Cheyenne Mountain State Park is not the best hiking Colorado has to offer, but we found its network of well-marked trails very enjoyable. Even though it is conveniently located near many nice attractions in Colorado Springs, we chose to have a relaxing time and stay within the park for the three days we were there.
We were coming from Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site on August 25th. We ate our lunch in the van before we left, since there were no picnic tables near the parking lot. The heat was tolerable by sitting in the sliding door opening in the shade of the van with a slight breeze blowing by us. From there we headed towards Pueblo. As we were passing through the town of Rocky Ford, we stopped at Knapps Farm Market and bought a cantaloupe. Rocky Ford is known for their cantaloupes, so we couldn’t resist.
Right Buddy (RB) remembered seeing a place that sold ice cream along the Riverwalk in Pueblo while we were there the week before, so we stopped to check it out. The place was Brues Alehouse Brewing Company and they served Colorado City Creamery ice cream. Left Buddy (LB) was disappointed they did not have shakes. He ordered two scoops of vanilla and RB had one scoop of cherry and one scoop of mint chip. They didn’t have cones, but that was a good thing. We ate our ice cream from bowls outside in the shade in the 100 degree heat as the ice cream quickly melted. It would have been quite the mess in a cone. It was high quality ice cream and very tasty. The vanilla had specks of vanilla bean. The cherry was loaded with cherry halves and the mint chip was a strong mint that tasted like crème de menthe.
We arrived at Cheyenne Mountain State Park just before dinner time. The park is located at the base of Cheyenne Mountain, just on the other side of Colorado 115 from Fort Carson. Cheyenne Mountain is the one with the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) underground operations center built inside of it. At 5 pm, we could hear the bugle mess call from Fort Carson. We didn’t have any shade at our camp site, but the skies were hazy with smoke from all of the wildfires, so there was no sun shining on us that evening. From our camp site, there was a view of Cheyenne Mountain in one direction and an overlook of the city of Colorado Springs in the opposite direction. Even though we were less than one mile from Cheyenne Mountain, it appeared hazy through the smoke.
Quinoa tabbouleh was what we prepared for dinner with cucumber, tomatoes, carrots, green onions, olive oil, and lemon juice. The recipe calls for parsley but the bunches at the store the last time were rather large, so RB decided to skip it. Since she doesn’t like to waste food, she included some of the lemon rind as well. Tasty. RB cut up the Rocky Ford cantaloupe and we ate part of it. It was good warm, but we put the rest of it in the fridge. It should taste even better cold.
We sat in our camp chairs the rest of the evening, working on our computers and looking up at Cheyenne Mountain every now and then. LB nudged RB to have her look up. There was a deer walking right behind our camp site. It looked like it was carefully tip-toeing through slowly, trying to be quiet so no one would notice. Not long after that, a whole herd of deer came through the opposite direction, along with several fawns. It was nice of them to provide us with our evening entertainment.
In the morning, the sky was a little less smoky. Our view of Cheyenne Mountain was much clearer than the previous evening. We went for a hike. The Raccoon Ridge Trail runs right behind our camp site. We took that over to Boulder Run Trail and then followed Cougar Shadow and Blackmer Loop Trails before returning to our camp site. We were concerned the trails would be rather exposed, but much of Cougar Shadow and Blackmer Loop were through a pine forest. There was not anything spectacular to see along the trails, but it was a nice hike. The trails are well marked, with a full trail map posted at every trail intersection. We also noticed the trail markers had GPS coordinates along with a number, like GPS #101. We’re not sure what the GPS numbers correspond with. Perhaps they have something to do with geocaching? The Visitor Center rents GPS units to use for geocaching within the park.
Lately RB has been frustrated with using RunKeeper as it has a tendency to stop recording during a hike. Sometimes it stops when we take a long break, like stopping to eat a snack. Sometimes it would stop when she would use another app on her phone, such as taking a picture or video, or looking at a trail map. And there were also times when her phone was in her pocket the whole time and it would stop recording at some point. Therefore, she tried something different this time. Since she had signed up for the Pro version of AllTrails, it allows her to record the hike. So that’s what she did for this hike. It did not stop recording on her, at least this time. She’ll probably keep using it and see if it has any issues. The hike was #47 of our 52 Hike Challenge: 4.5 miles with an elevation gain of 581 feet in two hours and five minutes.
