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Take a Hike; Exploring the Great Outdoors

Living in Colorado Springs is synonymous with the outdoors. And now that the snow and ice are finally gone and warm, longer days beckon, it’s time to lace up your boots and head for the nearest trail.

There are lots to choose from. Did you know that Colorado Springs has more than 9,000 acres of parkland and 500 acres of trails?

Yes, hiking works out your total body. It improves heart health and your mental and physical well-being and strengthens your bones. But, really, just being in the great outdoors boosts sensory perception and calms stress and anxiety. And you’ll get your vitamin D and raise your serotonin (the happy chemical) levels.

Along with scenic cardio, unplugging from technology and being in nature increases your attention span and gives your overloaded brain a chance to recharge and your tired eyes a rest. Listen to the birds, smell the wildflowers, absorb the fabulous scenery, and breathe the fresh air.

City-side Hiking and Walking

Want a quick hike during lunch or after work? Colorado Springs has no shortage of urban hiking/walking/biking opportunities. These include the Pikes Peak Greenway and Legacy Loop. According to Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services, the city’s nearly 125 miles of urban trails are designated as multiuse based on a tier system standard.

Tier one trails are the main “spine” trails, 12 feet wide with a hard primary surface and soft shoulders and landscaped with shade trees and wildflowers. Tier two trails are feeder trails for tier one trails. Paved with concrete or asphalt, they’re also 12 feet wide and have a four-foot soft shoulder of mowed grass or gravel—no landscaped buffer. Tier three trails are smaller, natural trails that are four to six feet wide.

Remember to prepare for your hike with careful planning. We live at altitude, and sudden storms and lightning are always possible.

Be safe. Have fun. Hug a tree.

5 Great Hikes

If you’re new to the city or sport or are getting back into it, here are five beautiful areas to explore on foot.

• MONUMENT VALLEY PARK is a beautiful 153-acre gem given to the city by General Palmer in 1907. Running along the western edge of downtown and bordered by the rushing Monument Creek, it’s two miles long and divided into northern and southern portions. You can hike a loop of both sections for four miles or one loop for two miles. It’s an easy and peaceful hike/walk and perfect for running, intersected by the Pikes Peak Greenway. Along the way, there are baseball and soccer fields, a playground, tennis/pickleball courts, and beautiful views everywhere to refresh your spirit.

• PALMER PARK is another gift from General Palmer in 1899. This amazing wilderness area right in the middle of town is completely surrounded by city. With more than 25 miles of hiking and equestrian trails, there are hiking opportunities for every level and a doggie park at the top. And, if you want to end your day with a stunning happy hour, be at the top in late afternoon/early evening for a breathtaking sunset. Go to the entrance at Maizeland Road or take Chelton Road until it dead ends at Paseo Road. From there, you can hike all the way to the top or drive to the top and hike the mesa.

• RED ROCK CANYON OPEN SPACE is a feast for the senses. This stunning 1,474-acre park on U.S. 24 adjacent to Manitou Springs is made up of eroded canyons and the breathtaking red rocks that continue the same geologic formations in Garden of the Gods. It’s a great mix of trails from easy to challenging. Doggies can run off-leash on the Upper and Lower Dog Loops. A few trails worthy of exploring include the peaceful Contemplative Trail or head to the Quarry for some fun history, enormous rock formations, and the miners’ staircase cut into the rock.

• Looking for a little adventure? The wooded SEVEN BRIDGES TRAIL rises up from the trailhead in North Cheyenne Canyon Park. It follows the cascading North Cheyenne Creek and crosses over seven wooden bridges, shaded all the way by tree canopies. Although it’s rated as moderate/intermediate, it has a constant and gentle altitude gain of 1,600 feet for 3.7 miles for an out-and-back loop. The trail continues at the top into Jones Park with more difficult terrain, but most hikers turn back at the seventh bridge. If you are exploring the 1,600-acre North Cheyenne Canyon Park further, be aware that it’s habitat for black bears, mountain lions, and mule deer. Doggies should maybe stay home.

• UTE VALLEY PARK is a beautiful, charming, and quiet suburban park in northwest Colorado Springs on Vindicator Drive, away from crowds and city hubbub. Kind of a well-known secret, it offers a variety of hiking trails for all levels and great single-track biking trails and is perfect for running or walking. The views and rock formations are spectacular with lots of streams and lookouts. Doggies love it. So does the abundant wildlife. So will you.

Be Prepared!

Know your limits. Pick a hike for your ability and fitness level.

• Go with a friend. Avoid hiking alone.

• Dress for the weather.

• Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen.

• Wear the right shoes/boots.

• Take ID. Let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll return.

• Know your leaves. Beware of poisonous plants.

Trail Etiquette

• Stay on the trail. Avoid damaging native flora.

• Know when to yield. Uphill hikers have the right of way.

• Doggies are welcome on most trails but, unless posted otherwise, must be on a leash.

• Leave no trace. Pack out your trash.

• Respect wildlife.