Cheap Things To Do in the Springs: take a hike

There’s not much that’s cheaper to do in Colorado Springs than hiking!  Here’s a list of some of the best hikes in Colorado Springs.  There are many, many, many hiking trails in Colorado Springs, and this is nowhere near an exhaustive list – just the ones that readers have recommended or we’ve had experience with.  I’ll keep adding to this list as you guys keep recommending them!

Waterfall Hikes

Well, you can pay for a waterfall, or you can hike several more for nothing (and a lot of us would say you get more for your money with the free ones!).  Here’s the free ones:

Helen Hunt Falls/Silver Cascade Falls – this one’s perfect even if you don’t want to hike much.  You can park basically at the foot of Helen Hunt Falls in Cheyenne Canon Park and take the short (rocky, slippery) staircase to the top of the falls.  If you do want to hike, take the path that goes up, up, and up to Silver Cascade Falls, a much smaller but unique waterfall.  The trail that goes up is well-maintained and is mostly “stairs” the whole way, so be prepared for a workout.

Green Mountain Falls – one of those hikes that our family intended to start and never got out of the car.  You’ll need to park somewhere in the town of Green Mountain Falls and take a short hike on Hondo Avenue (pretty steep, that’s why we declined with three kids!) until you get to the actual Catamount Trailhead.  Steve Garufi says the falls are right at the trailhead

St. Mary’s Falls – small waterfall about two miles off of the closed portion of Gold Camp Road.  The National Park Services has more information about this waterfall and hike.

Dorothy Falls – gorgeous, peaceful hike that requires access to Glen Eyrie, the historical estate owned by the Navigators.  Make sure you read the instructions about how to be allowed access for hiking.  This hike crisscrosses the creek in Queen’s Canyon until you get to the falls.  You can scramble up above the falls to the pools area (another thing that we couldn’t do with small children).  Read about our hike to Dorothy Falls here.

Rainbow Falls – Steve Garufi calls this falls in Manitou Springs the “forgotten” waterfall – graffiti and littering have spoiled some of the experience.  I’ve never been there, but Steve’s pictures look great! Directions and pictures here.

Other Colorado Springs Hikes

I wanted to categorize these further but wasn’t sure how!

St. Peter’s Dome – great hike a little ways up Gold Camp Road.  Great views!   Pretty kid-friendly until you get near the top, where there’s some loose rock.  You can go to the *very* top of St. Peter’s Dome if you’re trusting enough to to use the well-weathered rope to get yourself up part of the large rock formation.  More info on the St. Peter’s Dome trail.

Stanley CanyonValerie said this trail that starts on the Air Force Academy and heads into Pike National Forest is a good one!  More info here.

Cheyenne Canon Park – many trails in this park – go here for more info. Angela said this about Cutler’s trail: “not too bad of a hike but near the top of the trail you can see Seven Falls for free”.

Red Rock Canyon Open Space – Beth said “similar to Garden of the Gods in rock formations, but more hike-oriented–a beautiful treasure”, and Heather said these trails are one of her family’s favorite hikes.  Here’s more information on Red Rock Canyon Trails.

Castlewood Canyon – Heather said this state park is another one of her family’s favorite places to hike.  You can find a trail map and more information from the park service.  A daily park pass is $6.

Bear Creek Park and Nature Center – Erin’s a fan of this park!  She said “Bear Creek Park is wonderful! Great learning center and wonderful trails!”  You can find more about the park and trails here.

Garden of the Gods – it’s so famous, it probably didn’t need to be mentioned, but definitely belongs on this list!  More information on the Garden of the Gods trails and other activities.

Pulpit Rock at Austin Bluffs Open Space – this is a trail our family tried and (shh!) turned around.  If you choose the right trail, I don’t think it’s that difficult of a hike to get to the top of Pulpit Rock, but we started the hike at the Butler Court trailhead and while it wasn’t hard, we ran out of time and energy to help the kids actually get up to Pulpit Rock.  Take a look at the maps, there are several places to start this trail.

Palmer Park – over 25 miles of trails right in the middle of town (plus a playground, ball fields, and more).  More information, including easy, intermediate, and advanced trail maps here.

Ute Valley Park – don’t know much about this one other than what’s on the city’s information page about it, but there are hiking trails!

Other parks with hiking trails: Fox Run Regional Park, Black Forest Regional Park… more information on parks to come soon!

