By Cory Sutela, Executive Director, Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates
Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region are loaded with fantastic trails, and some of the best known routes have been included in the 2020 Pikes Peak APEX presented by RockShox. But, what if you’re in town supporting, rather than racing the APEX? Or, what if you're spending a few extra days in Colorado Springs after your APEX adventure? The mountain bikers at Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates have some additional trail recommendations.
If you're not familiar with Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates, MWTA is an active member of the IMBA Chapter family. IMBA is the recognized leader for mountain bike advocacy, and the MWTA chapter serves the Pikes Peak Region as a resource for advocacy, trail building, trail maintenance and education and outreach for mountain biking and trail use. For over 25 years, our organization has been building relationships with local land management agencies, including the City of Colorado Springs Parks Department, El Paso County Parks, the US Forest Service, the BLM, and Colorado State Parks. MWTA members are mountain bikers who build, share and protect inspiring trail experiences. Our vision is to create a world class network of mountain bike trails in the Pikes Peak Region.
Pikes Peak APEX asked us about our favorite trails to ride. Here are our Top 5 Trails for you to tack on after the APEX.
1. Lake Moraine Trail on Pikes Peak (formerly known as the Missing Link)
Our favorite trail experience overall in the Pikes Peak Region has to be the Lake Moraine Trail, MWTA’s iconic project taking 20+ years of volunteer layout, design, advocacy, and (eventually!) construction. This epic connection across Pikes Peak was completed in 2018. To reach it, climb Barr trail from Manitou Spring to the turnoff near Barr Camp, then traverse Pikes Peak (stepping over the renowned Cog railway, currently under reconstruction, that ascends to the top) from North to South. Sensational views accompany the route that eventually climbs up below Lake Moraine itself, reaching Jones Park and the long rolling descent back to town. Choose from a menu of finishing options in Cheyenne Canyon. The trail is rewarding in the opposite description as well, and can also be ridden via a vehicle shuttle from the end of toll highway at 14115’, atop Pikes Peak, America’s Mountain - or via a shuttle up to Frosty’s Park for the South-to-North option.
Whichever way you tackle Lake Moraine, bring extra food, water and clothing and be prepared to be self-sufficient - it’s a long hike out from a remote, high altitude trail that reliably has variable weather. Expect to see snow in September (Or July!). The Lake Moraine Trail is not featured in this year’s APEX courses but is exactly the kind of adventure that defines the spirit of APEX, and is sure to be featured in future editions of the race.
Here are some great views and a construction video.
2. Red Rock Canyon Open Space
The Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) program is a 0.1% sales tax that funds the preservation of many trails and landscapes throughout our community. Can any of our parks be a better showcase of that program than Red Rock Canyon Open Space? Purchased by the City via TOPS in 2005, rather than leaving it to real estate development, Red Rocks contains archeology and paleontology treasures as well as some of the best trails in the region - conveniently located right next to highway 24, as well as some of our favorite locations for a post ride refreshment (check out Trails End Taproom and Fossil Brewing). Red Rocks also contains great regional trail connections to Manitou Springs and Cheyenne Canyon. Trails cover all levels - Expert riders, don’t miss the Upper Codell trail (video here!), built and maintained by your friends at MWTA. There is also a small jump park and skills park.
3. Chutes, Chamberlain, Stratton Open Space
Seat belts please! Chutes & Ladders trails lie within North Cheyenne Canyon and Stratton Open Space, below Gold Camp Road. Chutes was the first trail within our city parks network to be converted from multi-use multi-direction to MTB-DH only - while simultaneously expanding nearby trails to create hiking-only and multi-use options. MWTA supported the changes through advocacy, design input & corridor clearing on most of these trails, and then through a financial contribution toward hiring the contractor that re-built Chutes & Ladders, allowing for some extra touches that riders love. Work was completed in 2019 and is still being tweaked. So far, the new setup has greatly reduced user conflicts and been a hit for the mountain bike crowd. Check out this rider’s video for more info.
After enjoying all the variants that are open to all levels of riding, ride in nearby Cheyenne Canyon (especially when it’s wet, nice and tacky) or connect to the Chamberlain Trail for a regional singletrack tour on a route that, when complete, will allow a front range trail connection from Blodgett Open Space in the far northwest corner of Colorado Springs to Cheyenne Mountain State Park south of town.
4. Cheyenne Mountain State Park
Speaking of our nearest state park, CMSP is just a few minutes’ drive south of Colorado Springs, and contains a multi-use trail network with varied terrain and inspiring views looking out across the city to the plains. CMSP is nearly never crowded, even on weekends. We continue to work on the long process to get the Chamberlain trail connected so we can ride from town, and eventually there will be bike access to the top of the mountain itself - currently there’s only hiking only above the saddle. The park is often accessed without a car from Fort Carson Military Base across highway 115. Interesting note, CMSP was one of the places MWTA got its start in the 1990’s. We love the legacy of our early work in CMSP - check out the Medicine Wheel Trail and see if you agree, it somehow rides easier in an uphill direction. We have not managed to duplicate this feat….
5. Ute Valley Park, DH Trails and Mini-park
UVP is a rider’s playground on a variety of soil types. UVP doubled in size with the TOPS purchase of the old HP facility, leading to a master plan in 2015 - the first plan in our city to specifically call for construction of single direction DH MTB trails. The elevation change is modest, but trails are fun and playful. Looping options provide a fun and varied trail experience. UVP would be a riding destination in its own right in many parts of the country - here it is just one part of our vast trail network.
You can use wayfinding apps like mtbproject or trailforks for detailed descriptions and information on these and other trails in the area.
An important note for your visit - most of the trails in our region are multi-use, and continued mountain bike access depends on good behavior. Please stay on designated trails and respect all users that you encounter - slow down, say hello and allow safe passing. For a fun reminder about trail sharing etiquette created by MWTA, check out this video.