9.0 miles, Half day
One of the easiest ways to experience many different pieces of terrain is to trek through a “loop hike.” This particular loop hike lives up to expectations. Behind the Air Force Academy is a 9300 ft tall, unnamed massif, flanked on the north by Eagle Peak and on the south by Blodgett Peak. The SC-WMC Loop trail takes you up the canyon on the north side, down behind the mountain on the west, back east along West Monument Creek, then back across the face of the mountain via a portion of the Falcon Trail. Along the way you’ll encounter granite cliffs, alpine meadows, dramatic aspen groves, and stunning rock formations.
I marked this trail as “family friendly,” and “dog friendly,” because I’ve seen both entities out there. However, the family and the dog need to be in good physical shape, because the trail is steep in many places, and its decomposed granite surface can become uncomfortable, especially after rain or horses have loosened it. The fact that it’s nine miles in length, and gains 2300 feet of elevation, should give you pause as you consider the makeup of your “friends list.”
As with all loop hikes, you can travel in either direction. I would recommend for your first endeavor that you follow the direction I’ve established in the guide.
Directions: Enter the Air Force Academy at the South Gate, exit 150 off of I-25. You’ll need photo ID, and you must be willing to have your vehicle searched. Obey the speed limits on base! Follow South Gate Blvd for about a mile. When it transitions to Stadium Blvd, take a left onto Pine Drive. Drive approximately 5 miles. Just before you reach the Medical Center on Academy Drive, you’ll see a dirt road leading off to the left; turn onto this road. Stay to the right when it forks. You will end up at the trailhead parking area.
As always at this altitude in the mountains, take plenty of water.