Hiking Trails

Classic Happy Trails: Must-See Spruce Mountain Between Colorado Springs and Denver | Way of life

Spruce Mountain Trail

Between Colorado Springs and Denver, it’s all too easy to overlook the countryside that stretches either side of Interstate 25. That’s for the inevitable rush to and from the subways. Keeping your eyes on the road is good. But you might also find your gaze shifting to a particular landmark – no matter how modest, a regal-shaped mountain, with forested slopes culminating at a rocky ledge.

This is Spruce Mountain near Larkspur, on the outskirts of El Paso and Douglas counties. The latter manages the open space that this promontory centerpiece. The parking lot at the trailhead has gotten noticeably busier in recent years, especially in the summer. So winter and spring might be a good time to hike the trail around the summit. It deserves a “classic” designation in this series showcasing the outdoors of the region.

If you know the open spaces of Douglas County, you know the well-marked and maintained trails. We always found this along the trail at the top of the mountain, which splits to your left towards the main open space thoroughfare.

The trail backs up sharply for about a quarter of a mile. The reward above 7,300 feet: intriguing cliffs and rocky outcrops as well as unique looks of Pikes Peak and Mount Herman and sweeping views of the Palmer Divide.

In about a mile the loop begins. Mapped nearly 2 1/2 miles in its entirety, the loop offers tunnels of tall trees and an opening for views of Rampart Range. The ultimate prize is Windy Point, where the snow-capped peaks defining Rocky Mountain National Park can be admired far to the north.

Travel diary : 5 1/2 miles round trip (“lollipop” loop), 658 ft elevation gain, 7,610 ft max

Difficulty: Moderate

Getting There : Open Space at 13415 Spruce Mountain Road, Larkspur. Heading North on Interstate 25 from Colorado Springs, exit at Monument for Colorado 105 and follow Palmer Lake. Continue straight on Spruce Mountain Road, coming to the parking lot on the left.

FOR YOUR INFORMATION: Open one hour before sunrise, close one hour after sunset. Hiking, mountain biking, horse riding. Dogs on leash. Icy trails in winter, bring traction.

SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE