The Edna Mae Bennett Nature Trail is a fun 2.6-mile loop hike that explores sandstone bluffs at Palmer Park, a 730-acre natural park in central Colorado Springs. The single- and double-track dirt trail gains a modest 130 feet as it ascends a pine-filled ravine and then threads along the rim of the bluffs. The trail offers great views of Pikes Peak and the mountains and passes strangely carved rock formations. While most of Palmer Park’s trails are multi-use, you won’t meet many mountain bikers on this trail since it’s rough and rocky. It’s easy to follow the trail with markers and arrows showing the way. Allow a couple hours to hike the loop so you have plenty of time to read interpretative signs and enjoy the views. Dogs are allowed but must be leashed. Carry water in the summer.
- The trail begins at North Cañon Trailhead on Paseo Road in Colorado Springs. Reach the trailhead from Interstate 25 by exiting at Fillmore Street (exit 145) and drive east. At North Union Boulevard, Fillmore becomes North Circle Drive. Continue straight for 0.2 miles and turn left on Paseo Road. Drive 0.8 miles on Paseo to the park entrance and turn into the trailhead parking lot.
- Restrooms and a trail map are at the trailhead. The Edna Mae Bennett Nature Trail makes a loop hike from here. Follow trail markers to stay on track. The first segment goes 1.2 miles up North Cañon to a junction with Templeton Trail near the top of the bluffs. Go right on Templeton Trail to the trail’s high point on a rocky outcrop at 1.7 miles. The Bennett Trail threads along the bluff’s rim before steadily descending to a junction with Yucca Trail at 2.1 miles. Go right and descend to a cliff with a cool cave. The trail finishes by descending to the parking area.
- Palmer Park is a good birdwatching area. Bring binoculars and a field guide to identify birds. Common birds include ravens, magpies, black-capped chickadees, pygmy nuthatches, towhees, and hawks. Occasionally an owl is spotted in the tall pines in North Cañon. Few large mammals are here since the park is surrounded by houses, but red foxes, coyotes, squirrels, and rabbits are seen.
- Palmer Park is a great escape for hiking and mountain biking in the middle of a big city. The 4.1-mile Templeton Trail, beginning at Yucca Flats Trailhead, is a wonderful hike that skirts the perimeter of the park’s north mesa. It offers great views, solitude above the suburbs, and interesting hiking past cliffs.
Recommended season(s): Year-round.
–Stewart M. Green