CO 80814

Elevation Gain: 820 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 4.8 miles

Highlights:

  • Awesome views of unique geological features
  • Well marked trail
  • Challenging, but a good introduction for beginner hikers
  • A Top 5 Pick! Learn More.

North Cheyenne Cañon Park Mount Muscoco Trail

Parking: Mount Cutler and Muscoco Trailhead, N Cheyenne Canyon Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80906 (on the left, 1.5 miles past Starsmore Visitors Center)

Elevation Gain: 1,292 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 4.0 miles

Highlights:

  • Includes a fun scramble at the summit
  • Outstanding views of the surrounding mountains
  • Well marked and well maintained
  • A Top 5 Pick! Learn More.

North Slope Recreation Area North Catamount Reservoir Trail

Parking: Pikes Peak Toll Rd, Woodland Park, CO 80863 (just past the Crystal Reservoir Visitors Center)

Elevation Gain: 262 feet 

Round Trip Mileage: 2.7 miles

Highlights:

  • Short but steep (15% grade around the 1.5-mile marker), so you’ll get a good workout
  • Beautiful views of meadows and wildflowers along the way
Photo by Jonathan Chaves on Unsplash

Hard Hikes

Red Rock Canyon Open Space Sand Canyon, Mesa, Greenlee, Red Rock Canyon Loop

Parking: 3550 W High St, Colorado Springs, CO 80904

Elevation Gain: 882 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 5.4 miles

Highlights:

  • Varied terrain and interesting geology
  • Lots of sun as shade is limited
  • Good views without too difficult an elevation gain

Pike National Forest The Incline Trail

Parking: Barr Trailhead, 98 Hydro St, Manitou Springs, CO 80829

Elevation Gain: 1,978 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 4.0 miles

Highlights:

  • The most popular trail in the Pike National Forest
  • All the elevation is in the first mile – at the hardest point, it’s an extremely challenging 61% grade!

North Slope Recreation Area Limber Pine, Mule Deer, Mackinaw, and Ridge Trails Loop

Parking: Catamount Recreation Area, 3168 Co Rd 28, Woodland Park, CO 80863

Elevation Gain: 1,036 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 8.4 miles

Highlights:

  • Challenging trek around the North Catamount Reservoir with a bunch of elevation changes
  • At times follows the water, and at other times, you’ll be in the forest

North Cheyenne Cañon Park Columbine Trail

Parking: Starsmore Discovery Center, 2120 S Cheyenne Canyon Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80906

Elevation Gain: 1,607 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 7.6 miles

Highlights:

  • Great views of the surrounding mountains
  • Plenty of wildlife (don’t forget to check out the Starsmore Discovery Center at the trailhead
  • Gradually inclining slope, no huge scrambles
  • A Top 5 Pick! Learn More.

Pike National Forest The DeCaLiBron: Mounts Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln and Bross Trail

Parking: Kite Lake Trailhead, Co Rd 8, Alma, CO 80420

Elevation Gain: 3,136 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 7.0 miles

Highlights:

  • Ability to summit three 14-ers, the highest being Mount Lincoln at 14,295’ (Note that Mount Bross is private property and illegal to summit)
  • Real right of passage for serious Colorado hikers

Final Thoughts

Before you hit one of these awesome hiking trails in Colorado Springs, be sure that you are well prepared for your trip. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and other essentials that we cover in how to pack for a day hike. Happy trails!