Nineteen. That’s how many trails Cheyenne Mountain State Park offers. Some are small connector trails, others take you into the far reaches of the park.
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 nature 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. Go left.
A short distance away, you’ll cross a bridge and pass the turn-off for the Talon Trail. Stay on the Zook Loop for now. A few more steps and you’ll spot an old corral on your left and get a new view of the park’s namesake – Cheyenne Mountain – on your right.
At the next trail split, you should see a sign for the Sundance Trail. Turn left and start the Sundance Loop. This first section is a wide open meadow. You’ll hike up to a rise and turn west. Here you’ll, once again, enjoy a view of the mountain.
Just a short distance away, you may spot a spur trail with a small sign that says “overlook ahead.” It’s just a short walk to a bench with a view of the park’s southeast side. Take a break, take in the views, then return to the main trail.
Back on the main trail, be careful in this next spot. At the next trail split, you’ll want to continue straight ahead, but don’t. That’s the Turkey Trot Trail. It cuts off most of the loop. I recommend turning right and staying on the Sundance Trail.
This next section of the trail winds through the grasslands, then goes up and over a small ridge. Now the trail changes. After hiking through mostly prairie and shrubs, now the trail goes into the forest. And there’s another small spur trail with an overlook. This overlook has a bench with a view north. However, due to the thick vegetation in the area, you may have to stand on the bench to get much of a view here.
Back on the main trail, you’ll continue hiking through the forest to a sign that talks about some of the animals that live here – deer, bears, mountain lions, even ladybugs and butterflies.
About 1.4 miles from the trailhead, the Sundance Trail appears to end at the Talon Trail. There’s a three-way split – the Talon Trail goes east, the Talon Trail goes west and there’s the trail you’ve been on. Look closely at the map and you may notice, you’ll have to walk a short distance on the Talon Trail to continue on the Sundance Loop. It was just a few steps and we were back on the Sundance Trail.
About a third of a mile from that split you’ll come to a bench and an unmarked split. Again, the map came in handy. You’ll notice both of these trails are the Sundance Trail, you just have to pick a side. For what it’s worth, I recommend going right, taking the southern trail. Why? Because you might see a moose. Not a real moose. But a moose and other fake animals and targets set up for visitors to the nearby archery range.
After 0.15 miles, the trails merge again and you’ll continue around the Sundance Loop, soon seeing the large archery range. At this point, you may hear traffic. That’s because the Sundance Trail gets near Highway 115, which goes past the park.
As you get closer to finishing the loop, you’ll pass through a prairie dog colony and then find yourself back at the parking lot. Turn at the building, walk up a couple stairs and you’ll be back at the bathrooms, where we started. You should also spot a playground, but the signs says the area is for kids 5-12 years old, not adults who act like kids.
Details: The hike around the Sundance Loop is about 3.3 miles with 300 feet of elevation gain with all the short ups and downs.
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Admission: $7 per car 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.