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"Hey, can we break for a minute?"
- one 30-something male mountain biker to another as they're struggling uphill on a moderately
rugged single-track trail, having arrived at 6,500 feet from sea level less than 24 hours earlier
That was one of the nicest young male cyclists I've met on any trail. Ever.

  • Maybe it was because he was walking his bike up the rocky trail toward me instead of screaming to a stop right behind me on a downhill, expecting me to magically hear him even though he gave no verbal warning that he was coming.
  • Maybe it was because he actually moved aside to let me go by instead of feeling entitled to the trail, as so many cyclists do that I meet out there. [Rules of the trail most everywhere say that cyclists yield the right of way to pedestrians and equestrians but I've rarely seen that happen for pedestrians.]
  • Or maybe it was because he was laughing at his own labored breathing and inability to power through the loose grit, while thoroughly enjoying the red rock beauty that surrounded us. I like being around people who can laugh at themselves.

After letting me pass, the cyclist hopped back on his bike for a short downhill section of trail.

He was a gentleman and he was humble. That's an endearing combination!

Jim and I have had our share of problems with (mostly) young male kamikaze mountain bikers. They aren't a problem for runners and hikers only in Colorado by any means, but because it's summer and the sport is wildly popular in this state, we "run into" a lot of them whenever we're here. We vow to avoid popular cycling trails on weekends as much as we can, and to get out earlier to run/hike on weekdays. It seems like the worst offenders are on the trails later in the morning and afternoon . . .

Hike-a-bike? This is the next obstacle the two cyclists faced.

Apologies for the rant. Maybe we can get away from mountain bikers when we climb Pike's Peak soon.


This entry includes a six-mile loop with some out-and-backs that I hiked alone on a hot, muggy weekday morning when Jim and Cody were doing a shorter run at the Academy. That was a good choice for them; neither needed to be in the sun as much as I was. There is more shade on the trails at the Academy -- but I probably had more fun!

My route is highlighted in yellow on this little map. Go here for a larger map on the canyon website.

I loved exploring several new miles of trails. There is a wide variety of interesting rock formations, ledges, canyons, plants, and views. Another day I took Jim back to see most of this loop; I just had to share it with him! He enjoyed it, too.

Many places in this park feel quite remote, yet I could sometimes see houses in Manitou Springs, or the city of Colorado Springs far below me.

I was thinking about this when I struck up a conversation with a woman about my age who was walking with her dog on the Greenlee Trail. She lives nearby in Manitou Springs and just walks into the park most days to stay fit and to enjoy the beauty and solitude of the place. She commented about being able to "escape into the wilderness" so close to the city.

On a remote section of the Colorado Trail?  Nope, quite close to civilization at Red Rock Canyon.

We had a nice conversation and then we went our separate ways to absorb the nourishing peace of the outdoors that we both love. Although I saw a couple dozen walkers, runners, climbers, and cyclists (no equestrians) on this two-hour hike, I was often alone and that was just what I needed that day.

I was very happy to be where I was, and I felt sorry for all the people who live near this canyon-and-mountain retreat but never wander into it.


I was probably in this kind of mood because I began my hike on the aptly-named Garden of the Goddesses Contemplative Trail on the northwestern side of the park. That's a pretty long name so I just call it the Contemplative Trail.

The trail begins about a third of a mile from the main parking area. This trail leads up to it:

The Contemplative Trail veers off to the right for one of the most interesting half mile hikes or runs in Red Rock Canyon; cyclists and equestrians must continue on the Sand Canyon Trail because of the narrow passageways through some of the rocks (below), several sets of wooden and stone steps, and the erosion damage that wheels and hooves could wreak in the soft sandstone.





Although the Contemplative Trail closely parallels the Sand Canyon Trail for about half a mile, rock formations separate the two trails and you can't see one from the other.

That's one of the nice things about this park -- despite all the current and planned trails, each seems like it is far removed from the others.




I felt like a wide-eyed kid all along this trail, frequently stopping for photos. There are all kinds of spires soaring into the sky, leaning rocks, little caves, stripe and swirl patterns in the rocks, and views off in all directions as I climbed higher and higher.




