In the quaint hamlet of Palmer Lake in northern El Paso County is one of the region’s most picturesque lakes. Originally constructed to provide water for steam trains making the run to Denver, the lake today is the centerpiece of outdoor recreation in the community. Centennial Park, which circles the lake, offers a volleyball court, horseshoe pits, a disc golf course and picnic areas. The modest trail around the lake has plenty of benches for stopping to enjoy the view of the lake and green hills. There’s a playground on the east side of the lake and ball fields on the south side. There’s fishing when the water is high. The lake and town are truly a delight to visit, with a feel much slower than the metropolises of Denver and Colorado Springs a short way to the north and south.

“Where’s the lake?” That was my reaction in the summer of 2012 when I came here for a hike. The lake was literally gone, victim of the drought that plagued the Pikes Peak region that summer and the next and a water rights ruling that cut flow. Luckily for the town, the namesake lake was full again by the summer of 2015, as wetter weather returned and the town won a water rights case that restored water to the lake.

Pro Tips

  • The park is also a trailhead for the New Santa Fe Trail, a railroad-grade path for hiking and biking that runs south to the Air Force Academy and all the way to Colorado Springs.
  • Take some time to enjoy some ice cream or a cup of coffee during your visit. This is a relaxed little town so what’s your hurry to leave?
  • When the water level is suitable, the lake is stocked by the Colorado Division of Wildlife, so the fishing can be great. Just make sure you have a license.
  • Recommended season(s): Year-round.

    —R. Scott Rappold

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