Other Area Hikes

Victor – Vicki said Victor has “a loop hike that is probably 1 – 2 miles long that passes the old gold mines that used to be a large part of Victor in the past. Besides being absolutely beautiful up there, the history is fascinating and there are flyers and information posted all around the hike. And it is free!”  More info on trails in Victor here.

Eleven Mile Canyon at Lake George – five miles of hiking and biking in this park, and I’ve heard it’s great!  More information on this state park (admission fees will apply).

If you want more hikes in Colorado Springs and in Colorado in general, you have to check out – I think Steve Garufi has hiked just about every trail imaginable in Colorado.

What are your favorite hikes?  Which ones are kid-friendly and which ones are more advanced?



  1. You forgot Stanley Canyon! Its a great hike, the trailhead is on the Air Force Academy near the hospital!

  2. Rainbow Falls AKA graffiti falls is not a place I would really suggest as a “family hike”…or even a hike, for starters depending on the time of year you go there really isn’t a “wow” factor in seeing it. Secondly, and most importantly, the area is known for drugs and underage drinking. Kids skipping school head up there, druggies etc. I’ve been up there many of times as I am a native and if you and the hubby/wife want to head up I would say go for it but leave the kids at home.

  3. I love Spruce Mountain up north of Palmer Lake. It is about 5 miles total. What I like about it is that there is a steep initial climb and then the top circle is fairly flat. Plus you are up high so there are great views.

  4. Black Forest Park, is VERY kid friendly with about 1/2 to 1 miles of easy loop trails ( I think there is 3 loops) that all bring you back to the middle. In the middle there is a awesome playground facility, picnic tables and field, and a nice/clean bathroom building with flushable toilets. Just off Shoup Rd.

  5. Carrie Isaac says:

    Gah, I also forgot St. Peter’s Dome! Just added it and Stanley Canyon and Spruce Mountain.

  6. Christina says:

    hi everyone, is there something like this for places @ Omaha Ne we will be visiting there early June!

  7. Mt. Cutler is neat because kids can get their first “summit” fairly easily. However, be aware that the first part is fairly steep and there are some narrow paths and steep drop offs. Keep kids close to you.

  8. Hi Christina,
    I spent my first 27 years in Omaha and after 8 years am moving back this summer. Here are my favorite things to do. Most of these do cost money but I don’t think it’s exorbitant.

    Henry Doorly Zoo- the desert dome, rainforest, and aquarium are amazing!

    Omaha Children’s Museum- my kids love this!

    Western Heritage Museum- interesting exhibits, and my kids like walking through the train

    The Old Market- you can stroll around the cobblestone streets and browse stores. We like to eat dinner at Spaghetti Works down there which is reasonably priced.

    Heartland of America Park- is on the Missouri River
    Zorinsky Lake- free park with playground and walking path
    Chalco Hills Recreation Area- free park with playground and walking path

    Fontenelle Forest- very beautiful and has a wooden walking trail

    Mahoney State Park- west of Omaha, very beautiful with all kinds of things to do

    Strategic Air and Space Museum- this is a nice and fairly new museum

    Wildlife Safari- drive through and see animals in a more natural habitat

    Kountze Planetarium at the University of Nebraska Omaha

    Lauritzen Botanical Gardens- very beautiful and relaxing

    • Christina says:

      Thanks Laura I should have mentioned I grew up there and I have lived here 12 yrs now AF. Everything you listed we do know about but w/ a family of 5 now & grandparents w/ us I was looking for cheap or free but we will be going to the zoo! It is a must see for our kids. You can see the penguins online but in person is much better. Are theses free I have not heard of them? Kountze Planetarium at the University of Nebraska Omaha
      Lauritzen Botanical Gardens- very beautiful and relaxing

    • Laura,

      Years ago (honeymoon) my husband and I ate at Trini’s in the historic district. My husband has been in search of a chimichanga that is as tasty as theirs ever since. It’s closed now. Did you ever eat there?

  9. Cathy Priester says:

    This is about your comment on cheap eats. Has anyone suggested Taco Express on Powers Bvd. near Stetson Hills Blvd? Not sure what street it is on since it is in behind businesses near the corner of Powers and Stetson Hills. Their Mexican food is great!! We used to eat at their taco stand in California where it was called Roberto’s. We were so happy when we found out that they moved here, almost in our back yard!! The food is fresh, the salsa wonderful and you can combine just about anything you want. They even have a children’s menu. My husband and I can have a meal including a drink for around $11.00. And that’s when we are really hungry!! Hope that helps out with the cheap eats here in Colorado Springs.

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