During winter, heading to lower elevation trails in the foothills can provide a more pleasant hike, with less snow and warmer temperatures. Red Rock Canyon Open Space offers a diverse array of trail options nestled in the foothills.

From Highway 24 in Colorado Springs, drive south on 26th Street for about 1.5 miles to Lower Gold Camp Road. Turn right and continue southwest for about a mile to the Section 16 parking area and trailhead on the right.

trail route passes through Gambel Oak shrubland.JPG

About half of the trail route passes through Gambel Oak shrubland.

Begin hiking northward on the trail to the left next to a large rock placard. A couple of trails begin from this lot, so just keep left to keep climbing up the small ridge through Gambel Oak shrubland.

path emerges from the shrubland and enters the southern end of an old landfill.JPG

Along the Red Rock Canyon Overlook Trail the path emerges from the shrubland and enters the southern end of an old landfill. The landfill has transformed into a giant meadow with a backdrop of red sandstone spires.

After about a half mile reach the top of the ridge and two large benches on the right. Make note of this spot as the loop will return here. Break right off of Section 16 Trail, passing between the benches, then take the left fork to continue on the unsigned Ridgeline Trail.

Hike northeast through shrubland just below the ridgetop, a great vantage point for views to the north of the Red Rocks and Garden of the Gods formation complex. After about .75 mile, keep a sharp eye for an obvious yet unsigned intersection and cut sharp left.

route diverts from the Section 16 Trail onto the Ridgeline Trail at this pair of benches.JPG

A half mile from the trailhead this route diverts from the Section 16 Trail onto the Ridgeline Trail at this pair of benches. Make note of this spot as the loop portion of the hike will begin and end here.

After about 50 yards connect to the signed Red Rock Canyon Overlook Trail and turn right for a longer loop hike. After about 150 yards the trail emerges from the shrubland and enters the southern end of an old landfill that has transformed into a giant meadow with a backdrop of red sandstone spires.

The trail swings west along the edge of the grassland then climbs up into Ponderosa Pine and Douglas-fir woodland. The milder foothills climate attracts wintering robins that may be encountered along the route. After winding along for about another 1.25 miles reach a major four-way trail intersection and turn left to get back on the Section 16 Trail heading south and east. After about a half mile, pass the southern end of the Red Rock Canyon Overlook Trail (unsigned) and continue southward on the wide and obvious Section 16 Trail. After about 150 yards pass the benches at the Ridgeline Trail diversion and hike downhill for another half mile back to the parking area.

Joe LaFleur has lived in Woodland Park since 2016 and is a hiking enthusiast that hits the trails weekly. Contact Joe with questions or feedback at [email protected]. Hiking is great exercise but can be hazardous. Always be sure to plan well, check the weather, bring a printed map, tell someone where and when you are going and contact them when you return safely.

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