When we were here in May we spent some time riding our bikes on the New
Santa Fe multi-use trail that runs for fifteen miles through the eastern part of the USAF
Academy property and up to Palmer Lake.
We rode just nine miles of the trail in the spring and did not get on
the Pike's Peak Greenway south of the Academy at all. Now we've ridden
all of the New Santa Fe Trail and most of the greenway.
Together, the two trails stretch one way for about twenty-six miles
and form a part of the extensive Front Range Trail system that extends
the entire length of Colorado from its borders with Wyoming and New
Pike's Peak Greenway about a mile south of the
El Paso County and the City of Colorado Springs have a wide network
of multi-use paths that connect parks in the popular "open space" system. You can
ride, run, or walk on these paths and reach just about any place in the
area, especially if you are willing to share the streets with other
vehicles in some sections by also using designated bike lanes.
It's a wonderful amenity for local residents and visitors alike, a
model more cities should emulate.
A pond along the Pike's Peak
Greenway; the 14,110 -foot peak is in the background.
I wrote quite a bit about the New Santa Fe Trail in the May28, 2011
entry and included 40+ photos on two pages.
I'll add new information and photos in this entry for the Pike's Peak
Greenway and the section of the New Santa Fe Trail we didn't see
I took some of these pictures, like the ones on the greenway just above
and below, while riding my bike. That works as
long as the trail/path is smooth and flat and no one is coming in either
It reminds me of my "windshield shots" in the truck when I'm
driving . . .
Jim and I have ridden our bikes quite a few miles since we arrived in
Colorado Springs two weeks ago.
We can access all sorts of trails and
roads right from our campsite, or drive to a nearby trailhead just out
the north gate of the USAF Academy.
In addition to all the miles we've ridden on the Falcon Trail and
interior roads on the Academy grounds, we've done several rides north
and south on the New Santa Fe Trail and the Pike's Peak Greenway -- all the way north to the
Palmer Lake Recreation Area and south to the zero mile point in Colorado
Two common themes along the
paths: train tracks and views of Pike's Peak
Our longest ride was yesterday, when we did 31+ miles together. We've
also done several 20+ mile rides.
Thirty-one miles is the longest bike ride either of us can remember
in many years. I did 30 miles in one ride at Brazos Bend State Park in
Texas in March and 35 total miles another day in two rides; I
don't remember the longest I've ever ridden. I did a lot of
cycling when I was in my 30s but my focus was more on running
long distances than riding.
Jim doesn't think he's ridden 31 miles since the early 1980s. He
remembers going 50 miles one time in the past. Now at age 63** --
today is his birthday! -- his goal is to work up to 100+ miles in
one day on the Michelson Trail in September.
The paths also follow scenic
** Happy birthday to Jim!
He'd rather not acknowledge birthdays anymore but enough people know
the date that he received lots of e-greetings from friends and
relatives. He appreciates the kind thoughts and gentle humor.
NEW SANTA FE TRAIL TO THE PALMER LAKE REC AREA
In May we rode all of the New Santa Fe Trail through the Academy and
about three miles north to the Baptist Road trailhead, which has a
bathroom and nice picnic area. This time we went another six miles
farther, through the town of Monument and up to Palmer Lake.
"Up" as in both north and uphill.
The trail is pretty
straight just north of Baptist Rd. but it isn't as flat as it looks.
The NSF Trail and Pike's Peak Greenway have a net slope uphill from
downtown Colorado Springs north to Palmer Lake. Per our GPS the range is
from about 5,950 feet at Mile Zero downtown to 7,280 feet at the north
end of Palmer Lake.
Jim's riding ahead of me; note
the two rock formation to the right.
The net grade is pretty gradual but we can definitely tell that it's
more difficult to pedal going north. It's noticeably easier to ride
-- and coast -- southbound. In addition, there are numerous
shorter, steeper hills along the way.
It's a real roller-coaster but that makes it more fun to ride. The
entire trail is dirt/crushed gravel and fairly smooth except after
gully-washers; then the sloped sections get a little rutted.
The section that was new to us from Baptist Road to Palmer Lake has a
net elevation gain of about 600 feet. That doesn't sound like much over
six miles but it was enough for me to feel like I was struggling to
keep up with Jim.
We could feel a big difference when we turned around
and went back downhill toward the Academy -- pure fun! We felt
like we were flying.
