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Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

Columbine Trail

Enjoying the Bold Beauty of Cheyenne Canyon

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    This guide contains photos
 (4 votes, 2 reviews)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 8.0 miles / 12.9 km
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly • Dog Friendly
 
Overview: North Cheyenne Creek slices through Cheyenne Canyon, bordered on the north by Mays Peak and Mount Buckhorn, and on the south by Mount Cutler and Muscoco Mountain. Columbine Trail traces the cut of the creek from the canyon’s mouth in southwestern Colorado Springs, west about four miles to its terminus at Helen Hunt Falls. With the lower trailhead located at the Starsmore Discovery Center (2120 N. Cheyenne Canyon Rd), Columbine Trail provides a variety of hiking possibilities in itself and access to several other adventures. If you appreciate the warbling rush of a running stream or the trilling warble of redheaded finches, you’ll love this trail. If your eyes prefer granite massifs and distant vistas, you’ll love this trail.

Columbine Trail has three trailheads. The lower is located at the Starsmore Discovery Center. This guide begins at this point. The SDC is a treat in itself with excellent displays of local flora and fauna, augmented by helpful and knowledgeable staff. Park on the south side of the Center. The Middle Columbine Trailhead is on the right side of the road about a mile west of the center. The Upper Columbine Trailhead is a wide spot in the road, just past the entrance to Helen Hunt Falls, before N. Cheyenne Canyon Rd. joins Gold Camp Road. You can begin your hike at any one of these locations, depending on your interests, mood, or time.


Tips: Technically the trail is a “multiuse” trail, meaning it’s open to horses, bicycles, and hikers. I encountered one bicyclist and no evidence of horse traffic. Dogs are welcome, but must be kept on a leash. The trail bed is mostly decomposed granite; so if your dog has tender pads, you might want to consider trail shoes. The lower third of the trail is close to the creek, which makes water available for dogs. Once past the Middle Trailhead, you’ll be high on the canyon wall; so I recommend bringing water for yourself and your dog.

Directions: Exit I-25 at exit 140. Go south on Tejon and bear right onto Cheyenne Blvd. This joins W. Cheyenne Canyon Rd about 50 yards from the Starsmore Discovery Center. Turn left on South Cheyenne Canyon Rd and then into the parking lot. If you want to start at the Middle or Upper trailheads, turn right onto North Cheyenne Canyon Rd.

Points of Interest

Parking
map

Starsmore Discovery Center Trailhead

The Starsmore Discovery Center functions as the parking lot for the Lower Combine Trailhead. Approach the building’s front and follow the concrete walk around the left side. Pass to the left of the trail sign and go through the gate in the fence. Turn LEFT to begin the trail (there’s no marker here). Once onto the trail, Mt Cutler’s 7200 ft peak presents itself for view.
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False Crossing

Columbine Trail does cross N. Cheyenne Canyon Rd, but not at this location. As you come down the trail, past several picnic sites, you’ll see the road ahead, but there’s a chain across the access lane. The trail makes a hard left hairpin turn – see the sign. Follow the sign. As you walk this portion of the trail, you’ll have many opportunities to enjoy the sights and sounds of Cheyenne Creek.
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Road Crossing

Eventually, the trail comes back to N Cheyenne Canyon Rd. You’ll see a tall granite peak across the road, then a bridge over the creek, and finally the road. Be careful here. There are no signals for the cars travelling on the road.
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Middle Columbine Trailhead

About 400 yards after the road crossing, you’ll enter the south side of the Middle Columbine Trailhead parking area. The trail signs are clear. Cross the lot and head up the trail. From here, the trail begins its ascent of the north side of the canyon wall. The trail uses switchbacks across the rock face so you don’t have to go straight up. You’ll see Mt Cutler across the road and the Mt Cutler trailhead below. Turning back to the east you’ll see the west side of the 6800 ft ridge around which you just walked.
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Gold Camp Rd Trail Split

About 1.5 miles from the Middle trailhead you’ll arrive at an OLD trail sign and a pair of granite towers. The first sign indicates the direction of Columbine Trail. When you turn around, you’ll see the sign for “Gold Camp Road.” Continue in the direction you were walking until you find a second Columbine Trail sign; then continue on this trail to the end. (If you take the Gold Camp Road trail, you’ll reach Gold Camp Rd in about 300 yards. Turn left and follow the road down to where it meets N. Cheyenne Canyon Rd, which will take you to the Upper Columbine Trailhead.) Just before you reach the trail split, you’ll be able to see an excellent view of the Broadmoor Hotel to the east, and a fine example of how trees adapt to growing on a steep hillside.
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Down to the Creek Trail Split

About .75 miles later is another trail split. Unless you want to hike 300 ft down the hillside to the creek (and back up again), follow the trail as it turns to the right. But don’t walk too fast or you’ll miss seeing Muscoco Mt the valley.
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Upper Columbine Trailhead

At this point the trail just dumps you out onto the pavement of N. Cheyenne Canyon Rd. There’s not much room to park here, but you can sit on one of the rocks and have a snack before you start your return trip. Or, if you’re not too tired, you can walk down the road about 200 yards to Helen Hunt Falls (where there’s more parking, if you want to begin from this end). This jaunt will add another mile to your hike (plus some more elevation), but the scenery is worth it (deserves its own guide).
Pictures in this guide taken by: dougknighton
Reviews
c2v171831
Loved this. My first time really hiking as an adult. Took my 4 m/o and my SIL. We did the whole thing from the lower to Hellen Hunt. Great hike. Anyone can do it.
Visited on Jul 06, 2014

by c2v171831 on Jul 16, 2014
captrick20
Loved this trail the Lower part was nice and easy pretty much flat. My dog loved the fresh water. Made it half way up the middle trail but had to turn around due to a time constraint.
Visited on Jan 19, 2012

by captrick20 on Jan 21, 2013

Columbine Trail Trail Map


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About the Author

dougknighton
dougknighton
30 guides
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Retired Air Force Chaplain who began military life as an Airborne Ranger. Evidently I didn't get enough...

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