Everyone in Colorado Springs knows about Bear Creek Dog Park. It’s a staple for locals, a splendid 25 acres for canine companions to run free off-leash.

El Paso County overseers say the park gets 100,000 visits a year. On a recent bluebird Sunday morning, the parking lot off 21st Street was almost full — and it wasn’t just dog owners here. Facing the playground, look left as we did and see the opening in the gate: an escape from frolicking pets to far more serene and wild acreage.

For all that Bear Creek Regional park offers — play sets, picnic pavilions, tennis courts — the centerpiece is the trail network. Here is yet another spoil of the Springs, where one need not travel far to realize rugged nature.

Runners, walkers, equestrians and mountain bikers delight in 10-plus miles of dirt paths that weave through prairie and oak- and yucca-covered knolls. They reach awe-inspiring vantage points, Cheyenne Mountain to the south, the Waldo Canyon burn scar running north. Riders have 2-plus miles of singletrack, “a great place to train, learn new skills, improve old skills and HAVE FUN!” read posted signs, reminding folks on foot to yield to riders. It’s easy to imagine the rules are especially important for the after-work rush hour. But on this visit, we found ourselves mostly alone.

Through that gate opening, we continued on the wide dirt path, under the shade of cottonwoods, enjoying the peaceful soundtrack of water rushing, breaking ice. The sign ahead introduces the mountain bike system, intersecting with the wider, runner-preferred Bear Creek Trail. Whatever the path, it’s impossible to be disappointed, considering the views already. Right here in this sun-splashed meadow, Cameron’s Cone soared majestically ahead above craggy foothills.

We trended southwest, a bit higher to more unobstructed vistas. The panorama includes much development — houses, condos, the tall buildings of downtown. But it was better to gaze over those buildings out to the plains. The sound of traffic was a mere hush, drowned by birdsong.

Difficulty: Easy-moderate

Getting there: Off Interstate 25, take exit 141 and go west on U.S. 24 (Cimarron Street) to left turn for 21st Street. Going down the hill, turn right on Rio Grand Avenue to parking lot.

FYI: Park hours 5 a.m.-11 p.m. Multiuse trails. Dogs on leash unless within dog park.

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