Hogback loop, Red Rock Canyon Open Space

Colorado Springs residents should be eternally grateful that Red Rock Canyon Open Space avoided a fate of development and is what it is today: a paradise for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.

Regulars delight in their quick, pre- or post-work routes and their longer weekend excursions. The trail network offers endless possibilities for loops. Those in the know opt for an access point less conspicuous than the large parking lots off U.S. 24.

The trailhead along 31st Street is especially beloved by cyclists and equestrians, with room for their trailers. But any nature lover will be glad by the sight uphill: the hogback formation carving a grassy meadow, lending the feel of time travel. One quickly escapes the adjacent commercial center and bustle of the highway for a quiet, ancient expanse.

From Lower Hogback Trail, this loop begins by staying straight on Hogback Valley Trail, wide with spurs for the singletrack, bike-built Codell Trail. Hogback Valley Trail steadily ascends and bends upward through a seam in the craggy ridge, affording views of the city, plains and foothills surrounding Cheyenne Canyon.

A new platter of vistas awaits on the other side of the hogback. Now one looks north to Waldo, Williams and Queens canyons along with Garden of the Gods. The open space’s signature sandstone outcrops loom on the other side of the former landfill being reclaimed with vegetation.

The trail running downhill meets Rim Trail. Staying straight, the path veers right at a meadow and back down to Hogback Valley, meeting at the junction a short distance from 31st Street.

Trip log: 3.1 miles, 742 feet elevation gain

Difficulty: Easy-moderate

Getting there: From Interstate 25, go west on U.S. 24 and turn left (south) on 31st Street. Parking lot on right.

FYI: Park open 5 a.m.-9 p.m. Nov. 1-April 30, 5 a.m.-10 p.m. May 1-Oct. 31. Dogs on leash unless in designated off-leash area. Lock car doors and don’t leave valuables behind. Icy in winter; have traction.

SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE

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