View to Garden of the Gods Park upper left

Looking down at rock formations I just walked through

View of Colorado Springs through the rocks

A man and his teenage son came up behind me while I was positioning myself a little ways off-trail to take the next picture, and he asked me if I was OK.

"Yes, thank you," I replied. "I just can't stop taking pictures of all these cool nooks and crannies!" He smiled in apparent understanding and went on ahead of me.

Jim and Cody had fun exploring nooks and crannies when I dragged them out to see this trail another day:

Although most of the rock formations and walls are less massive in this park than at Garden of the Gods, I like the more intimate nature of the rocks here.

I also like the fact that far fewer visitors wander through this park than GOG. It's much quieter (on a weekday, at least) and I rarely had to wait for someone to move away before I could take pictures. Red Rock Canyon appears to be used more by locals than GOG, where I saw many more out-of-state license plates in the parking lots.

Here are some more pictures from the very photogenic Contemplative Trail as I climbed higher:




Although this trail looks fairly straight on the map, it isn't. It winds through the rocks and up a hill for a little over half a mile to its second juncture with the Sand Canyon Trail. At that point I headed straight and was on the Roundup Trail for the next half mile.


There are now four segments of the Roundup Trail. Until this hike, I thought there were three.

Jim and I covered one of the middle sections in the hike I described in the last entry. On this hike I skipped that short section and explored the first, third, and fourth segments, which range in length from about a quarter to a half mile each. What they lack in distance they more than make up in scenery. Parts of this trail are on some of the higher ridges in Red Rock Canyon Open Space, affording a variety of interesting views.

The next three pictures are from the first segment of the Roundup Trail as I continued climbing higher:

View of Sand Canyon

Nice, smooth trail here

View of more Red Rock Canyon formations and the Colorado Springs valley in the distance

After half a mile I came to the Mesa Trail and turned right, continuing my gradual climb:

This was a new section to me of that trail, and it led me right to Section 16.

If I'd turned left, I could have followed the Mesa Trail down to the parking area:

By now, I'd climbed about 800 feet in elevation. As the Mesa Trail loops around on a ridge it becomes more flat for about a quarter mile. This view is looking back on the Mesa Trail at the intersection with the Intemann Connector Trail:

With a good mountain bike I could negotiate some of these wide trails but all we've got with us on this trip is my Terry Isis road bike.


The upper loop of the Mesa and Greenlee trails extends into Section 16 just a bit. To continue farther into this partially protected, 640-acre parcel managed by the State Land Board, I took the multi-use Intemann Connection for half a mile to its intersection with the longer Intemann Trail.

I found the signage to be very helpful at various trail junctures throughout the two parks. Although I had a trail map with me that I got in the parking area, the signs give a different perspective:

Although they are upside down (north is at the bottom), they show the main rock formations and give the difficulty level of the trails in Red Rock Canyon (not Section 16). So far I'd been on mostly "advanced" trails (Contemplative and Roundup). Mesa and Greenlee are "moderate."

Back to the Intemann Connection and Section 16 . . .

The connector is an undulating single-track that is fairly smooth and flat for half a mile. It contours closely around some interesting rock formations in a canyon:



The trail gets a little higher in Section 16 = even better views of the rock formations and valley below:

I didn't see anyone on this trail until I came to a meadow and a sign at the intersection with the Intemann Trail. Two women had hiked up the trail from their homes in Manitou Springs:

There are excellent views from this vantage point, which is higher than all or most of the ridges in Red Rock Canyon:

The Intemann Trail continues south for about 1/2 mile to its juncture with the Waterfall Trail and a little farther to Palmer Red Rock Trail. Trails in Section 16 also connect with the Pike National Forest to the west and Gold Camp Road to the east.

I followed the Intemann Trail only as far as the Waterfall Trail, encountering a fairly rough, rocky section along the way that would be difficult for most cyclists and equestrians to negotiate.

I decided to turn around a little farther past those rocks because I'll need more time to explore the trail system in Section 16 than I had that day.

The next set of photos show some of the rock details and scenic views as I retraced my steps to Red Rock Canyon:



Rock colors above and detail below:  almost looks like ancient art -- or a splash of paint!


Red rocks in Garden of the Gods are lower and farther away from this spot in Section 16.

Continued on Page 2 . . . 

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil