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Parks in Colorado Springs

Posted by Sarah Steen on March 1, 2019
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picture of Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs

One of the best things about living in Colorado Springs is the abundance of beautiful parks we have here. They offer a variety of activity options like sightseeing, hiking, biking, camping and more.

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In 1871, the initial town plans included Acacia Park as the first city park. General William Jackson Palmer had a grand vision of a city that would be the health spa and playground for affluent US citizens East of the Mississippi. Overall, General Palmer donated a total of 1,279 acres of park land to the city.

To the delight of modern day Colorado Springs residents, the city makes a concerted effort to maintain and expand parks for recreational use in our rapidly growing city and county. As you move through Colorado Springs, you will find opportunities for rest, recovery, and fitness everywhere you go.

Related Reading: 5 Parks to Visit in Colorado Springs

2 Most Popular Parks in Colorado Springs

Gardens of the Gods

Picture of walking path through Garden of the Gods Park

Colorado Springs’ most famous park is Gardens of the Gods Park. It was donated to the city in 1909. Gardens of the Gods stuns visitors with its iconic sandstone and limestone “fin” formations that were pushed up by mountain forces. These special formations attract more than two million visitors a year for their beauty and scientific value. The Garden of the Gods rocks are studied by geologists, ecologists, historians and biologists. They provide direct insight into the environment of thousands and even a million years ago.

The fins also attract many rock climbers hoping to test their skills. Before you head out to rock climb in the Garden, please get a permit and familiarize yourself with the climbing regulations of the park. Other activities in the park include hiking, biking, running. Animals are abundant. Stay on the trails to spot rattlesnakes easily and to avoid bear encounters.

No worries if you are pressed for time.  You can still quickly enjoy the beauty of Gardens of the Gods. There is a road that winds through the park and offers great views.

The visitor center across the street from main park has beautiful views, great information about the park itself, and many educational exhibits. Pro tip: the visitor center also has a large gift shop with great options for local Colorado Springs souvenirs.

Info:

Park hours are 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. from May 1 to October 31;
5 a.m. to 9 p.m. from November 1 to April 30

Visitor Center:
1805 N. 30th Street
8 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend; the remainder of the year it is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 

Pikes Peak: America’s Mountain

While it’s not officially a park, Pikes Peak is the most iconic landmark on Colorado Springs’ landscape. And there’s more than one way to experience America’s Mountain. If you’d like to attempt an ascent by foot, I have some detailed information and tips about this adventure: Guide to Climbing Pikes Peak.  You can also drive  the 19 miles up the Pikes Peak Highway. There are plenty of pull offs where you can marvel at the view or to make sure you really didn’t just see Big Foot!

Directions: Follow Highway 24 West to the entrance to the Pikes Peak Highway in Cascade. You will have to purchase tickets to enter. Speed up the process by buying  tickets online before you head out the door. The Pikes Peak Cog in Manitou Springs shut down [temporarily]  last year (2018), and construction has started on the new Summit House. This has caused  traffic to increase so significantly that visitors may be required to take a shuttle to the summit.

Tips:

  • Make sure you have at least half a tank of gas in your vehicle.
  • Plan for at least 2 – 3 hours for a round trip.
  • Watch for bicyclists and motorcycles.
  • On your way down, your brakes temperatures will be measured at the Brake Check Station. Let your transmission do the brake work, otherwise you will be asked to pull to the side to cool them down.
  • It is said that the donuts up there are special: be sure to try them and let us know how you liked them.

Related reading:

State Parks in (and around) Colorado Springs

Cheyenne Mountain State Park

Cheyenne Mountain State Park is located on the very southwest tip of Colorado Springs, across from Fort Carson’s’ gates and adjacent to the NORAD Cheyenne Mountain Station. Having a state park in the city is so great. CMSP has about  2700 acres with  roughly 21  trails.

CMSP gets busy during the day, but calms down in the evening. It has become a favorite place for outdoor running and biking events, as well as educational opportunities. You should be able to see plenty of wild life, particularly in the dusk and dawn hours. If you are a runner, consider skipping the headphones in order to be cognizant of wildlife around you (especially mountain lions, bears and rattlesnakes).

Park Activities

Feel free to hike, bike, run and snowshoe to your heart’s desire. There are many day picnic areas that are also handicap accessible. Everything is new and clean.  Other activities also include horseback riding on the equestrian trails or practicing your skills on the archery range. Dogs are only allowed leashed and on designated trails.

Camping in the park

You can camp year round (with some limitations) in the park. Though the park offers 51 full hook up sites and 10 tent sites, it books up quickly. The showers and laundry facilities are coin operated (seasonal).

Park Hours

  • Day Use Areas 5am-10pm
  • Archery Range Is Open Sunrise To Sunset
  • 24 Hours For Camping, with quiet hours 10pm to 6am
  • The Visitor Center Is Open 9:00am-4:00pm Daily From Oct 1 Through April 30​; 9:00am – 5:00pm Daily From May 1 Through Sept 30

Fees

  • Daily Pass: $8.00
  • Annual Pass: $80.00 (affixed) or $120.00 (hang tag)
  • Aspen Leaf Annual Pass (Colorado Resident 64+) : $70.00
  • Basic Campsite: $28.00
  • Full Hook-up Campsite: $41​.00

Mueller State Park

Mueller State Park is located west of Colorado Springs just past Woodland Park. Mueller is a gem in the mountains and always worth a drive. Enjoy 34 miles of trails on about 5000 acres of forest and meadows. This park is special because you are able to observe so many kinds of wildlife in their habitat, or just recuperate from a stressful week in the city. Muller is a local favorite for leaf peeping on the aspen trees in the fall.

Picture of Mueller State Park with fall apsens

Mueller State Park in the fall

Park activities

  • Hiking/snowshoeing: 44 miles of trails with varying in difficulty. You can find short family trails, as well as full day hikes for tough adventurers.
  • Horseback riding: permitted in 34 miles of the trail system. There are even designated equestrian campsites that  include corrals for up to 2 horses per site. To find trails for all these activities refer to the trails map.
  • Biking: there are a total of 36 miles that allow bikes. The bike trails are described as “not easy” on the website.
  • Backcountry and cross country skiing: these activities are permitted, but trails are not groomed. Always bring a trail map so you know where you are going. It’s much harder to find your way when everything is covered with a blanket of snow.
  • Sledding: there are some great sledding areas within the park. Bring  your own equipment and ask the ranger station or visitor center for the best spots.

Camping

Mueller State Park is very organized when it comes to camping/glamping. It offers winter and summer camping with varying rates and fees. This  is one of the few parks where cabins are available to rent. The cabins range in size from 2-4 bedrooms.

Info:

  • Most Colorado parks have very strict wildlife rules.. At Mueller, you will see lots of black bear activity which is why food storage regulations apply year round.
  • Dogs are not permitted on any trails, except for service dogs. If you have a service dog let the park rangers know ahead of time.

 

Eleven Mile State Park

If you are ready to escape the hustle and bustle of the Front Range cities, or you want to seek refuge from the heat of the lower elevations in the summer, a trip to Eleven Mile State Park might be perfect. This park seems to have it all.

Park activities

  • Hiking/biking/snowshowing: there are 5 miles of hiking and biking trails, with varying levels of difficulty. Great for a little adventure. If you are looking for a longer distance, you might want to choose one of the trails outside this specific park.
  • Birding: if birding is your passion then enjoy a variety of songbirds, raptors, waterfowl and shorebirds who are visiting this reservoir. Birdlist
  • Boating: a rare opportunity in landlocked Colorado. Eleven Mile reservoir offers many ways to enjoy the water. Swimming or any other water-body contact activities are prohibited because of waterborne illnesses). Read all boating regulations
  • Fishing: Fishing equipment and boats are available for rent directly in the park. In order to keep this lake fish and fishermen friendly, adhere to all rules and regulations.
  • Hunting: big game, small game and water fowl are allowed in the appropriate hunting seasons with applicable permits.
  • Ice skating: they recommend going in early winter after a solid freeze but before deep ridges occur in the ice.
  • Camping: Eleven Mile State Park has a total of  9 campgrounds scattered around the lake with 335 available campsites. Choose a campground near the recreational activity you prefer. Online reviews of the campsites will give you a good idea which campsites you might prefer.

Equipment Rental

It’s very convenient that you can rent equipment directly in the park. The marina offers rentals of 20′ pontoon, a  couple 16′ Lund aluminum V-Hulls, and several canoes and kayaks. Have you ever tried winter ice fishing? This is your opportunity: rent all necessary gear in the park from : augers, shelters, fish finders, to heaters.

Info:

  • The park gets very windy, especially in the afternoon. Take this into consideration especially if you have a long day on the lake planned or when you choose your camping spot.
  • Dogs are welcomed but always have to be on a leash.
  • Fees:
    • Daily Pass: $8.00
    • Annual Pass: $80.00 (affixed) or $120.00 (hang tag)
    • Aspen Leaf Annual Pass (64+)​: $70.00Basic Campsite: $28.00​ per night
    • Electric Campsite: $36.00​ per night
  • Pro Tip: If you visit either of the state parks mentioned above, consider visiting Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Related Reading:

City and County Parks

Colorado Springs offers many city parks all over the city. The list below only includes the parks that are city maintained. Don’t forget to explore all the neighborhood parks, established by the individual developers and available in your community.