Above and below: scenic
views of the mountains to the west of the trail
The slowest part of this section is through the small town of
Monument (next photo). The trail crosses four or five streets and traffic doesn't
always stop for trail users.
Gotta be careful there and at the small
country roads the trail intersects.
There are several shelters in this section where cyclists, hikers,
and runners can get out of the sun or rain. There are also several
trailheads with water available -- Baptist Road, Monument, and
Palmer Lake is both a lake/park and a town:
We turned around at the
north end of the lake. The Front Range Trail continues north from there;
a spur trail goes into town but we didn't follow it.
Because of the towns we've seen more people on the section of the New
Santa Fe Trail between Monument and Palmer Lake than
farther south through the Academy.
PIKE'S PEAK GREENWAY
path continues south from the New Santa
Fe Trail for about sixteen miles.
It begins at the southern boundary of the Academy grounds and runs
through Colorado Springs to the city of Fountain. We've ridden on it several times but
have gone only as far as Memorial Park, just east of Tejon Street and approximately eleven miles past
the Academy gate.
Above and below: the
northern part of the trail is more remote.
We've also ridden on several spur trails that go off the main trail,
and Jim followed a bike lane to the Dodge dealer Saturday when he picked
up the truck after servicing. This
map shows many of the spur trails that
you can take.
Another rural section of the greenway just south of
The Greenway is different from the New Santa Fe Trail in several
- Although there are some pleasant wooded and open sections it is more
- It has a good dirt/crushed gravel surface going south until Woodman Road, where it becomes
asphalt and concrete to at least Tejon Street.
- It has numerous spurs going east and/or west to other
- It passes through several attractive city parks:
- There are businesses close to the trail in some places, like the convenient and
popular Criterium Bicycle shop that offers restrooms and cold water to
- It follows Monument and Fountain Creeks closely and has several
nice wooden bridges over
- It also follows the railroad tracks more closely in some
places but there are enough other distractions and screening
vegetation that passing trains weren't a problem for us.
- It has even more trailheads than the New Santa Fe Trail.
A ball field and another view of
We like the greenway as
much as the New Santa Fe Trail even though it is more urbanized and
"tame." It passes through such a wide variety of areas that it's always
interesting -- grassy parks with picnic tables and ball fields, a
college campus, a lake, shops and office buildings, apartments and
This street by an office building wasn't busy on
This huge Costco is next to the greenway but is
Some places are wooded and shady and feel quite remote,
despite their proximity to homes and businesses. Others are closer to
busy streets and go under the freeway.
The Pike's Peak
Greenway is easier to ride than the New Santa Fe Trail.
The wide, smooth
concrete and asphalt surfaces are one reason. The greenway is also less
hilly than the trail through the Academy and north to Palmer Lake and
there isn't as much elevation gain going northbound, or at least we
didn't feet it as much.
Above and below: your
choice -- use the greenway or take the single-track trail by the creek.
We rode this trail
on two weekdays and this past Saturday and Sunday. On the weekend it was
very busy with walkers, runners, cyclists, and rollerbladers. We had to
slow down so we didn't run into anyone.
Despite the huge
number of people who ride bikes in the Springs there are still clueless
folks on foot who hog the greenway, walk on the wrong side, or step
right out in front of bikes without looking.
I was happy to see
so many fit-looking men and women in their 60s, 70s, and maybe even 80s
using the trail. We see more folks of all ages in Colorado who
look fit than in most other states.
The trail continues south from Tejon Street for another couple miles
on various surfaces but we haven't gone any farther than that on the
main trail. As mentioned earlier, we have taken several of the side
FUN ON THE HILLS
I don't know exactly where it is, but somewhere in the middle of the
Pike's Peak Greenway near a park there is a series of dirt hills for
mountain bikers to play on. We've had lots of fun riding back and forth
over the hills:
Here comes Jim.
Up and over
He turned around at the far end and is coming back.
Go back to the top of this page and read the quote again . . .
We may be in our 60s now but we still like to play.
In summary, we are totally impressed with the trail network and open space park
system around Colorado Springs. It's one of the main reasons we like to
visit the area.
Monument Creek is pretty low this weekend.
According to this
'way outdated city Parks and Rec
webpage, in 2007 Colorado Springs had
118 miles of urban bike trails and about 61 miles of unpaved mountain
bike trails (plus additional miles of bike lanes on city streets).
