Our Favorite Hikes Near Colorado Springs

The landscape of Colorado is calling for everyone to come hiking. The stunning mountains, waterfalls, and red rocks make for a unique experience, no matter your skill level. Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to start your exploration of Colorado is by checking out the hikes near Colorado Springs. 

Nestled in the foothills of the mountains, Colorado Springs gives quick and easy access to some of the most diverse trails in the state. Remember that some hikes in the area may require a permit. For ease of use, we selected trails that match those in beauty, but there are no permits required for hikes.

Best hikes near Colorado Springs

Muscoco

Location: Mount Cutler/Mt. Muscoco Trailhead

Elevation Gain: 1,292 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 4.0 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Views of the mountains sweep out to your right, and Colorado Springs lays the backdrop to your left as you head up to the summit of Mount Muscoco. This moderate trail is located just southwest of Colorado Springs in the North Cheyenne Cañon Park. It’s a quick drive out to a hike that is well worth the final climb. 

The Mount Muscoco trail is well-known for the wildflowers that it boasts in the springtime, making it a great trail to do as the snow starts to melt. 

The Mount Cutler trail takes you to the trail that you are truly looking for. About a mile down the Mount Cutler trail is the Mount Muscoco trail. This trail will take you straight to the summit, but beware, the final climb is where all of the difficulty lies in this trail. 

For this hike, in particular, quality hiking boots are highly recommended. The final climb is rocky, and sneakers aren’t suitable to give your feet the support they will need. 

The Crags Trail

Location: Near Divide, CO

Elevation Gain: 820 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 4.8 miles

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

We suggest checking out the Crags Trail for a great introduction to the area. Not only does it display some of the best landscapes of the area, but it also won’t push you too hard and make you not want to hike again. The trail is long enough to make it a workout and is relatively flat, with a total elevation gain of about 820 feet. 

The Crags Trail gives you a view of some of the most unique geological features in all of Colorado. Granite slabs erupt from the ground in large numbers, forming massive cliff sides and sheer-faced walls. The trail also takes you through some huge aspen forests that allow you to see another part of Colorado’s brilliant landscape. Head out on this trail in the fall and be prepared to have your world blanketed in gold by these magnificent trees. 

Another reason why this trail is perfect for beginners is the ease of use. It’s well-marked, as trail number 664, and well-maintained. The forest service has recently constructed new parking, so you don’t need to rush there at 6 in the morning to get a spot. 

If you’re a beginner wanting to start exploring these areas, ensure that you are prepared. Read up on Colorado hiking safety and know before you go. 

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

Location: Garden of the Gods Park

Elevation Gain: 449 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 4.0 miles

Difficulty: Easy

When avid hikers think about Colorado Springs, one of the first places that come to mind is Garden of the Gods. This National Natural Landmark is well-known for the sandstone towers that color the sky with their vibrant reds. Come here once, and you’ll be itching to come back and try the climbing, horseback riding, or mountain biking that the park has to offer. 

This trail, in particular, is a phenomenal introduction to the park. It combines four popular trails to make an easy four-mile loop, providing a taste of everything in the park. The route starts on the Palmer Trail and takes twists and turns through the most well-known towers in the park. 

Columbine Trail

Location: North Cheyenne Cañon Park

Elevation Gain: 1,607 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 7.6 miles

Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult

Now, here’s another trail to add to your list of Fall hiking in Colorado Springs. North Cheyenne Cañon is surrounded by mountains (some of which have also made this list) and provides an array of different views and landscapes to please everyone that tags along. 

The Columbine Trail has three different options for where to start. One of the best places to start, in our opinion, is the Starsmore Discovery Center. This center has a wealth of knowledge about the local flora and fauna, making it a great start or end to your hike. 

No matter what you are looking for, you can find it on the Columbine Trail. There are babbling brooks, warbling birds, and huge mountain vistas. While the trail is on the longer side, the elevation gains are evenly spread out, so you will barely notice it. 

Buckhorn

Location: North Cheyenne Cañon Park

Elevation Gain: 859 feet

Round Trip Mileage: 3.9 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Another hike in North Cheyenne Cañon Park makes the list, showing off what this one place truly has to offer. If you’re trying to figure out where to hike in Colorado Springs, this park is a great place to start. 

Mount Buckhorn Peak is a quick hike up to a beautiful 8,380-foot summit that gives you a full 360-degree view of the world around you. The hike itself takes you through a forested setting that is a must-see in the fall. Once you are at the top, you can turn this trail into a quick out-and-back or continue down Buckhorn trail and return to where you started. 

