text and photography by Ryan Stikeleather
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Tucked away in a northwest pocket of Colorado Springs, Blodgett Peak Open Space has the privilege of being part city park, and part Pike National Forest. The open space offers many trails to explore, and provides a natural habitat for wildlife.
Just The Facts
Trail: Peregrine Trail/Hummingbird Trail/Red Squirrel Red
Elevation Gain: 415 ft
Distance: 2.8 mi. (Loop)
Trail Use: Hiking, Trail Running, Bird Watching
Trail Condition: Maintained, and mostly well marked
Bring Your Dog: Yes (but must be on a leash)
Access: All year long
Trail Map: www.ColoradoSprings.gov
Entrance fee: Free!
In the City, In the Forest
One of the unique parts of this open space is its location. Nestled in the foothills of the Rampart Range, which is also a part of Colorado’s Front Range, the open space sits in the northwestern corner of the city, below the Air Force Academy.
Pike National Forest borders this open space on three sides, and helps preserve the natural wildlife habitat.
The area also has flowing water, almost year round, which lends to its historical importance to Native Americans and the early explorers, and settlers in this area.
Another reason this park is so popular would be the trails leading to the aptly named Blodgett Peak. The parking lot isn’t large, but there is more available along the road. And most, of the time, that’s where you’ll end up.
If you’re not in the mood to climb a mountain, then do what I did, and take advantage of all the extra trails. I chose to take a big loop around the perimeter, but you can criss-cross throughout the area too. It's really your choice.
From the parking lot follow the wide, gravel access road (which leads to the city water tower), and will be the starting point for most hikes. A few yards up this road, I hopped onto Peregrine Trail.
Peregrine Trail curves along the hillside, covered with Gambel oak, and plunges into the shade of Ponderosa pine, and Douglas fir. All the while gradually climbing up and up.
The hardest section of elevation gain comes after the trail marker for “Neighborhood Access”. You won’t miss it.
Watch out for ruts, from washout, and the loose soil can be a little tricky to navigate. There are several spur trails without trail markers, but I chose to keep to the right, and continued up the trail.
The city water cistern – I guess that’s the correct term – will soon be in view, and is a good landmark for where you're at on the trail. Again, there aren’t any markers, so stay to the right.
Am I There Yet?
Not long after the cistern, I came to a large trail junction, it isn’t marked either, but this is Hummingbird Trail.
To the right is Blodgett Peak Trail...I turned left, and followed Hummingbird Trail back into the open space. The trail is nice and wide, and shaded under all the pine, and fir trees.
There are sections of this trail which slip in-and-out of Pike National Forest. There are a few signs indicating the end of city maintenance, which might explain why the trail markers are kind of non-existent.
Because I was a little confused by the hit-or-miss trail markers, I missed my turn. There is a trail marker for Gambel Oak Trail (which I didn’t take), or to continue on Hummingbird Trail (which I did take). If you want to get back to the access road...continue on Hummingbird Trail.
The access road is popular for an easy stroll, with a good bit of elevation. But, since I was going down, instead of up, it was super easy. There is plenty of space for everyone, and also some great views of the city below.
Back on Track
Along the access road, I did find the Dry Creek Trail junction, and got back on track, and into the forest.
A short way down this trail, Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) has fenced off a section of hillside, and allowed the area to repair itself. Revegetation is a common practice, and a good example of why staying on designated trails is so important.
The next few sections are short, the trails and spurs all lead back to the parking lot. Red Squirrel Trail and Dry Creek Trail share similar terrain as on Peregrine Trail. Gambel oak and scrubby trees line the trail, and hillside, as the smooth path works its way back down.
Blodgett Peak Open Space is an important part of the city, Pike National Forest, and communities that surround it. There is even talk of a possible expansion to the open space, giving even more protection to a critical wildlife habitat, as well as new areas to explore.
Blodgett Peak Open Space has the unique environmental climate which is needed to support Peregrine Falcons, as well as Mexican spotted owls (which are a threatened species). It’s a good example of how to combine public access, and preservation at the same time.