William H. Jackson Point, Lathrop State Park

Amid record visitation, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has aimed to direct Front Range enthusiasts to “hidden gems.” That’s especially for enthusiasts flocking to Lake Pueblo, Colorado’s most popular state park. The surge was such in summer 2020 that rangers had to close gates for the first time due to capacity.

Meanwhile, plenty of room awaited at an equally refreshing oasis farther south.

CPW considers Lathrop State Park one of these hidden gems. The underappreciation comes as a surprise, considering the opportunities — a lake for motor boats and another for wakeless paddlers, to go along with fishing, cycling on a paved loop and a nine-hole golf course. And it’s surprising considering Lathrop is Colorado’s oldest state park, established in 1962.

Lathrop was christened for Colorado’s first state parks director, Harold W. Lathrop. But a more recognizable name is celebrated across these 1,594 acres.

That name is William Henry Jackson, who famously photographed the West’s beauty before it was widely known. In 1885, along what is now the northern boundary of the park, he scaled the craggy flanks of a ridge and captured a spectacular view: the twin Spanish Peaks, reflecting off the twin lakes.

Hikers can stand where he did and take in the same view. It’s a short though fairly steep and rugged spur to the well-marked spot off the Hogback Trail.

At the trailhead, veer west, starting through grasslands and brief stands of pinon and juniper. The thin path becomes defined by stone steps that switchback up the ridge, with views also of Greenhorn Mountain and Pikes Peak.

The full loop runs about 2 miles. But this trip covers the out-and-back to the overlook of the peaks that the Native people knew as Huajatolla, “breasts of the world.”

On a hot day, the waters will look enticing. Take a dip afterward in Martin Lake’s swim beach.

Trip log: 1.3 miles round trip, 378 feet elevation gain

Difficulty: Easy-moderate

Getting there: From Colorado Springs, drive south on Interstate 25 to exit for Walsenburg/U.S. 160 west. Through town, turn right for Seventh Street to continue 160 west. Park entrance on right in about 3 miles.

FYI: Entry $9 per vehicle. Day use 5 a.m.-10 p.m. Hiking only. Dogs on leash.

SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE

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