The summit itself is somewhere you could spend an entire day. Once you are up there, you can scramble around on the huge number of boulders trying to find the highest one. This is an excellent hike if you want to take time to explore. 

How to Pack for a Day Hike in Colorado

The variety of terrain and difficulty found on day hikes requires the skill of adequately packing. 

How to pack for a day hike is a skill that many have been working towards mastering for years and that all hikers need to know the basics of. Before you head out into the backcountry, your pre-trip will always require you to take a look at all of your hiking essentials. 

Day hikes in Colorado Springs can be laid back or some of the more strenuous hikes out there. To take these hikes on safely, you need to pack efficiently and effectively. While optimism and a positive mental attitude should be the first thing you pack, you can’t forget that emergencies do happen. If they happen to you, what’s inside your day pack will often determine how the situation plays out. 

If you’re new to hiking or have never hiked in Colorado before, we recommend booking a hike with a guide. Guided hiking tours will help you feel confident in a new environment and help lower risk while hiking in the mountains.

10 Essentials to pack for a day hike

The Ten Essentials are a great place to start when learning how to pack for a day hike. These were created over 80 years ago and have been modified as our technology and knowledge advance.

To begin, we’ll take a quick look at each of the ten essentials.

1. Navigation

Before you head out, you’ll need to know where you’re going and how to get there.

A map and compass are an excellent pick for navigational aids, but you can up your technology game and bring along any satellite navigation and communication devices. 

2. Sun Protection

The sun will quickly ruin your day hike and potentially lead to more serious problems if you’re unprepared.

If you adequately protect yourself with the proper layers, hats, and sunscreen, you are much less likely to experience heatstroke, dehydration, or any other sun-related illnesses. Even on cloudy days and in the winter, the UV rays can still reach you, so always be prepared!

3. Insulation

If you’re packing for a long day hike or even packing to prepare for potential hazards, extra layers will be key to keeping you safe and comfortable.

The weather flips like a switch in some environments, especially in the mountains. With the proper jackets, hats, and rain shells, you can be ready to take on anything mother nature throws at you. 

4. Illumination

Any day hike can turn into an overnighter if you lose the trail or get turned around unexpectedly (especially if you neglect navigation).

Pack a headlamp or flashlight with spare batteries, so you don’t need to shuffle your way through the dark. 

5. First-Aid

There’s no need for a complicated first aid kid unless you are a professional, but it’s important to have a basic kit ready for any injuries you or other hikers may have.

Remember, not all kits are made for all environments. Buy a basic kit and make changes to it to fit your experience level and the needs of your group. 

6. Fire

Being ready for anything means being prepared to keep yourself warm, cook food, and treat water when in the backcountry.

Fire starting supplies such as waterproof matches, a lighter, or a Ferro rod are great options to help get a fire anywhere. Pick what you are the most comfortable with and pack a spare.

7. Repair kit and tools

Packing a repair kit can seem like overpacking when you’re planning on just going out for the day, but it can be one of the most important things you bring along.

You will find more uses for duct tape and a knife than you ever thought imaginable when you need it out there. 

8. Nutrition

Every day of our lives appears to be driven by, “what meal will we have next?”

When you go out into the backcountry, this question is asked even more frequently as your body works harder than normal to bring you from place to place. Even if you bring out just a few calorie-dense snacks on your day hike, you’ll be grateful. The best practice is to bring at least an extra day’s worth of calories.

9. Hydration

No matter if you’re out in the dead of winter or on one of the guided hiking tours in Colorado Springs during the hottest day of the year, water is always your best friend.

Water keeps you warm in the winter and cools in the summer. Almost every ailment you start experiencing in the backcountry comes with the initial treatment recommendation of “drink some water.” Unsurprisingly, it usually works. 

10. Emergency Shelter

Going out means going out ready for your trip plans to change drastically. In most cases, you’ll never end up spending a night out that was unplanned.

However, if you ever find yourself in that situation, an emergency shelter will be a lifesaver. This can be a small bivy (like a one-person waterproof cocoon) or simply a tarp to protect yourself from the elements. 

More about comfort, less about survival

The Right Pack

The right backpack for day hiking is going to be a complete game-changer when you’re out hiking. A comfortable bag with enough space and support will turn a miserable experience into a walk in the park. For starters, I recommend buying a 30-40 liter pack if you are focused on day hikes.

40-liter packs can be used for short overnight trips but aren’t overkill for just a day. 