Helpful Resources:

Palmer Lake

Black Forest

Picture of trees reflecting in the pond at Fox Run Park in Colorado Springs

Fox Run Park

  • Fox run Regional Park – This park is worth a visit even if you don’t live in the neighborhood! Wonderfully wooded hiking and biking trails which lead past wonderful lakes and natural surroundings. 2 playgrounds and multiple picnic pavilions. Bring, horses, bikes, dogs and enjoy this beautiful park.
  • Black Forest Regional Park – 385 acres filled with ponderosa pines and wonderful views. Enjoy the turf playing fields, tennis courts, trails, playground, and two picnic pavilions.
  • Pineries Open Space (Coming soon)

North

  • Mary Kyer Park
  • Lulu Pollard Park
  • John Venezia Community Park – (embed our youtube video of John Venezia Park) You’ll find cheerful and wonderfully designed pavilions and picnic areas, a “spray ground” /splash park with restrooms close by. It also soccer fields, an in-line hockey rink/basketball court, four pickleball courts, a plaza overlooking multi-use fields, small playground, restrooms, two parking lots, nearby on-street parking. You’ll just have to come and see for yourself.

Northwest

North Central

picture of Pikes Peak from Cottonwood Creek Park in Colorado Springs

Cottonwood Creek Park

  • Cottonwood Creek Park   (embed our youtube video of Cottonwood Creek Park) just like John Venezia Park, the planners have done an excellent job designing a fun and family friendly environment. Whether you only want to run or bike, or use some of the many amenities this park offers:
    • Cottonwood Creek Recreation Center (indoor pool)
    • Picnic tables
    • Playground
    • Restrooms
    • Sledding
    • Four soccer fields
    • Three softball/baseball fields
    • Tennis courts
    • In-line hockey court
    • Disc golf course
    • Walking and running paths (wheelchair accessible)
  • Austin Bluffs Open Space
  • Palmer Park
  • Pulpit Rock Park
  • Sunset Mesa Open Space
  • High Chaparral Open Space (keep an eye out for the community garden!)

Central

  • Memorial Community Park This is the central community event park in town. Many big events during the year happen here. You can enjoy 4th of July fireworks or the Labor Day Liftoff (hot air balloons!) in September. If you just want to try stand up paddling or even fishing, you can do it all there! Great playgrounds and game fields for sports.
  • Jefferson Park

Downtown Colorado Springs and the Old North End

Woodmen and Powers

Westside

  • North Cheyenne Cañon Park – Visit the Starsmore visitor center and enjoy the challenge of the  tight road winding itself all the way up to Helen Hunt Falls. You’ll find many trails guiding you through this area from the trailheads along side the road. The weekends and summers can get extremely busy. Bicyclists be careful! The road is narrow and sometimes car drivers are not aware just how close they come to you.  You’ll need to get to the picnic areas next to the creek early to conquer a picnic table.
  • Stratton Open Space – Lots of trails! Take your (leashed!) dog and hike up a short trail up to the reservoir and have your dog enjoy the “unofficial” dog park. If you are an ambitious mountain biker, bike up or down the Chutes trail.
  • Gardens of the Gods
  • Douglas Creek Open Space
  • Rock Ledge Ranch – Throughout the year Rock Ledge Ranch holds many fun events that will carry you back in time.
  • Blair Bridge Open Space
  • Red Rock Canyon Open Space – The city successfully transformed a 53 acre landfill into one of the best kept secrets. The rock formations are gorgeous and nearly rival Gardens of the Gods. The dirt trails pass by the old gravel quarries and above ground mining area. There is a bike training area that is great to either get or improve your biking skills. Bike, hike and run to your heart’s content, offering a connection to Section 16 and Intemann Trail.

Eastern

Southeast Colorado Springs

Southwest

Castle Rock

  • Philip S. Miller Park: We realize this isn’t a Colorado Springs Park, but this one is just too cool to leave out. It features an amazing, multi-tiered playground, splash pad, zip-lining, mini-incline, and lots of trails. The indoor rec center has a pool, trampoline area, and an indoor adventure center.

It’s easy to see that Colorado Springs has no shortage of parks and outdoor adventure opportunities. It’s one of our favorite parts of living here! Have you been to any of these parks? Which one is your favorite?

Related Reading:

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