Did you know that civilians can access some great hiking and biking areas on the U.S. Air Force Academy? The USAFA’s Falcon Trail is one of our regular bike rides, as it’s a nice 13-mile loop that you can just get on it and ride, without having to look at a trail map to figure out where you’re going or make decisions about what route to ride. The trail is open to hiking and horses as well, though I haven’t done either of those activities on it.
We usually start our biking loop on Falcon Trail at the trailhead at Academy Drive, to the north of the stadium, and ride it clockwise. There are several other places to park to access different parts of the trail if you don’t want to do the whole loop; I would recommend checking out the USAFA’s map for all of the places you can park for this trail.
Here’s a snippet of what you’ll find on Falcon Trail:
For biking, the trail is intermediate, with just a few technical spots, but it’s not an easy ride if you aren’t in biking shape. I’ll fully admit that I thought I was going to die the first time Jeremy took me on this trail! The climbs feel like they are never going to end, but they do, and you get plenty of fun downhill riding.
These photos are all from the first half of the trail, where I’m more willing to stop and take a photo as it’s climbing up and up. There’s some great views of the city and the Academy on the latter half, but I’d rather keep riding downhill than stop to take a photo!
I was just there the other day (early October) and the scrub oaks were turning beautiful shades of red and gold. As with so many trails around here, this really is a four-season trail, with different things to enjoy all throughout the year. Falcon Trail can get muddy in a few spots, but the trail is mostly decomposed granite that drains quickly, enabling nearly year-round use.
Falcon Trail is very well marked, with just one place that you have to decide where to go: about 1/3rd of the way around, the trail splits into two segments: one rated green and one rated black. On Strava (a popular biking/running app), the black section is known as “The Hard Way That’s Easier Than the Easy Way” because, apparently, it is.
I’ve never done the green way, because the black section just has one very short technical section that’s easy enough to walk down if you don’t want to ride it, and I believe the green section adds some extra climbing, which I’m happy to avoid. Regardless, both the black trail and the green trail end up at the same place a short distance later, so which route you take is really not a big deal.
In addition to just enjoying the scenery, you can view this old log cabin, which is one of the oldest structures in the Pikes Peak region. There’s a sign that gives some historical information about the settlement of the Colorado Springs area.
The cabin is approximately located a couple of miles south of the stadium trail head, on the west side of the trail. There’s a dirt road that goes by it, but I don’t think it’s accessible to the public by road, so enjoy the hike to it!
In addition to Falcon Trail, you can access Stanley Canyon Trail and the Farish Hiking Trail from the USAFA. For official information on all of these trails, visit the USAFA website.
Note that in order to be permitted on USAFA property, you must show ID at the gate, and may need to allow the security personnel to look inside your car. While the trails themselves are open from 5 AM until sundown, civilians may only get on base from 9 AM to 5 PM.
Probably because it’s a little harder to access (though really, it’s not a big deal), Falcon Trail tends to be a little quieter than other parks and open spaces. It’s a lovely place to bike or hike, and I would encourage you to add it to your hiking or biking bucket list!