Do some research on different packs that give you the back support you need. Certain brands like Osprey will form-fit each pack to your back. This can be helpful, especially if you have a history of back problems. 

Don’t let not having the perfect day hiking pack stop you though! Start with the bag you have and upgrade when you’re ready.

The Right Shoes

Nobody wears flip-flops to the prom, and nobody should wear high heels out on the trail. The right shoes for you will be shoes that are comfortable, sturdy, broken in, and give you good ankle support. After those basics, you can begin looking at the different styles of rubber, traction designs, and waterproof construction.

Wearing the right shoes helps to avoid blisters, which means you won’t need to break into your first aid kit. The more preventative measures you can take to save on supplies will leave you even more prepared for your next day hike. 

How to Pack for a Day Hike

Now that we’ve hit the basics of what you need to pack, it’s important to talk about the process of packing.

The ABCs

The ABCs are a valuable tool for packing a backpack so that it fits comfortably and makes hiking easier. While most people will only use this method with multi-day trips, it’s helpful to consider when you are doing day hikes as well. Like I mentioned earlier, some day hikes in Colorado Springs can push you to your limit. Packing a comfortable bag will take a lot of strain off your back and make these hikes more enjoyable.

Accessibility- When you’re packing, make sure things you’ll need while hiking are packed on top or in an external pocket that you can easily get to. This includes things like rain gear, snacks, and especially a headlamp. Looking for a headlamp without a headlamp can be the most frustrating thing you’ll do all year long. 

Balance- Having a bag that pulls you to one side will end with a cranked back and one leg that takes on a lot more stress throughout the day. The key is to make your pack well-balanced to maximize comfort. The weight should be evenly distributed from side to side, and you want the majority of the weight to be in the bottom third of your bag. 

Compression- Here’s what can save you after packing a long list of essentials to bring on any day hike. Gear that compresses down into a small pouch is the best gear for hiking. After all, you don’t need to buy an 80-liter pack to go out for the day. Invest in a few compression bags to squeeze everything down into a small space. 

Know your Environment

You need to know what kind of a hike you are headed into and what that environment may throw at you. This means looking at the current weather forecast, the weather trends for your location, and reviews of the hike from recent days. 

You can gather information from apps (like AllTrails), with hikers going out onto these trails every day. If one person notices a dried-up river where most hikers rely on water, you wouldn’t know this without their comment. Utilize social platforms to gather as much information as you can before heading out. 

This information will help you greatly when packing your bag. It will tell you if you need extra socks because everything is muddy and wet or if you need to bring a down jacket for when you get up above 11,000 feet of elevation.

If you’re uncertain about reading this information and transferring it into packing, don’t hesitate to reach out for guided trips in Colorado Springs. These are fantastic resources when first learning how to be comfortable in the backcountry. 

How to Hike With Kids

The trail is where many of us have formed strong bonds and a loving connection with our friends or family. But sharing this space with your children or any group of youth means getting over the mental roadblock of figuring out how to hike with kids. First things first, take a deep breath. Kids can be as stressful, intimidating, and overwhelming as they are cute, fun, or adventurous. Doing this right will end up relieving your own personal stress and create an activity for the kids to tug at your sleeve to do over and over again. 

Before you head out on the trail, take a moment to remember what it was like to be a kid. Everything was exciting, full of mystery and adventure. You were figuring things out for the first time and making mistakes along the way. Try to apply that mindset to the trail now. Hiking with kids won’t be about putting lots of miles under your boots, but it will be about exploring the outdoors and your imagination. 

Now that you’re ready, let’s jump into some more kid-friendly hiking tips that will help you and the youth you are with foster a growing love for the outdoors. And remember, you can always join us for family friendly hiking tours in Colorado Springs for a stress-free adventure.

Photo by Yogendra Singh from Pexels

The Basics

No matter your age, you need your basic comforts to have a good time doing anything. Watching a movie while soaking wet, cold, and hungry will make you hate that movie forever. In order to not do the same for hiking, take care of the basics.

Weather

First off, don’t pick a cold and rainy day to be the first time you go hiking with kids. Not only does it make most adults turn into grumpy children, but it also has the potential to make hiking unsafe. Pay attention to the weather forecast. If it is going to rain, bring rain gear. Remember layers for cold days, and perhaps plan on a lake-side hike if it’s hot.

Clothes

Most weather can be appropriately managed with the right clothing and gear. So, once again, planning ahead is key to make sure you bring proper clothing and layers. Pack a bag full of extra socks and a couple of other layers that will help the kids stay warm and dry. As soon as anyone starts to mention that they are cold or wet, offer some extra clothes to get them comfortable as soon as possible.

