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On Walkabout On: The Palmer Red Rock Trail Loop

Basic Trail Information

  • Name: The Palmer Red Rock Trail Loop
  • Where: Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Distance: 5.5 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: medium (1,200 ft. elevation gain)
  • Time: 2-3 hours round-trip
  • More Info: Colorado Springs Trails

GPS Map & Elevation:

Here is a 3D fly over of the route:

Narrative

This past weekend I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather we have been having so far this March in Colorado and complete one more trail in the hiking book I bought  titled “The Best Colorado Springs Hikes (Colorado Mountain Club Pack Guides)“.  The next hike I decided  to complete that was featured in the book was the Palmer Red Rock Trail Loop.  This is a loop hike just to the west of the Red Rock Canyon Open Space through a section of city property called Section 16.  The trailhead for this hike  is accessed by taking a left off of US-24 on to 26th street when traveling towards Manitou Springs. After traveling up a hill for about two miles the road comes to a four way intersection.  A right hand turn is needed here to enter on to Gold Camp Road where the trailhead parking lot can be seen on the right.  When I drove to the trailhead the parking lot was full and thus I had to park a short ways down the road on the left where another parking area has been constructed for the trail.  This staircase leading up into the hills at the first parking lot is the start point for the hike:

The trail immediately starts switchbacking up the hillside and provided this nice view looking west towards Bear Creek Canyon:

Bear Creek Canyon pictured above is actually where the loop hike exits from and the parking lot for this hike can be seen towards the lower left of the above photo for those who look closely enough.  After the switchbacks the trail eventually leveled off and became a bright red color:

Whenever the dirt turns red like this it is a sure sign that red rocks are near and soon enough views of the Garden of the Gods and Red Rock Canyon came into view:

The chain of red rocks in Colorado Springs runs from the Garden of the Gods all the way up on the Section 16 hillside:

There is a short detour from the main trail where I was able to climb to the top of what I believe is the highest red rock wall in Colorado Springs:

I don’t know of any other red rock walls in Colorado Springs that travel this far up the mountain as the one that can be seen here on the Palmer Red Rock Loop Trail.  Here is a picture I took looking back towards the granite hilltop behind the rock wall to the west:

It is the top of this hill that this trail reaches its highest point before looping back through the mountains back to the trailhead.  Just past the red rock wall the trail then comes to an intersection with the Intemann Trail that runs from the Red Rock Canyon Open Space that I profiled in an earlier On-Walkabout posting:

At this intersection the first Palmer Red Rock Trail marker becomes visible with a few more of them spaced out along the trail:

It is also at this point that the trail begins its steep climb up to the top of the hill:

One of the nice things about this portion of the hike is that the thick forest provides some relief from the sun on a hot day as well as filling the air with the nice fragrance of pine:

I eventually came to look out that had a nice view of northern Colorado Springs and Red Rock Canyon down below:

Here is a closer look at the Red Rock Canyon where the old quarry I featured in my earlier posting about the canyon can be seen:

From the look out I had to complete one last up hill climb to reach the summit of the trail:

Eventually I reached the top of the hill and was rewarded with sweeping views of the mountains to the west:

There was also views towards the south where Cheyenne Mountain could be seen in the distance:

You can read more about my hike in Cheyenne Mountain State Park at the below link:

There was a branch trail that would have took me to the very summit of the hill to where I could get some nice pictures of Colorado Springs but there was a large group of people on top of the hill and I didn’t want to bother them.  Overall there was a whole lot of people on this trail taking advantage of the good weather.  I had to keep my eyes open not to impede the various cross country trail runners and mountain bikers that were frequenting this trail.  If you are a hiker that likes solitude this trail is not the place because it is very busy with many local people using it for outdoor and exercise activities.

As the trail began to loop around the mountains I eventually had a view looking towards Colorado Springs:

The hill on the upper left is where the summit of the trail was that I took the previous pictures at.  This portion of the trail is a long descending loop to the canyon’s floor where the trail is dominated with beautiful views of the Sentinel Rocks:

Like on the ascent portion of the trail this downward loop is also thickly forested and I even ran into this lone aspen tree growing near the trail:

Here is another view of Colorado Springs with the summit of the Section 16 hill once again visible on the left:

The trail continues to loop around Hunter Run Creek Canyon and then exits out of the opening of the canyon pictured above.  At the far back end of the Hunter Run Creek valley there was an iced over spring that I passed over:

This spring is one of the tributaries to Bear Creek that I would see a little bit later in the hike:

A short walk past the spring the vegetation became a little drier with the trees thinning out a bit:

I assume this may possibly be due to more sunshine and less moisture on this side of the mountain.  From this portion of the trail I had some nice views looking across Bear Creek Canyon towards the high hills that Gold Camp Road could be seen climbing up:

Gold Creek Road runs through these hills into North Cheyenne Canyon which I took picture of during my hike up Mt. Cutler.  Pictures of the canyon can be seen in the below link:

Here is another view of the Sentinel Rocks as I headed down the trail towards Bear Creek Canyon:

Here is the view of the trail as descends down into Bear Creek Canyon:

Eventually the Palmer Red Rock Trail Loop exits out on to Bear Creek Canyon Road:

This dirt road follows Bear Creek as it flows towards Colorado Springs:

As I walked down this road I discovered that this road is even more popular with locals then the trail because there was many people on it walking their dogs, hiking, and mountain biking up the road.  I even helped a group of mountain bikers find the entrance to the Palmer Red Rock Trail Loop because it is unmarked and they weren’t sure where it was.

It is easy to understand why locals like hike and bike along this dirt road because there are some very impressive granite rock formations to see:

Eventually I came to a gate that was locked that prohibited vehicle access on to Bear Creek Canyon Road.  On the other side of the gate I could see the parking area for people hiking or biking on the road:

Here is the view looking back towards where the gate was that designated the start point for Bear Creek Canyon Road:

From here it was a short walk back up the paved Gold Camp Road to get back to the parking lot where the loop hike began at:

Conclusion

Overall this was a great hike.  It took me just over 2 hours to complete the 5.5 mile hike though my cell phone app said I walked over 6 miles likely because of the few detours I took to take pictures.  Like I said in the posting, this trail is very popular thus it is recommended that if hiking on a weekend to get there early to be able to ensure you can find a place to park nearby.

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