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Hiking in Colorado Springs: Pick your distance at Cheyenne Mountain State Park

View of Cheyenne Mountain from the Blackmer Trail
View of Cheyenne Mountain from the Blackmer Trail
Deb Stanley

Cheyenne Mountain State Park may be one of the best places to hike if you want to pick your distance. There are 16 trails and there are so many trail splits, you get to decide often -- do I want to go further or take another trail back?

Cheyenne Mountain State Park
Deb Stanley

Cheyenne Mountain State Park is easy to get to, it's less than five miles from Interstate 25. Most of the trails start at the day use trailhead, less than a mile from the Visitor's Center (directions below).

Two different rangers (one at the Visitor's Center and one at the park gate) gave me the same advice for a hike here -- start on the 1-mile Zook Loop and if you feel like it, turn off on the other trails. That sounded like a good idea to me.

From the parking lot, start on the main trail to the right of the bathrooms. Just a few steps away from the parking lot, you'll come to a trail register and a trail split. While I didn't see a sign here, this is the Zook Loop. I went 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 seemed like a good spot to pull out the map. It was only 1/3 of a mile back to the parking lot, so I decided it was time to branch out. A park ranger said the Blackmer and Sundance Loops are the most popular trails in the park, I decided to turn off on the Blackmer Trail.

The Blackmer Trail starts by following a creekbed. There are a few creek crossings, but in April 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 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, I came to the trail split of the Blackmer Trail and the Boulder Run Trail. This is a big decision point. Turning on the Blackmer Trail here means you're committing to hiking another three miles (or more if you use the Cougar's Shadow Trail) to get back to the Zook Loop. I decided to turn off on Boulder Run.

Note, just a tenth of a mile from the trail split, I came to an unmarked three way split. Using my map, I determined the right just went to a "future development" site, left was likely the Raccoon Ridge Trail, so I went straight ahead and yes, that was Boulder Run.

After climbing about 400 feet in elevation over the last 1.5 miles, Boulder Run is mostly downhill. It does cross a road and go near the road a couple times.

At 1.85 miles from the trailhead, I spotted a sign for an overlook. The spur trail is only a tenth of a mile each way and leads to a bench at a nice viewpoint. However, as you continue on the Boulder Run Trail, you'll soon be hiking on a ridge and you'll be able to see much of the same view. The view from the trail/ridge is actually pretty impressive because you can see many of the trails across the Limekiln Valley.

The Boulder Run Trail ends at the Coyote Run Trail. Now it's decision time again. (Yes, there are lots of these decision points.) You can turn right here, head back to the Zook Trail and the trailhead or hike around the Coyote Run Trail using it to possibly connect to the Soaring Kestral Trail and other trails.

I decided to head back to the parking lot knowing I could return and hike many more trails in this park.

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. Get more ideas on this list of 200+ hikes in Colorado.

Entrance fee: $7 (in 2014)

Details: A hike on the Zook Loop, part of the Blackmer Loop, the Boulder Run and a piece of Coyote Run came out to 2.85 miles with 450 feet of elevation gain.

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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