2010 RUNNING & TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
Runtrails' Web Journal
 
Previous          Journal Topics by Date            Next
 

  EXPLORING THE 19,000-ACRE USAF ACADEMY
VIA THE FALCON LOOP TRAIL

SUNDAY, MAY 30

 
"Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop."
 
~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
 
 
That's pretty much what Jim and I both did on the Falcon Trail loop today, except that I went clockwise and he went counter-clockwise.

There is no "beginning" to the loop. Just jump in wherever you want and start moving!

The U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs is a big place and the best way to enjoy the more remote parts of it are to walk, run, cycle, or ride a horse around the 13-mile long Falcon Trail, which makes a big loop right through the center of the academy grounds. It's shown in red on the map below; these maps are placed strategically around the loop:

I took most of the photos in this entry on my hike today; some are from a shorter out-and-back run/hike we did a couple days ago. Both were great days weather-wise.

There are two other main trails on the map supplied by the academy: the five-mile Cadet Running Trail (in blue at the top left of the map) that loops around the Cadet Area and the point-to-point New Santa Fe Trail (in purple) that runs about seven miles along the eastern part of the academy grounds. We haven't been on either of those two trails during our stay here. The cadet loop is too "urban" and the flatter New Santa Fe Trail follows busy, noisy railroad tracks at least part of the way. No thanks.

There are also several short spur trails we haven't taken yet but might the next time we're here.

THE POSITIVES

The Falcon loop is almost perfect for us. Here's why:

  • It's a half-mile walk from our camper, good for warming up and cooling down. This part of the trail is near our campground:

  • We can do out-and-back runs/walks or go all the way around. Jim and I crossed paths today on the far side of the loop as we circled in different directions:

  • The trail winds through open meadows, dry forests, lush forests, and over several ridges:


Smooth trail through a meadow


Dry, dusty wooded area


Lush area near creek


Ridge with good views on either side

  • We like the variety of terrain and plants:

 

 

 

 

  • The panoramic views of academy+city+mountains+valleys are nice from the ridges:

 

  • Elevations range from about 6,630 feet to 7,400+ feet around the loop. Some is flat. Most roller-coasters up or down:

  • Most of the trail is dirt (and sand) single-track. A little bit is double-track:

  • Some of the trail is smooth, some rocky or rooty:

  • Signage is excellent. We never wondered which way to go.

  • The trail crosses several creeks at the southern end of the loop → some water for dogs and horses (and people, if treated):

  • There are some interesting rock formations along the way:

 

  • In the early morning or late afternoon you can spot a fair amount of wildlife (deer, grey fox, coyotes, jack rabbits, gray and Albert squirrels, etc.) in the meadows and woodlands. Too bad I didn't get any pictures of them! I did see a fox in this meadow near our campground. He tracked Cody and me for about 200 feet, then loped into the woods.

  • If you get tired of trees and meadows, there are plenty of other visual diversions. The trail passes near the perfectly manicured golf course and above a reservoir:

 

  • It passes fairly close to the Cadet Area:

  • There's even a little bit of history at a restored pioneer cabin that was built in the 1860s. It's one of the oldest buildings in the Pike's Peak region. The first picture shows the side and back of the cabin; you can see the front and several graves in the second photo:

 

 

 

A FEW NEGATIVES

We found several downsides to the Falcon Trail, but only the last one was a real Fun Sponge (i.e., not any fun at all):

  • There are about ten road crossings. Some have more traffic than others. The upside is increased trail access.

  • The trail passes near the BX, commissary, gas station, and Burger King on base. For some folks I suppose that's perceived as more of an advantage than an eye-sore!

  • Most of the loop is high and/or dry (= no water)   more inconvenient for Cody than us; we usually carry what we need anyway.

 

  • This is a very popular and well-used bike trail, especially on weekends. That is a definite problem for runners and hikers but a plus for local cyclists who can more easily access this base than most military installations. Many, many cyclists come in from outside to ride the Academy's excellent network of trails and roads.

We saw about ten cyclists per mile today, well over a hundred of them in thirteen miles. I lost count at fifty and I wasn't anywhere near halfway done. Most of them were going the same direction I was going (CW) and I usually didn't know they were coming until they were about ten feet behind me -- usually no warnings whatsoever. That about drove me nuts, especially since I had to get both Cody and myself off the narrow trails real fast or risk getting hit. Cody was on his leash the entire way so he didn't get run over or cause a wreck.

Cyclists can ride either direction on the Falcon loop. There are no signs telling them to go CW. I don't  know why the majority chose to go that way because the trail is so varied in both directions -- i.e., steep or long hills either CW or CCW. They were not in a race or other organized event that dictated which way to go.

I felt a little smug going up the last ridge when I caught up to three guys who had to walk their bikes past a switchback on a steep grade with loose dirt and rocks:

They had blown by me on double-track a few minutes earlier. I just waited until they reached the top so they didn't blast by me again.

Grumpy old woman! (Not. I ride bikes roads and trails, too, and I hope I'm more considerate than most off-road cyclists I've encountered in my life.)

Jim didn't have as much trouble with the cyclists today as I did because he was going CCW and could usually see them coming toward him. He did get tired of having to continually move off-trail to get out of their way, though. Few paid any attention to the "cyclists yield to pedestrians and horses" signs.

Note to selves: do not run/hike this trail on a pretty weekend day!!! Only go on a weekday and go CCW.

There was a group equestrian event today (not a race) with over fifty riders but they were all very considerate. Jim saw all of them at least once. Since I was going the same direction as the horses, I saw only about fifteen of them. We didn't mind getting out of their way at all because they were so gracious and friendly.

 

I saw only about a dozen runners on the loop today and ten other hikers. Guess the locals know not to be out there on the weekend!

Overall, we loved this trail and highly recommend it to hikers, runners, equestrians, and yes, even mountain bikers.  <wink>

Next entry: honoring fallen heroes on Memorial Day

Happy trails,

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

Previous       Next

2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

-