Food

Never start a hike on an empty stomach. It would be like going on a road trip without any gas in the car. It won’t work, so don’t expect it to. Have some quick and healthy snacks in the car to fuel everyone up before you even hit the trailhead. 

Kids are so incredibly influenced by food. It can be used as a reward, fuel, or quick break in the day when you need to slow everything down. Also, as all adults learn, hunger can seriously influence our mood. If you notice anyone starting to get a bit grumpy, break out a snack, and it’s guaranteed to bring some positivity back. 

I like to follow a general rule that the kids you’re with are at or below your own level. If you are hungry, they’re hungrier. Cold? They’re colder. If your feet aren’t dry, their boots are puddles. Take care of the basics before they become a problem because that’s when moods start to turn sour.

Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash

Create Fun

The idea of hiking in Colorado appeals to almost any outdoor enthusiast you can find. There are tons of trails that bring you into a wide variety of terrain and challenges, all the while surrounded by beautiful mountains. But the idea of appreciating nature’s beauty isn’t always at the forefront of a ten-year-old’s mind. To make hiking memorable and enjoyable for younger kids, you need to create fun – perhaps the most important aspect of how to hike with kids.

Terrain

One of the first things you can do to make hiking with kids fun is to choose the right trail. Chances are good that a long flat walkway will bore almost any kid out there. On the other hand, a trail that snakes through the forest and follows a river to a massive waterfall opens up the possibility of exploration and naturally finding fun within the landscape. The forest can be a playground where trees become jungle gyms and creeks become waterslides. You just need to find the right trail.

Encourage Imagination

Don’t be afraid to let your kids run a little wild. Their imagination can take them into worlds where they explore the trees looking for Narnia or digging for buried treasure. Just remember to also teach your kids about proper hiking safety and the rules of the trail.

Not every child has the natural spark of imagination, so you may need to encourage this with different activities. Building a fort is a great way to bring fun into the hike. Or you take the time to see how large of a teepee you can build. The hike becomes an adventure and a challenge when you include a little imagination. Forests are also natural spaces for massive treasure hunts that will bring the excitement of both competition and exploration to everyone involved.

Bring Friends

We all want to be our kids’ best friends, but it isn’t always the case. Kids want to hang out with other kids their own age. Turning a hiking trip into a group activity will make your kids want to come back and do it more often.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Be Intentional

Going out into the forest and having fun while hiking with kids will take a little planning. However, being intentional with the hike will go a long way with the kids you go hiking with. Ten minutes of forethought can completely change the experience you have out on the trail.

It’s Not Hiking

The word “hiking” can get a bad rap with some kids. It sounds difficult and often unpleasant. You may not even need to label the hike. You can get the kids in the car and head off to the woods. Call it an exploration, an adventure, or anything that may have appealed to you as a small child. If you make it sound like work, it will end up being more work for you.

Goals

Very simple goals allow for kids to feel successful during a hike or afterward. Little things like “I want to see a fish” or bigger things like “I want to make it to the top of a mountain” can give kids something to look forward to or challenge themselves on. 

Remember that goals are going to change for every child. For some kids, making it a mile down the trail will be a huge accomplishment. Others may just want to swim in a river or find the biggest, slimiest, scariest bug that they have ever seen. Tailor the goals to each kid and work with them on finding out what they want to accomplish.

Responsibilities

It may sound ridiculous, but kids love having responsibilities. Of course, this excludes when it’s taking out the trash, cleaning their room, or doing dishes. But on the trail, responsibilities can give kids a sense of ownership and control over what they’re doing. 

If your kids are a bit older, you can trust them to carry important pieces of gear or lead the way with a map and compass. For the younger kids, you can have them keep an eye out for any interesting detours, hold the dog’s leash, or be in charge of finding the coolest lunch rock that anyone has ever eaten lunch on.

End on a High Note

After you get done hiking, always end on a high note. Entice your kids with the thought of ice cream in town, a movie back at home, or any reward that gets them excited. Discover other family friendly activities in Colorado Springs that you can let your kids choose from and create their own vacation fun. 

Hiking with kids is one of the most fun things you can do outside. They will naturally push you to see the world differently. No matter what you do, enjoy yourself, and the kids will often follow your lead. Smile, laugh, and become a kid again. Even if you aren’t an avid outdoors person, look for family friendly hiking tours that will take you all on a fun hike. You can pick up some hiking tips and learn the basics of how to hike with kids for your future adventures.