Elk Meadows loop

We were reminded of Mueller State Park’s greatness on our last visit.

With aspen groves spanning pine-fragrant woods and meadows overlooked by Pikes Peak, it was prime time for fall colors. Parking was full at our favorite trailhead for Grouse Mountain. So we turned around and found plenty of parking at the Elk Meadow trailhead — and thus accidentally discovered another beautiful portion of the park.

A flyer for the nonprofit Friends of Mueller State Park was posted at the trailhead. The Teller County preserve “surrounds us with the magic of nature,” it read, “inviting all to reflect, rediscover and to rekindle your spirit.” So we did as we steadily descended into the forest mixed with green and gold this autumn day.

We stayed straight on the trail marked 18, which curled north to wide-open grassland and sweeping views of the Pikes Peak massif. The trail goes on to gently ascend between grassy slopes and the woods edge.

We logged a little more than a mile at the point where we turned left for the trail marked 19. We continued the loop by turning left again shortly thereafter, at the trail marked 22 for Peak View Pond.

Surrounded by tall timber, the pond is a fine place to stop for a picnic and cast a fishing line — we spotted a family doing just that. The trail wraps around the east shore of the water and thins as it weaves the dense forest.

The trees clear yet again for more marvelous views of the peak. In just 2 miles, we felt spoiled by the rewards.

Trip log: 2.2 miles, 467 feet elevation gain

Getting there: Going west on U.S. 24, continue through Woodland Park and Divide and turn left for Colorado 67 south. Park entrance will be on the right. Big parking lot for Elk Meadows trailhead will be on your right, past the visitor center and immediately after the Lost Pond trailhead.

FYI: $9 day pass per vehicle. Hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing on all trails. No dogs. Day use 5 a.m.-10 p.m.

SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE

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