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Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

Red Rock Canyon Trails

Wandering among the Seedlings of the Garden of the Gods

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    This guide contains photos
 (3 votes, 1 review)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 5.0 miles / 8.0 km
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly • Dog Friendly
 
Overview: The Garden of the Gods is world famous, but two miles south of the Garden “Red Rock Canyon Open Space” invites hikers to enjoy the same geological strata in a much less “Victorian” setting. The land now included in the “Open Space” has been in use for at least 9,000 years, where because of its proximity to Fountain Creek early American settlers made their homes. In the more recent past, the Dakota Sandstone layer was used to quarry building materials, and portions of the park received trainloads of gold ore from the Cripple Creek mines to be refined. Since 2003 the city of Colorado Springs has developed this property into one of its premier parks, containing nearly 10 miles of connected trails suitable for hikers, bikers, and horse back riders (some trails are restricted to only one type of adventurer). The park is open year round from dawn to dusk, and with such varied terrain, you’ll never tire of visiting and creating new ways of enjoying this delightful topography.

Tips: Directions: From I-25 take the Cimarron Street exit west. Cimarron Street will turn into Highway 24. After the 31st Street light, turn left onto Ridge Road. Red Rock Canyon will be on the south side of the street. The parking lot is located at the end of Ridge Road.

Tips:
1. The park is very family friendly, including port-a-potties in the parking lot. However there are no water taps (that I know of anyway); so bring plenty of your own, because it can get warm here in the summer time.
2. Dogs are welcome, but must be kept on a leash, except in two specially designated areas in the northwest section of the park.
3. Bicycles are welcome; there is even a special bike obstacle course near the east end of the parking lot.

Points of Interest

map

Trailhead

Because this is a very popular venue in Colorado Springs, the trailhead parking is extensive. Watch for signs indicating one way directions, and watch for children running around their parents’ cars. The trails in this park are very well maintained and very well marked. So I’m going to use trail names as they occur on the signs in the park to guide you through this hike. This trail guide begins in the northwest corner of the park with the “Sand Canyon” trail, which you will follow for approximately 250 yards. You can use the "Geology Map" photo to orient yourself to the history of the rock.
map

Contemplative Trail

Stay to the right at the trail split. Follow the signs for “Contemplative Trail.” Because this trail runs on the west side of the Fountain Formation sandstone, it is in the shade most of the time. Several patrons have sponsored log benches so you can sit and contemplate the beauty of the rocks and trees.
map

Roundup Trail

About a half mile along the trail, you’ll reach a junction where the trail you’re on becomes the “Roundup Trail.” The “Sand Canyon Trail” which cuts off to the right leads to a dead end; lovely view, but no way out but back. You’ll begin to climb more on this section. Follow the trail for another half mile south until it meets the “Mesa Trail.” Soon after beginning this segment, you’ll reach a point where you can look north and see the Garden of the Gods, realizing the connection between where you are and where you’re looking.
map

Mesa Trail

When you reach the “Mesa Trail” junction, turn left and walk down the hill for about .9 miles. This is an easy walk on a broad flat trail. You’ll know your at the next turn around point when you see the sign for the “Upper Dog Loop” on your left. The rock on your left is still the Fountain Formation, while the rock on your right is part of the Lyons Red Sandstone or the Lyons Conglomerate strata. Remember that the rock under your feet is the edge of layers of rock that have been tilted up almost 90°.
map

Greenlee Trail

When you reach the Upper Dog Loop sign, turn around and head back up the hill, veering off to the left onto the “Greenlee Trail.” Follow this trail up the hill for almost a mile. You’ll have the primary quarry rock of the Lyons Sandstone on your left now. About half way up the hill you’ll see the quarry off to your left – there is a trail through this area, but we aren’t going to follow it now. At this point the trail ascends more steeply and becomes rougher until it reconnects with the Roundup Trail again.
map

Roundup Trail Redux

Turn left at the Roundup Trail sign. The trail becomes very narrow at this point and leads into some lovely switchbacks as it descend into the valley of the actual Red Rock Canyon. Behind, to the south of, this section of trail lies “Section 16,” an area of wilderness which has its own trail system and will be the subject of another trail guide. It seems as though the rocks of Section 16 are the pivot on which the strata of Red Rock Canyon and Garden of the Gods turned, because you’ll not see any of these features in that area.
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Red Rock Canyon Trail

The final turn toward the trailhead. Roundup Trail bends to the north and becomes the Red Rock Canyon Trail. This last segment will lead you between the Lyon Sandstone hogback and the western side of the Dakota Sandstone ridge. In the late 1800s blocks as large as 6X7X10 ft., weighing 10 tons, were cut and shipped from this quarry. At the bottom of the hill you can turn left into the parking lot, or you could turn right onto the “Lower Hogback Trail,” which leads back up the hill, again, and connects to the “Lion Trail,” which brings you back north through the old Dakota Sandstone quarry. If you take this additional set of trails, you’ll add approximately two miles to the five you’ve already walked. It’s doable; your choice.
Pictures in this guide taken by: dougknighton
Reviews
mlh2l
Loved this hike. Lots of different elevations, beautiful scenery, well mapped out once you get going. Little confusing at first, but you figure it out and enjoy a wonderful hike.
Visited on May 25, 2013

by mlh2l on May 26, 2013

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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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