After lunch, RB hosed down her camp chair to remove any lake water residue from the previous state parks earlier in the week. Just after she set up our camping table and pulled out her laptop to work, it started sprinkling. It didn’t look like it would rain long, so we left the table and chairs outside. However, one rain cloud followed another. It rained off and on all afternoon and evening. It turned out that RB didn’t need to hose down her chair because the rain gave it a good soak. We stayed inside the van the rest of the day. For dinner we made chicken salad sandwiches so we didn’t have to go outside to cook. We also finished off the rest of the Rocky Ford cantaloupe. And yes, it tasted even better cold.
The following day, the air was even clearer, probably from all of the rain the night before. We hit the hiking trails early so we could get in a longer hike. We connected a bunch of trails together to make a big loop. We took Raccoon Ridge Trail over to Boulder Run Trail again, but headed the opposite direction on Boulder Run. Then we headed south on Coyote Run to Zook Loop, west/counter-clockwise around Zook Loop to Sundance. South on Sundance to Talon. North on Talon back to Zook Loop, north to Coyote Run, taking the east side of the Coyote Run loop north to Soaring Kestral which took us back to Raccoon Ridge and to our camp site. It’s a good thing the trails are well marked and there is a full trail map at each trail intersection so we didn’t have to pull out a map to figure out which branch to take or memorize the route. We again used the AllTrails app to record our hike and it worked like a charm.
We were concerned the trails would be rather exposed, more so than the trails we were on the day before. That was true, but it was not as bad as we expected. The trail designers did a great job of routing the trails along gamble oak and, when possible, among pine trees, trying to keep the nearby buildings and roads out of sight from the trail. There were sections that were fully exposed and highway 115 was visible and within earshot for those sections, but it was not that annoying. We saw more people on the trail that day than the day before, but the number of people was only about a dozen over the course of our whole hike. Most of the people were trail running or on mountain bikes. We suspect many of them were locals from Colorado Springs. It was a weekday morning. We would imagine that the trails would be more crowded on the weekends. This was hike #48 of our 52 Hike Challenge: 6.5 miles with an elevation gain of 666 feet in three hours and twenty minutes.
After lunch, we both checked out the showers at the camper services building. They cost four quarters for four minutes. We’re assuming it was a quarter per minute and would last longer if you put more quarters in, but the sign did not specify, and we both made four minutes work. However, RB believes she will pay for at least five minutes next time because four minutes is a rather rushed shower for her. There is no temperature control for the showers. It starts out cold and takes about one minute (of your four) to warm up. RB found the temperature of her shower comfortable, but LB said his shower turned hotter than he would have preferred.
It drizzled rain off and on during the afternoon, but then cleared up in the evening. Dinner was French toast with blueberries, sugar and cinnamon. It wasn’t quite enough to eat after all the hiking we did that day, so RB had a grilled cheese sandwich and LB munched on beef jerky. After listening to the bugle taps from Fort Carson at 10 pm, we turned in for the night.
The next day, we packed up and drove home. It was less than a two hour drive so we were home before lunch. As we were driving out of Cheyenne Mountain State Park, two wild turkeys crossed the road in front of us. It always amazes us that we rarely see wildlife while hiking for hours but we see more wildlife either from our camp site or while driving along on the road.
Cheyenne Mountain State Park is definitely on our list of places to come back to, especially if we want to visit any of the attractions in the Colorado Springs area. RB would love to revisit Garden of the Gods and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, which we have not seen in years. Most of the other campgrounds in the area are expensive and the camp sites look rather cramped. In contrast, the sites at Cheyenne Mountain are nicely spaced with clean facilities. Even if you do not plan on hiking the trails within the park, we would recommend camping here to explore the Colorado Springs area.
Check out our related video: Cheyenne Mountain State Park