Parks, trails for aspen views




The Gazette, Colorado Springs


For the best displays of fall colors, we set a course for the higher country where aspens grow most abundant. On the lower Front Range, state parks are some of the best bases for leaf peeping. We take a look at them here — along with other options nearby: Golden Gate Canyon State Park: In about 3½ miles, Raccoon Trail loops around dense aspen stands and rewards a sweeping view at Panorama Point. Another great trip: Horseshoe Trail to Frazer Meadow. • Closer to Golden, you might get a mix of colors along Clear Creek Trail, a paved path following the creek. There are cottonwoods and oak as well along the trail network of White Ranch Park. You’ll have to earn the aspen on the steep Chimney Gulch Trail. Staunton State Park: South and west of Denver, U.S. 285 is the transport to great golden shows. Some of those are tucked in Staunton. The trek to Elk Falls won’t disappoint, along with the Mason Creek Trail. • About 10 miles away on U.S. 285 is Meyer Ranch Park, a splendid spot for families with aspen in easy reach. Mueller State Park: The aspen envy is endless across this trail system spanning 50-plus miles. A favorite is Cheesman Ranch trail, alternating over 5 miles between woods and meadows and Pikes Peak views. Also consider Elk Meadow and Preacher’s Hollow trails. • Teller County is great for foliage. Fairly more remote and rugged, Crags Trail is a classic hike. Farther along Colorado 67 south is the Horsethief Park trailhead to Pancake Rocks. Closer to Woodland Park is Lovell Gulch, a 5-mile loop, and the aspen-spotted Elder-fehn Trail at Catamount Ranch. Cheyenne Mountain State Park: If you’re prepared and physically fit, Dixon Trail climbs about 5 miles toward the mountaintop to a grand aspen grove along Mountain Loop, which is itself about 2 miles. Lower options for oak and mountain mahogany: Blackmer, Sundance and Soaring Kestral trails. • In Colorado Springs, Seven Bridges is a favorite. Hikers greet aspen at just about every creek bridge high in North Cheyenne Cañon Park. Ahead of Seven Bridges is the more arduous, also spectacular trip to St. Mary’s Falls. Leaf peeping in the lower canyon along Columbine Trail.