Discovering a Hidden Hike in Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs

View from St. Mary's Falls

Colorado has plenty of hiking trails that appeal to beginners to more advanced. Each hike shows off different parts of nature. Some are just harder to find.

I hesitate to share this. If the word spreads, this hiking trail may no longer be a peaceful place to spend an afternoon. But I wouldn’t want you to miss out.

St Mary’s Falls is one of my favorite hikes in Colorado Springs, yet it took me almost four years to discover.

I don’t want to call the hiking trail a secret, because there is an actual trail head. But the trail is not obviously marked for tourists or those who don’t know about St. Mary’s Falls.

To get to the trail head, you have to walk about 2 miles along an old service road, past a deserted tunnel and a short hill.

This past summer, I found out about St. Mary’s Falls and experienced it for the first time with someone who does not live in Colorado. I may have created high expectations.

On this summer day, with only a few wispy clouds in the deep blue sky and a gentle breeze, we only saw four other people. Four people in four hours. Seven if you include a dog and two guys sunbathing on a edge that sat about fifty yards off the trail.

Why Is This Hike Not Well-Known?

St. Mary
St. Mary’s Falls

Visitors to Colorado Springs are probably familiar with well-known hikes like Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak. Even before I lived here, I was well aware of those hiking trails. Although these are Colorado Springs “must-see and do” hikes, you might enjoy trails that have more beauty than tourists.

Since I moved to Colorado Springs, each summer I am on the hunt to find a new trail to hike.

Sure, you can travel outside of the Springs and discover hidden trails all over the mountains in Colorado. Since Colorado Springs is on the very edge of the Rockies and the flat plains, it is not as easy to find something local and less crowded.

Cheyenne Canyon is a well-known place to hike and one of those most scenic places in Colorado Springs. Along your way to St. Mary’s, trails such as Seven Falls, Mt. Cutler, and Helen Hunt Falls (not the actress) may entice you to get out of the car.

Maybe people just never reach St. Mary’s. Even if you reach the parking lot at the top of the road, the Seven Bridges hike may lure you off the uninspiring, flat service road.

Keep going. You will get there eventually.

Why Hike St. Mary’s Falls?

Butterfly
Butterfly on Trail

In the summer, along the 3.2 mile hike you will come across waterfalls, streams, far-reaching views, wildflowers, and butterflies. The only sounds you will hear are your laborious breath as you hike the second half of the trail and the quiet trickling of the streams.

Butterflies not intimidated by humans’ presence are attracted to the purple and yellow flowers that weave through the surrounding green plants.

As you move up the trail, keep your eyes open for some of the 33 waterfalls scattered along this hike.

One of the reasons I enjoy this hike is because of the extra glimpses of nature you experience along the way. Not all hikes around Colorado Springs include these treats from nature.

St. Mary’s combines the right amount of nature, seclusion, and physical challenges that makes it a well-rounded hike. Yet it is not advertised.

Maybe you are not a “nature person.” Even if you are not interested in pretty butterflies and flowers, you will get a good workout. The last third of the trail can be quite strenuous. And the signs at the very end that indicate “.02 miles” and “500 feet” to the Falls were clearly not marked with any sort of accurate measuring device. They seem much longer.

Keep going. You will get there eventually.

I enjoyed the hike so much, I brought my family there in November. In the winter, the views along the trail are quite different. Most of the waterfalls are frozen and ice covers the trail.  And obviously, the butterflies and flowers have long gone. Yet I still find beauty here, that’s been touched by the hands of God. Maybe there is a reason the trail is named after a saint.

Find out for yourself.  But try not to tell too many people.

P.S. I submitted this for a contest on 5.11 Adventure. Please feel free to Retweet, Google +,  or like/post on Facebook if you want to help me out!  😉

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Polarized sunglasses, Flashlights, and Hiking boots.

6 Responses to Discovering a Hidden Hike in Colorado Springs

  1. Definately makes me so anxious to get out to Colarado! Thanks for sharing.

    Tracy Crisafulli January 13, 2012 at 9:36 pm Reply
  2. Thanks for sharing. I wouldn’t worry too much about the hike getting crowded. You’re just letting other passionate enthusiasts in on a little secret, and doing them a big favor. The St. Mary’s hike sounds really beautiful.

    Matt @ Perfect Places January 23, 2012 at 4:10 pm Reply
  3. Great post! I always try to take hikes like that. The experience is usually so much more rewarding compared to sticking to the beaten path.

    One would think this is not possible in the most popular areas, but I found out it can also be done in famous places like Cinque Terre in Italy.

    Marko @ Travel Photo Blogging February 21, 2012 at 7:24 am Reply
  4. Good to know, I`m always up for some hiking. Great post indeed!

    Short break Scotland February 23, 2012 at 5:07 am Reply
  5. Ooo, thanks for sharing this. I’m trying to get into hiking this year and have been looking for beautiful places to hike in Colorado.

    TJ March 3, 2012 at 12:29 am Reply
  6. St. Mary’s Falls is really great! This year I’ll definitely be there.

    howtomakegirllaugh October 5, 2012 at 1:44 am Reply

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