More miles are added
periodically but I don't know what the current total is and I don't know
if these numbers include other trails in the metro area but outside city
limits, such as the Santa Fe Trail and the Falcon Trail. There are even
more miles of trails than this for hiking and running.
TRICROSS BIKE REPAIRS
We've had a very frustrating time on this trip with my original
TriCross bike tires
going flat, mostly from those despicable goat head thorns I keep
finding on road and trail rides:
They're small but deadly. They are murder on bare feet and doggie paws, too! Poor
About a week ago I got my fifth or sixth flat in recent months. Jim
fixed it so I could ride that day but we knew we'd have to find a more
permanent solution to this chronic problem.
I'd been half-heartedly researching new tires for the TriCross anyway;
in addition to something sturdier, I need more traction for trails. I
talked with the guy who sold me the bike in Roanoke (he rides a TriCross,
too) and with employees at ProCycles and Criterium Bikes in Colorado
Springs to get their recommendations. They listed at least half a dozen
different brands/models that met my criteria and I compared features and
The tires and tubes
were fine all last week and over the weekend during several long rides,
including the 31-miler we did yesterday, so we put off getting new tires
. . .
Greenway bridge across Monument Creek; Criterium
bike shop is to the left.
Last evening when Jim was changing my bike pedals from clip-in Times to
the plain step-ons that came with the TriCross something happened to the
back chain ring and he wasn't able to fix it. The chain was rubbing and
difficult to move between the gear sprockets.
My brakes were also mushy and I still needed new tires. We decided we'd
better take the bike in to get it repaired before leaving town this
A little before 8 this morning Jim left the campground on his bike and
rode seven miles on the New Santa Fe Trail and Pike's Peak Greenway to
Criterium Bicycles. It is right on the greenway at one of the bridges
across the creek. I drove down in the truck with my bike and met him
I took this picture of the greenway and bridge from
the entrance to the Criterium bike shop.
John, an experienced and very pleasant mechanic, determined that the
shifting problem was caused by a bent derailleur hanger that is welded
to the front part of the frame. Jim thinks he may have hit it with the
hammer when he was trying to get my Time pedals off yesterday.
The repair took over an hour. John let us watch what he was doing (no
extra charge for that!!) and he explained everything very well:
We were glad we didn’t have to leave the bike and go back for it later.
John was able to file the hole in the hanger a little bigger in order to
raise the derailleur so it clears the sprockets. That
was better than trying to force it with pliers, which might have broken
One of the strands in the cables for the front gears was also broken and
starting to unravel; John replaced it. He rode the bike outside
to make sure all 27 gears are working properly, and I tested it before
We also got new tires and tubes finally. The shop installed them for
free and the cost was about the same as we'd have paid online.
My original TriCross tires were only 32c wide, lightweight, and better
suited to pavement than dirt, sand, or rocks.
I need tires that won’t go flat as easily with thorns, glass, sharp
rocks, or pinching and I want more traction on trails.
Entrance to Criterium Bicycles
Getting tires for traction is easier and cheaper than getting a “bomb
proof” tire that is less likely to go flat but I think I found a good
We ended up getting 700 x 38c Specialized Crossroads Armadillo tires.
They aren't the really expensive ones that have Kevlar inside but they
are supposed to be puncture-resistant. I have some type of
Armadillos on my road bike and they've worked very well against punctures and
We also got wider, thicker tubes, so now I have two lines of defense
against flats. My bike is noticeably heavier and I won’t be able to ride
on pavement as fast, but speed isn’t my goal.
These tires have more tread than my old ones. The center is smoother for
a decent ride on pavement. The sides are more knobby for better off-road
traction. I’ll still have to be careful in loose rock, sand, and on
curves, however, because they aren't as knobby as mountain bike tires.
Northern part of Pike's Peak Greenway near the
After we got done at the bike shop
Jim continued riding for a while and ended up with 21 miles today. It
was very hot while he was out there -- in the 90s F. He rode out
and back to
Garden of the Gods on the Stinson Trail, a paved bike path off the Pike's Peak
Greenway, then back to the campground on the greenway, New Santa Fe Trail, and Academy
I returned to the camper with my bike in the truck (someone had to drive
the truck home!) and got my exercise after supper when it was
cloudy and cooler – a walk with Cody through the campground and a few
miles on my bike to test all the gears. They work great and it's easier
to ride on the gravel roads through the campground with my new tires.
life at Peregrine Pines Campground
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil