Red Rocks Canyon was created from a mosaic of features that don’t typically scream “State Park destination!” It is a park built around the remnants of a rock quarry, landfill, illicit climbing walls and abandoned ranch sites that has somehow managed to evolve into one of the most scenic parks in the state. The Canyon is a Garden of the Gods in miniature version; a rougher, less traveled park without all of the over trafficked, McDonald’s fueled tourists that clog the Garden during the warm summer months.
Red Rocks is a great trail running destination; with all of the pine forests, sandstone formations and open meadows that the Garden has, without the paved roads and paths that created throngs of tourists. The formations here are not as dramatic, but they create multiple canyons that are easy to explore via the trails, and provide for some surprisingly dramatic scenery.
Generally the terrain from the parking lot slopes uphill, making runs here more climbing oriented. Due to the mishmash of ways in which the park was used before its birth, there are some oddities that occasionally pop up during runs. For instance, the graffiti filled cave off of the Red Rock Rim Trail that was a big party spot for local high school kids, the remnants of the old quarry where the rock has been removed in large blocks and the large methane vents dotting the meadow where the Hogback Valley Trail runs; vestiges of the landfill that decays slowly underneath the meadow.
One of the best features of this park is its access to the Intemann Trail and the Section 16 area, allowing you to expand your runs beyond the park and into the higher foothills of the Springs area. Currently a hot spot for runners, climbers and mountain bikers, Red Rocks is a great place to put in some miles, check out the views and enjoy the benefits of good urban planning, without RVs barreling towards you.
Trail map here (PDF version)
Distance: trail lengths vary. The longest, the Lion Trail, is 1.0 miles. Trails can easily be linked to create longer runs, and the park connects with Section 16 and the Intemann Trail; allowing for longer pieces.
Directions: From downtown Colorado Springs (W. Colorado Avenue at S. Cascade Avenue), take S. Cascade south to Cimmaron/Highway 24 and take a right, heading west. Take a left on Ridge Road and then a left on West High Street. The parking lot is on the right. From downtown Manitou Springs (Ruxton Ave and Manitou Avenue), take Manitou Ave. east towards Colorado Springs. Take the Highway 24 onramp towards the east (entrance is after the Sinclair gas station). Take a right on Ridge Road and a left on W. High Street toward the parking lot.