Red Rock Canyon Open Space

Two miles south of Garden of the Gods, a place called Red Rock Canyon Open Space offers some of the same natural features.  Red Rock Canyon Open Space is a city park, belonging  to the city of Colorado Springs, but it is actually kind of halfway between Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs.

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There are two main differences between the Red Rock Canyon Open Space and the Garden of the Gods.  The most important difference is the density of the rock features.  The rock features at Red Rock Canyon do look similar to those at Garden of the Gods, but, these features are much farther apart than the features at Garden of the Gods.  This is most likely the reason that Garden of the Gods is more popular than Red Rock Canyon.

The other main difference is the hiking (and mountain biking).  Although Red Rock Canyon Open Space does not offer hard core hiking, there is more terrain here to climb than there is at Garden of the Gods.  Garden of the Gods can be thought of as more of a scenic walk than a hike, Red Rock Canyon does offer “strenuous” trails, that do have a little bit of grade.

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Based on a previous understanding that the ratings assigned to hiking trails were relative, we decided to find the most strenuous set of trails possible in the park.  This actually took us on a mix of trails that were open to mountain bikers and trails that were labelled hiking only.  The trails we took wandered through some of the rock formations in the park, which, up close looked a lot like they did from up close at Garden of the Gods.  Oddly enough, one of the trails we ended up on was actually labelled the “Contemplative Trail”, which is odd because my previous post about Garden of the Gods was actually titled “Garden of the Gods, A Place to Collect Thoughts”.

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We actually hiked far enough to leave the technical boundaries of the park, which took us a bit higher in elevation than those who remained within the park’s boundaries.  This is something I would definitely recommend to anyone else that is planning on hiking at Red Rock Canyon, as it provided us with some of the best views of the day.  From here, we could once again see the effects of last year’s major wildfires, which charred up all of the trees over a large segment of the mountainside.

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At this location, the trail actually meets up with something called the “Section 16 Trail”, which appears to be a hike through the forest/ foothills with more elevation gain.  I still wonder what it is section 16 of, but my initial research, which primarily involves searching on Google, has not provided me with an answer as of yet.

The second half of this day will eventually feature thunderstorms over the higher terrain, west of both Denver and Colorado Springs.  This is actually a common occurrence, as air is compressed by the mountains.  On days like these, thunderstorms form in the mountainous part of the state, but not in the plains.  Occasionally, the thunderstorms do track eastward, affecting places like Denver and Colorado Springs, but not always, and it always takes quite a bit of time.  Although these storms did not form until afternoon, we could sense these storms were going to form because the wind was blowing up the mountain and already starting to form cumulus clouds.  Pictured below are the cloud formations at 10:30 this morning, and the RADAR image from 3:30 P.M.  Notice how the storms are only present in the mountainous part of the state.

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Pike’s Peak, the defining feature of the region, was only visible for part of the hike.  In other parts of the hike, it was hidden behind other terrain features near Red Rock Canyon itself.  Of course, almost anywhere within Colorado Springs, Pike’s Peak can be seen towering over the city.  However, Pike’s Peak had a significantly different look this time up than last time.  Last time, in mid-May, Pike’s Peak was snow covered above basically the tree line.  Since then, all that snow has melted and the mountain is pretty much bare, making for a completely different look.

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My May 16th photograph of Pike’s Peak, compared to the one taken today, July 4th.

Finally, as we finished up our hike, we encountered an unexpected feature.  It was one of those terrain park areas for mountain bikes.  I had never really seen any of those before, and I actually saw a few people riding their bikes around, up and down the railway and sea-saw features.  It seems like a neat thing to do, albeit somewhat scary.  I think I am personally going to stick to long-distance road biking.

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Today’s hike had a surprisingly southwestern feel to it.  And, the whole time it made me wonder, where does the southwest really begin?  The south-westernmost part of Colorado, Durango and the Four Corners region, I can imagine, definitely is part of the southwest the way we know it.  Northeastern Colorado is definitely the plains, but North Central, like Fort Collins and even Denver do not particularly feel southwestern.  They feel basically central Rockies.  Maybe all red-ish features just make me think of all things southwestern, and I am getting it all wrong.  But, still, I wonder if I am entering an entirely new region every time I drive south on I-25 over Monument Pass.

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