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Hiking at Cheyenne Mountain State Park: Blackmer Loop & Cougar's Shadow Trail

Scenery along the trails at Cheyenne Mountain State Park
Scenery along the trails at Cheyenne Mountain State Park
Deb Stanley

One of the best things about hiking at Cheyenne Mountain State Park is all of the options. You can hike out-and-back or use a variety of trail to create your own loop.

Cheyenne Mountain State Park
Deb Stanley

After doing part of the Blackmer Loop another day (creating a loop using Zook-Blackmer-Boulder Run-Coyote Run), I decided it was time to see more of the far west side trails – Blackmer Loop and Cougar’s Shadow Trail.

Like most treks here, the hike starts at the Limekiln Trailhead – the park’s main trailhead (directions below).

Start your hike on the wide, dirt trail between the bathrooms and the signs. A short distance from the parking lot, there’s a trail register and a trail split. This is the start of the Zook Loop. I recommend going left.

A short distance away I crossed a bridge and came to my first trail split. Here I found a park map telling me where I was. I decided to stay on the Zook Loop. A few more steps and I spotted an old corral on my left and a nice view of the parks namesake, Cheyenne Mountain, on my right.

As I walked, I found lots of signs. There were signs telling me about the trees and shrubs at the park -- Gamble Oak, Douglas Fire, Mountain Mahogany, Rocky Mountain Ninebark, etc. I also found lots of trail marker signs not only telling me I was on the Zook Loop, but also the GPS coordinate. The park map explains that the GPS coordinates are there to help park staff locate hikers and bikers in case of an emergency on the trail.

One of the nicest things about the Zook Loop is the lack of rocks on the trail. Most of the trails in the Rocky Mountain area are quite rocky. This is a nice, dirt path, so it's easy on the feet.

After passing a couple turnoffs, at 0.65 miles from the trailhead, I came to a shaded rock garden with a bench. This is tge turnoff for the Blackmer Trail.

The Blackmer Trail starts by following a creekbed. There are a few creek crossings, but in May 2014, they were dry. The Blackmer Trail has some short ups and downs as it winds through the forest.

At 1.35 miles from the trailhead, the trees/shrubs suddenly opened up and I was in a middle of a meadow with a nice view of Cheyenne Mountain. This is a nice spot if you'd like to take a break in the sun and take in the views.

After a walk through the meadow, at about 1.5 miles, there was a small hill that led to a trail split. Stay on the Blackmer Loop and continue hiking through the meadow with a view of the mountain. You may notice a road near the base of the mountain. That’s the entrance to NORAD's Cheyenne Mountain complex -- a military operational center built inside a granite mountain in 1967.

As you hike through the meadow, you’ll come to a sign that explains this land was once a cattle ranch owned by John Lytle. Before that, experts believe a variety of Native American tribes used this area as their hunting grounds.

Soon you’ll be back in the trees again and at the split for Cougar’s Shadow. Now it’s decision time. You can do the entire Blackmer Loop or take a detour via the Cougar’s Shadow Trail. I liking hiking the outermost trails, so I decided to take Cougar’s Shadow.

Cougar’s Shadow is a pleasant trail through the forest. It has small ups and downs and a there’s even a rock garden that’s a nice place to take a break or do a little scrambling. After just a 0.8 mile detour, we were back on the Blackmer Loop. Looking at the map, we decided to continue on the longer leg of the loop.

This section of the Blackmer Trail continues through the forest with occasional open areas. On the map, you’ll see a windy trail. In person, it felt that way at times. This section is 1.4 miles. While 1.4 miles isn’t a “long” trail, it felt a bit long after all the short sections of trail we had been on.

After about four miles of hiking (from the start), Blackmer loop ended and we turned back on the small stretch of the Blackmer Trail that connects to the Zook Loop. On the way back, there’s another decision point or two. Do you want to finish the Zook Loop? Do you want to use the Medicine Wheel Trail (and a small section of the Zook Loop) to get back to the parking lot? Or do you want to return on the section of Zook Loop you’ve done and turn off on some of the southern trails in the park?

Details: Returning to the parking lot created a double loop hike of about 4.8 miles with 650 feet of elevation gain with all the ups and downs.

Get a park map and more information on the Cheyenne Mountain State Park website. In Colorado Springs, don't miss the Incline, Saint Mary's Falls and Red Rock Canyon. Don't miss any of my trip reports, sign up for an email alert by clicking on subscribe at the top of this page and follow me on Facebook. Get more ideas on this list of 200+ hikes in Colorado.

Admission: $7 in 2014

Directions: From I-25, take exit #135 South Academy and turn west. Drive about 1.9 miles to Highway 115 and turn south. Drive 1.9 miles to State Park Road. Turn off at the Visitor's Center or stay on the road to the entrance station and then the trailhead parking lot.

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