The fall consignment sale season is in gear: You can shop for gently-used children’s and maternity clothing, baby gear, toys, and more at these multi-day events. We have a full list of the fall 2021 consignment sales in and around the Colorado Springs area – click here to check out the list.
Things To Do & See
Garden of the Gods might be the most recognizable park-with-big-red-rocks, but Red Rock Canyon Open Space is where the locals go. It’s located just south of the much-more-famous Garden (at Highway 24 and High St.), and has some of the same types of rock formations but feels much more “wild” and “Colorado”. No paved sidewalks here!
The canyon has a colorful history prior to its purchase by the city in 2003. Did you know that parts of the park used to be everything from a rock quarry to a landfill? You can read more about its history from Friends of Red Rock Canyon. You can still see remains of the quarry and landfill in small parts of the park.
There are lots of hiking and biking trails here, including a short one for hiking only. There’s also a dog area (Upper and Lower Dog Loop), where your dog can roam free (but that’s the only place that they aren’t required to be on a leash). The Red Rock Canyon Trail is gravel, but rated as ADA-accessible and takes you between some nice rock formations to the pond pictured above. It’s a nice walk if you just want something quick and easy.
This is the place that we tend to go for the members of our family’s first “real” mountain biking ride (as opposed to the trails we ride in Black Forest – see Section 16 and Black Forest Regional Park), and we like to follow the Red Rock Rim Trail to Roundup Trail for an easy-ish loop around four miles. There’s everything from super-easy to extremely-advanced biking trails here.
There’s also a small bike park with various beams, ramps, bumps, and drops for some fun practice. Credit goes to Stacy Gery for the above photo of me from a “Rocks and Drops” clinic I took with her at this bike park last year!
There’s a huge number of trails at Red Rock, so I would strongly encourage you to download an app like MTB Project or Trail Forks so that you can orient yourself in the park. You can also download a map here.
Red Rock Canyon Open Space is located at 3550 W High St, Colorado Springs, CO 80904. If the main parking lot is full (and it often is on peak days during the summer), head east on the drive and you’ll find another parking area. There’s also a parking lot on 31st Street, which provides faster access to trails on the east side of the park. Regardless of where you park, don’t leave valuables in your car – break-ins at trailheads are all too common and you’re much less likely to be a target if you don’t have anything of value visible.
You can see more photos of Red Rock Canyon Open Space below, but my lackluster photography skills don’t do it justice. Get out and enjoy this beautiful gem! There are plenty of winter days that are plenty warm enough to get out and enjoy God’s creation!
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!
My kids and I did the Seven Bridges hike a couple of weeks ago, and found it to be a fun, relatively easy hike that I’d recommend for people of all ages!
To start this hike, you’ll park in the dirt parking area where High Drive and Gold Camp Rd. meet, just above Helen Hunt Falls. We were there on a beautiful Friday morning in early fall, and just barely found a parking spot, so this might be one that is better to hike during non-peak times. ( This lot serves not just Seven Bridges trail, but various other trails for hiking and biking so not all of those cars are headed to Seven Bridges, thankfully!)
Hike up Gold Camp Rd. for 0.7 miles, and on your right you’ll find the sign for Trail 622, which is the Seven Bridges Trail. Based on another sign I saw, it may also be referred to as the North Cheyenne Canon Creek Trail, but I think most of us locally know it as the Seven Bridges Trail.
You’ll come upon the first two bridges pretty quickly, and then the next five are nicely spaced as you travel up the next mile or so.
Once you pass the seventh bridge, you can keep going on to Jones Park (which I’ve heard has beautiful fall color), or connect with other trails, though we opted to “accomplish” reaching the seventh bridge and then going back down.
The anticipation of coming to the next bridge added a nice dimension for young ones, and my kids always love a hike alongside a creek. The aspens weren’t turning when we were there in mid-September, but some of the native shrubs and plants were turning red and yellow and some of my girls had fun collecting different-colored leaves.
The hike is about 3.7 miles round trip if you turn around right after the seventh bridge.
We may not have a “botanic garden”, but Colorado Springs is home to a very lovely xeriscape garden – and it’s free! It’s a great place to educate yourself about plants that grow well in our high-altitude, low-moisture climate, and I finally stopped by recently. Spoiler alert – you can have a lot of color and flowers and still have a very water-wise landscape!
The Xeriscape Demonstration Garden is operated by Colorado Springs Utilities and maintained by volunteers. Most all of the plants are labeled, and it was very helpful for me to see established plants at full-size, as I have a hard time imagining that when I’m shopping at the nursery. And while there might be some people who pay attention to the sizing that’s printed on the tag and measure everything out, I’m not one of those people – but, I’m determined to get better at it!
