Away from the Grind

North Cheyenne Canon Park, Colorado Springs, CO

by Roselyn Ludwig

I’ll leave the more serious, camping/backpacking locales for my father to write up.My hikes are of the day variety, nearby places where I can escape into nature for an afternoon or so.So, I’ve decided I’ll write up some of those places, for those out there who just want a place to get some fresh air, stretch their legs, maybe enjoy a picnic or do some nature photography.First up: North Cheyenne Canyon Park.

Directions:

From I-25, take the Nevada/Tejon exit and turn south. Go just a few blocks to Cheyenne Blvd, and turn Right.Stay on, wind through the pretty residential areas, until the road ends at a three-way fork – You’re here! Just ahead on the right is the Nature Center.You can park there — there’s a trail running up from behind the center that leads to a wide picnic area — or turn diagonal right, between the yellow-striped posts, and head on up the road further into the park.

Equipment:

Wear sturdy sneakers and bring a daypack with water and snack.You can fill bottles at the Nature Center.Dogs are welcome, just clean up after them.Mountain biking is also popular.Do watch out for poison ivy; it is common in the lower part of the park, near the stream.

What you’ll find:

The road thru the park winds along Cheyenne Canon Creek.It is rather narrow with tight turns, so do drive carefully and be especially on the lookout for cyclists, as there is no shoulder for them to ride on.Along the road there are numerous small pull-offs marking the start of trails; you can pick any one and wander to your heart’s content.The road winds steadily higher, still following and criss-crossing the stream, until you reach Helen Hunt Falls.It’s a pretty cascade, especially during times of higher water.A trail leads up along side the falls, over a bridge across the top, and then winds on up the hillside to Silver Cascade Falls. There is plenty of parking here, picnic tables, toilets, and small gift shop open during the summer. At the falls, the road takes a set of steep switch-backs and then arrives at a major trailhead.There is only one trail leading from this trailhead, but other trails branch off from it, starting about a quarter mile down.The park pretty much ends at this trailhead, but the road continues, now gravel and named Gold Camp road.

In the higher parts of the park, you tread among pine and spruce, with patches of yucca, mullein, mountain mahogany and scrub oak in the sunny, dryer areas.Lower down, along the sides of the stream, the plant life is richer and more varied.In late May the air is filled with the perfume of honeysuckle, chokecherry, and wild roses, which jostle for space amid many other shrubs and small trees.A variety of wildflowers come and go from spring to late fall; the purple asters will last until the first heavy frost. In fall, even the poison ivy becomes beautiful as it and every other shrub and tree change colors, ranging from sunny yellow to fiery orange to cherry red.In early winter, before it becomes cold enough to freeze the stream over entirely, the stream’s freezing spray turns fallen branches into fantastic ice sculptures.

Wildlife is plentiful, if not always easily visible.Listen for the squawks of magpies and jays, the trills of various songbirds, and the chatter of squirrels. The park is also home to mule deer, black bears, raccoons, porcupines, and more.

Comments

MaryDry

Dec 8, 2013

i have been fascinated by the pictures of the Pawnee Butes. When growing up I lived close to those buttes and me and my brother used to go to them and explore. I know there are rattlesnakes in that area, and we fortunately didn’t encounter them. But the buttes did and still do remind me of those good times we had.

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