Over the past few months I’ve been posting tips on my favorite 1 and 5 mile hikes, and this week we’re going to stretch our legs a bit and offer a few scenic hikes of 10 miles or more in about an hour. Colorado Springs. Some are easier than others, but it’s all relative. Once the miles hit the double digits, even the “easiest” hikes can be quite difficult, if only for the distance.
All the usual warnings about preparation apply to these hikes, but I’ll add a few more.
- Make sure your boots are well broken in (not worn out). For hikes of these distances (often in difficult terrain), the quality, fit, and sturdiness of your shoes can really make or break you.
- For some of the tougher hikes you will go slower than your normal pace. It is extremely important that you bring enough food to sustain you for a long time.
- Bring extra water. If you attempt these hikes in the summer, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and severe dehydration can become serious issues. Bring as much water as possible and know where the nearest medical facility is.
- Don’t go alone. Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back, and who to call if you don’t.
- Check the weather forecast before you go.
A few caveats to the following hiking list:
I’ve walked all of them and the mileage listed is from my own GPS. The mileage may be a bit lower when connecting to a COTREX route, and I’ll rely on my GPS to be more accurate. From my hands-on, in-depth experience with COTREX, it underestimates the mileage quite a bit. Your method of measuring mileage may result in slightly different distances. Also, opinions on how difficult a trail is are just that, an opinion.
South Slope Recreation Area to Boehmer Reservoir, 10.06 miles round trip. You’ll be hard pressed to find a prettier hike in the Pikes Peak area than this out and back hike. Starting at the lonely trailhead, follow the Mason Trail to the west side of Mason Reservoir, then into the forest past the north end of the reservoir. When you start a series of fairly moderate switchbacks up a hill, you know you’re close to the turning point – the Boehmer Reservoir Dam. The views of the reservoirs and Pikes Peak are great, and you’ll find plenty of anglers in Mason. Wildflowers are also in abundance from late to mid-August. Advance reservations are required and daily reservations are limited in number. For more details and to book, Click here.
Dome Rock State Wildlife Refuge:
The next three are in Dome Rock State Wildlife Refuge in Teller County, just south of Mueller State Park. They all start and end at one of the two parking lots at the entrance.
A hunting, fishing, or state wildlife area pass is required for each person at Dome Rock SWA. You can buy them at any State Park, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Office or on line. A Colorado State Parks Pass is not valid in a SWA. Dogs and bikes are not allowed and hunters may be present during hunting seasons, so wear brightly colored clothing and stay on the trails.
Dome rock loop. 17.8 km round trip: This is a great loop hike that can only be done July 15-November 30 each year due to wildlife restrictions. Starting at the trailhead directly in front of you as you take the entrance road, take Willow Creek Trail to Spring Creek Trail and then Dome Rock Trail to complete the loop. It’s the only way to really see all of Dome Rock. There are a number of creek crossings (no bridges), and the large number of aspens makes this a great fall hike, when the leaves are changing and the water levels at the creek crossings are lower. The first 2 miles of this hike is a steady and somewhat steep climb, but after that it’s mostly downhill. You can view the route here.
View of the rock from the dome. 10.3 km round trip: This out-and-back hike begins like the loop hike above and, like the loop hike, can only be done from July 15 to November 30 each year. Follow the Willow Creek Trail for about 3.3 miles, then turn left onto the Dome View Trail and follow it to the end just under 2 miles later. Come back the same way you came. You can view this route here.
Four mile overlook. 10.94 miles round trip: Another out and back hike, this one starts and ends at the parking lot on the right as you drive up the entrance road. Unlike the two previous hikes, this one is accessible all year round. From the parking lot, take the Dome Rock trail along 4 Mile Creek to the remains of the Jack Rabbit Lodge. Turn right and at the top of the next steep but short climb, turn left onto Cabin Creek Trail. Follow this steady but not too steep climb to the 4 Mile Overlook Trail and turn left. Follow it to the end, where you can see the top of Dome Rock and the valley through which 4 Mile Creek runs. Go back where you came from. You can view this route here.
Dixon Trail, including Dragon’s Backbone Trail, Cheyenne Mountain State Park. 14.98 miles round trip: So the first thing you need to know is that this is a day hike. yes one day hike, as there is no backcountry camping at CMSP. You have to do this hike in one shot. Second, although this trail has over 3,000 feet of elevation gain, the trail is well constructed and marked, and as you ascend a lot, it doesn’t feel so bad because it’s never really that stiff. Third, for the best views, you’ll want to do the Dragon’s Backbone Trail once you get to the top, but be aware that it’s right over the eastern precipice of Cheyenne Mountain where smooth rock and long drops are the norm. It is not for the faint of heart, for those who are unsteady on their feet or those who are afraid of heights. For everyone else, it’s great.
Starting at the Limekiln trailhead, take the Talon trail to the second intersection of the North Talon trail and turn right. Follow it until it reaches its highest point and go up the Dixon Trail. From there you will continuously climb until you reach the top of the mountain. You will pass the remains of an old military plane crash and eventually come to an intersection with the Dragon’s Backbone Trail. Don’t spin here (you’ll thank me later), but continue a few hundred yards to the Mountain Loop Trail and turn right. Take it about 1/4 mile to the other end of Dragon’s Backbone Trail and turn right. Follow it (look for metal arrows and other markers) until it joins the Dixon Trail and turn left to descend. When you join the North Talon trail, you can turn right or left to join the Talon trail and back to the Limekiln trailhead. You can find this route here.
Note: Registration fees apply to CMSP. Dogs are not allowed on this trail, and bicycles and horses can only go to a designated stopping point about 3 km from the Dixon Trail. From there, cyclists and riders can strap in and do the rest on foot.
Be wise. Do good things. Leave no trace. Explore.