Whether you’re looking to climb a fourteener or take a walk in the park, there's a wide variety of hikes in Colorado Springs, where you'll discover beautiful red rocks, towering waterfalls and otherworldly terrain at the foot of the Rockies. The hard part is determining which way to go first; the good news is you can’t go wrong. These hikes will help you get in your steps – and then some.
Paint Mines Interpretive Park
Best unique hike for adventurers
3.4 miles round trip, 500 feet elevation gain, 2 to 3 hours
If you’re looking to get off the beaten path, a visit to the Paint Mines Interpretive Park is exactly that. About 30 miles east of Colorado Springs, a walk in this park feels like you’re on another planet – the rare geological formations are stunning, and the sandstone-capped spires called hoodoos can only be found in three regions of the country.
The park was named for its colorful bands of white, orange and pink clay, once used by Native Americans to make paint. For the best light, rangers and photographers recommend coming early or late in the day, when the colors appear more vibrant.
You can explore and wander along the trail, though climbing the structures is not allowed. Be sure to visit the overlook for an interesting vantage point. Note: there are limited facilities on site, including one picnic table and a restroom near the main parking lot. There’s no shade, so bring a hat, sunscreen and water. Bikes, dogs and horses are not allowed.
Seven Falls Waterfall & Midnight Falls Hike
Best for sightseers
0.8-mile walk to waterfalls and a 224-step staircase, 2 to 4 hours, easy
Surround yourself in nature and enjoy the iconic views of the Broadmoor Seven Falls. Climb along the waterfall to the top of a 224-step staircase. From here, you can choose from two hikes – Midnight Falls or Inspiration Point. At .36 miles one way (about 30 minutes round trip), Midnight Falls is the shorter of the two, a mellow walk through the woods leading to a small waterfall. Inspiration Point is about a mile hike (an hour round trip) to a lookout offering views of Colorado Springs. From the bottom of the falls, you can also take an elevator to an observation deck to admire the Seven Falls.
While Seven Falls is open year round, check the website for current operating hours – it's often closed a few days a week depending on the season. Tickets range from $10.50 - $16.50; children under 2 are free. Note: there's no parking at the entrance for Seven Falls, but free parking and shuttle-bus service is available for visitors at the Norris Penrose Event Center. In the summer, plan to park 30 minutes before it opens to avoid waiting in a long line. From the ticket gate, there is a .8 mile walk at the bottom of the canyon to the waterfalls, or a $2 tram ride for those who are unable to walk.
Garden of the Gods
Most iconic and easy hike for all ages
1.5 miles round trip, less than 30 feet elevation gain, easy
No trip to Colorado Springs would be complete without a visit to Garden of the Gods, which is easy to access and free year-round. While you can loop around the park by car or dive in deeper with a Segway, e-bike or climbing tour, most travelers start with an easy walk along the Perkins Central Garden Trail, a paved path that leads through and around the tallest of the park's famous red rock formations. There are more than a dozen trails to explore here, but if you have time to walk only one, the Central Garden Trail gives you the best lay of the land.
Helen Hunt Falls & Silver Cascade Falls Trail
Best free waterfalls
.6 miles round trip, 175-foot elevation gain, easy to moderate
Admire the spectacular view of the Helen Hunt Falls as soon as you step out of the car in North Cheyenne Cañon Park – the upper parking lot next to the visitors' center is where this trail begins. Take a short walk over a bridge spanning a waterfall, then continue up the mountain for a nature hike to a second waterfall.
Silver Cascade Falls Trail is well-maintained, with handrails and graded steps on the trek up to the taller of the two falls. Along the way, you’ll see water rocketing off the rock, as well as two viewpoints. While it’s challenging to get a good look at the Silver Cascade Falls from the top, the main observation point offers a peek at North Cheyenne Cañon.
Seven Bridges Trail
Best for adventure seekers
5.78 miles round trip, 1597 foot elevation gain, 2 to 3 hours, moderate
For hikers looking to immerse themselves in nature, the Seven Bridges Trail is exactly that. It will keep you guessing, wondering when you’ll discover the next bridge as you try to check them all off your list. It’s a shady escape in the heat of the summer, though the hiking is best in winter when the snowpack is low.
Driving through North Cheyenne Cañon, you’ll find a parking lot on the west end; there you’ll begin walking up Lower Gold Camp Road, a former narrow-gauge railroad bed that's now a dirt road. The first bend in the trail is where the Seven Bridges Trail begins – look for a marker on the righthand side indicating Trail 622. From here, you’ll dip into the forest, following along the creek to discover the seven numbered bridges. The first and second come early in the adventure, but continue on to discover all seven! The last bridge ends at Jones Park, where you'll find a variety of other trails if you’re still up for more.
Best for hiking enthusiasts and athletes
1 mile round trip (2768 steps), 2000 feet elevation gain, 1 hour+, advanced
For hikers looking for a fun challenge in the name of a glute workout, the Manitou Incline is calling your name. It’s 2768 steps to the top, and a rite of passage for many. This area was originally built to lug materials to build pipelines on Pikes Peak via a cable car, and once the pipelines were complete, it became a tourist attraction.
The Incline is not for the faint of heart – expect steep inclines with an average grade of 45%, up to 68% in some places. At this high altitude, it can take less than 30 minutes or more than an hour to reach the top, depending on your fitness level. Successful hikers are rewarded with a view of Colorado Springs and the eastern plains, but if your thighs are talking to you, you can bail out early on the Northern Incline Return Trail, which all hikers take on the way down. While the Manitou Incline is free, online reservations are now required to manage crowds, so consider using the free Manitou Springs shuttle to avoid competing for a parking space.
Mesa and Yucca Trail Loop
Best sunset walk
2.7 miles round trip, 262 foot elevation gain, 1 to 2 hours, easy
For gorgeous views of the front range with the city below, head northeast of Colorado Springs to Palmer Park. You’ll be surprised by the unique terrain of this urban park – it feels like you’re going into the mountains while you’re still here in the city. The drive along Paseo Road winds to the top, where you’ll find a gravel road leading to a parking lot and trailhead for the Yucca Flats. Follow the Mesa and Yucca trails, a loop offering beautiful wildflowers and interesting scenery for all skill levels, not to mention amazing views of the Rockies as a backdrop.
Best advanced hike
12+ miles one way, 7,800 foot elevation gain, 6 to 10 hours, difficult
For those looking for an advanced hike, Barr Trail is one of the most challenging in the area, leading to the summit of Pikes Peak. Nicknamed America’s Mountain, Pikes Peak is a famous fourteener, which many people explore by car or by cog railway. But hikers love a good challenge when they see it, and the Barr Trail is a 12-mile trek with a 7800-foot elevation gain, so be sure to dress in layers to prepare for weather and bring plenty of snacks and water.
Summer and fall is the most popular time to embark on the Barr Trail to avoid serious snow. While most people wake up early to get a head start (and to avoid afternoon storms at the summit), overnight camping is available for those who want to make it a two-day hike. Barr Camp is 6.5 miles in and offers indoor seating, picnic tables and clean restrooms. Be sure to coordinate transportation for the way back down, be it a friend with a car or taking the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway to Manitou Springs.
Tips for hiking in Colorado Springs
Keep in mind, Colorado Springs is around six thousand feet above sea level, so the air is thin and dry. Bring a water bottle to stay hydrated, minimize your alcohol intake and wear sunscreen – the sun is powerful here. Out-of-towners may need a day or two to acclimate to the high altitude, so avoid physical exertion to ease into it.
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