They had a wide variety of plants for everything from the hottest, driest places in your yard to places that might actually get a lot of moisture due to runoff or drip lines from roofs or trees. “Micro-climates” are a big deal in Colorado, according to the books I’ve read. (I think the reason they are able to grow those agave plants in the garden is due to all of the rocks helping to hold the heat from the sun!)
So many plants grow well in our hot, dry climate, and there are so many colors and shapes! It’s not all just native grasses and rocks – though I’m learning that there are ways to incorporate those ubiquitous grasses without just plopping them into a circle of rocks.
The lobby is open 9-5, Monday through Friday, and you can get additional information in there. The gardens themselves, however, are open all of the time, so you can pop in anytime. I’m hoping to stop by a couple of times this winter as I am really interested in trying to make our landscaping interesting in the winter and I’d love to see what many of these plants look like when they’re dormant.
If you are at all interested in gardening, hate the idea that water-wise landscaping means nothing but rocks and a few isolated clumps of native grass, or just want a pretty place to walk and get some fresh air, you really should check out CSU’s xeriscape garden!
I haven’t been, but there’s another CSU garden at Cottonwood Creek Park. You can check out the official information for both CSU xeriscape/water-wise gardens here. And, another small but free garden you could check out is the Horticultural Arts Society’s public garden display.
I also recently shared some of my gardening adventures in this post.
The Fine Arts Center at Colorado College has a “Passport to the Arts” program that grants fourth graders a free membership for their family, one free children’s theater ticket to the fall and spring Music Room productions, and half-off select art classes plus more special events and benefits!
Registration for those entering fourth grade in the 2018-2019 school year just opened, so you can now register your incoming fourth graders and get that free family membership and use it during the summer.
Another Free Membership for 4th Graders
Located on the northeast corner of Milam and Shoup, this 385-acre park has not just trails, but a playground, tennis courts/basketball court, horseshoe pits, and picnic pavilions. There’s also a large playfield that’s sometimes used for youth sports events but more often than not is open to everyone.
Much of this park was burned in the Black Forest fire, but the areas around the parking lots on the south end were mostly unscathed so there are still lots of towering Ponderosa Pines. The trails in the burned area of this park have recently been rebuilt, at least in part.
While hiking or biking through a burned area may not sound exciting to some, I actually like it as over time, you can see how the landscape recovers. Obviously the pine trees will take awhile to grow back, but the aspens and scrub oak are shooting up and I really think it’s a beautiful process to watch over time.
If you take the trails to the north end of the park, you’ll meet up with the Pikes Peak Loop, a 4.5-mile loop that circles the perimeter of the Cathedral Pines neighborhood. Ridden counter-clockwise, it’s a fun bike ride, particularly a fast downhill stretch on the north side that’s known as “Roller Coaster in the Pines”. You’ll want to watch out for the barbed wire fence all along the outside, though. (One of these days I’d like to know why barbed wire was necessary!)
You can also park at the parking lot at Milam and Vessey to access Pikes Peak Loop if you don’t want to ride up through Black Forest Regional Park. I believe there’s also an access point at the end of Piedra Vista St.
Back to the park’s trails: if you would like a short hike in the trees, there are trails that connect the south entrance with the north entrance.
This park has two entrances with three parking areas – one right at the corner of Milam and Shoup and one just a little way north on Milam, so if you’re meeting up with someone, be sure to clarify which part of the park you’re meeting at. The second parking lot – the one north of the first entrance at Milam and Shoup – is the one with the amenities such as the playground, pavilions, tennis courts, etc.
I hope you’re able to get out and experience this gem in Black Forest! For official information on Black Forest Regional Park, visit its page on the El Paso County Parks website
CityPASS now has an option for Denver! I heard about this program last year and it sounded like a great deal, but it wasn’t available in Denver until May 2nd of this year. Now you can choose a discounted pass to visit three, four, or five of these Denver-area attractions:
Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus
Denver Art Museum
Denver Botanic Gardens
Denver Museum of Nature & Science
History Colorado Center
Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum
An adult pass to see three of these attractions is $39 and a child’s pass is $29, with slightly more of a discount for the four-attraction pass and the five-attraction pass. You must use the CityPASS within one year from date of purchase. Particularly for the Denver Zoo, Museum of Nature and Science, and Downtown Aquarium this looks like a pretty great deal!