Colorado Springs has a multitude of hiking trails that are easily available to everyone. This place is truly family friendly because of the fast accessibility, the multiplicity of options within the trail networks, and the well established trail systems. From Garden of the Gods to Pikes Peak, there are so many trails that are easy to come by, well built, and end up at a destination with a sweeping view.
Check out our 10 top picks for Colorado Springs, beginner and family friendly hiking below, and explore a side of the Centennial State you may have never seen before.
1. Seven Bridges Trail
This 3.7 mile meandering out-and-back is ever-popular for Colorado Springs residents and visitors, and for a good reason. Hikers will wander along a charming stream, crossing over (you guessed it) seven bridges through clumps of classic Colorado pines until they get to a beautiful waterfall.
Bring your kids, bring your dog, and bring some friendly “hello’s”, because you will surely see families and big groups on this hike. Be warned: If you are looking for a vista with sweeping views, you may want to look for another trail.
Check out 7 Bridges Trail here.
2. Pancake Rocks Trail
Speaking of stunning look out points, Pancakes Rocks Trail is a great place to get a good look at a natural formation, valley view included. Curving along the backside of Pikes Peak, this trail will offer peaks of mountains, whispering aspens, and even wildflowers (if you hit it at the right time).
Eventually you will find yourself among massive granite formations– classic rocks for the area– that look like deliciously floppy pancakes drenched in maple syrup (OK, you might have to use your imagination a little bit.)
Don’t forget a full liter of water, because although this out-and-back is easy walking, it is 6.7 miles round trip.
Check out Pancake Rocks Trail here.
3. Fossil Beds National Monument
About an hour west of Colorado Springs, up Highway 24, lies one of Colorado’s most under-appreciated national monuments: Fossil Beds. This interesting, historical locale has a plethora of trails– most of them loops– that are waiting to be explored.
For an easy, one mile hike (with only 70 feet of elevation gain) that is perfect for young kids, check out the Petrified Forest Loop, which guides you through the bed of Lake Florissant. Along the way, you will see large, petrified tree stumps which have been preserved for many years.
Check out Fossil Beds National Monument here.
4. Barr Trail
Many people know that one of the most intense hikes you can do near Colorado Springs is the Manitou Incline, which is a difficult, one mile staircase made out of railroad ties that gains 2,000 feet in elevation. I would not say that the Incline is by any means family friendly. However, the 3.2 mile Barr Trail that descends from the Incline is a great route, both up and back.
This windy, pine-framed trail with large granite boulders strewn along the side can actually take you all the way up to the top of Pikes Peak. But if you are looking for a good view of Colorado Springs without an insanely long hike to the top of a fourteener, then the Barr Trail is for you.
(Caution: Do not go down the Incline on your way down. Although it may seem shorter, it is definitely not worth slipping, landing on your butt and sliding down multiple stairs, or the pain that will inevitably occur in your knees.)
Check out the Barr Trail here.
5. Garden of the Gods
It hails the name “Garden of the Gods” for a reason: this National Natural Landmark is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before: Slices of red sandstone splice through the ground and shoot straight up into the air, much like the scales of a spiny dinosaur. The best part about the whole thing? It is so easily accessible– right in the middle of Colorado Springs with paved paths that even a wheelchair could cruise through.
Feel free to drive through the entire area, and check out multiple short hikes along the way. If you are feeling creative, look up at the rocks and see how many shapes you can make out of them. (Extra points if you see the kissing camels!)
Check out Garden of the Gods here.
6. Red Rock Canyon Open Space
No, I’m not talking about the concert venue. There is another place called Red Rock Canyon in Colorado Springs that may not have music, but it does have amazing views. Similar to Garden of the Gods, Red Rock Canyon is filled with beautiful sandstone formations that jut out of the earth, forming amazing, easily walkable labyrinths of canyons.
As you walk along the wide path, be sure to look at the walls on your left and right, as they most likely have climbers scampering up the rocks. You can opt to stay in the canyon and enjoy the views above you, or hike up onto the top of the rocks in order to see the spectacular view below.
Check out Red Rock Canyon here.
7. Palmer Park
Right in the middle of Colorado Springs lies Palmer Park. This network of over 25 trails leaves hikers with a plethora of options to enjoy. 21 of them are beginner trails, ranging from .7 miles to 3.2 miles. Whether you’re looking to rock scramble, explore a small canyon, or check out the views of Pikes Peak, this open space is the way to go.
Pro tip: If you opt to do the 2.3 Edna Mae Bennet Nature Trail, you can explore some caves off to the side and grab some great views of the city.
Check out Palmer Park here.
8. Stratton Open Space
This 318 acre, well maintained, dog-friendly park is close to the Broadmore, so it a great place to check out if you are a visitor to the area. There are two reservoirs in the area, one of them being the South Suburban Reservoir, where dogs can go off leash and swim around.
Upper Meadows Loop is a great 1.7 mile option for families who are looking to get out and about on a sunny afternoon. Go counter clockwise to make the route easier.
Check out Stratton Open Space here.
9. The Crags Trail
Granite rock can create all sorts of funky formations. As mentioned earlier, Pancake Rocks are flat, stacked granite slabs that pile up from the earth. Not too far from the Pancake Rocks, granite shoots straight out of the ground, forming jagged teeth that reach up towards the sky.
This 4.8 mile out-and-back is a popular hiking destination for locals and visitors alike, largely due to the interesting rock that stabs into the skyline for two whole miles.
This route is best from May to October, especially because hikers will travel past quivering aspen (best viewed with leaves on them) to eventually see views of the gorgeous Rampart range that backs Colorado Springs .
Check out The Crags Trail here.
10. Heizer Trail
This tough trail is the most challenging one suggested in the article, as it is 6 miles long and has a steep elevation gain of 1,855 feet. But the climb is worth it, if you have kids who can push it and hike longer distances, you will eventually make it to the top of Cascade Mountain.
Expect to hike through coniferous forests, occasionally clearing up so that you can see into the thousand foot drop of canyon below you. Remember to come well prepared, with water, a rain jacket, layers, and snacks, as this difficult hike calls for a pack that is well-equipped.
Check out Heizer Trail here.
A Uniquely Beautiful City Not To Be Missed
Many Coloradans incorrectly assume that Colorado Springs is underwhelming. Yes, it is a city, but it’s no Denver – with it’s dramatic high rises and lively restaurant and bar scene. Yes, it has a college, but it’s no Boulder – with its beautiful campus and energetic student body. Yes, it has natural surroundings, but it’s no ski town – with their fun downhills and mountain atmosphere.
However, what many people don’t see until they live in Colorado Springs is that the smaller scale of a city, a campus, and a mountain are actually what makes this place so utterly appealing to locals. The tiny downtown and sprawling nature of the place leads to niche, cozy, and delicious restaurants, without the pain of insane Denver traffic.
The small liberal arts college (Colorado College) provides a taste of the academic without University of Colorado’s insane party scene that often destroys the beauty and ambiance of Boulder. And finally, although there isn’t any skiing close to Colorado Springs, it does have an unbelievable amount of mountain climbing (hello, Pikes Peak), rock climbing, biking, and– last, but certainly not least– hiking.
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Kaiti Kinshella is a Spanish teacher and freelance writer who lives, works, and plays in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. She loves to spend her free time backcountry skiing, mountain biking, climbing, and watching Game of Thrones. Her guilty pleasure is food writing, because for her there is nothing more enjoyable than a delectable meal.