Why we love it: A convenient stopping point for daytrips to Castle Rock or Colorado Springs.
When to go: Anytime you need a quick break from I-25 traffic.
I’m a long-time fan of pit-stop hikes: quick, stretch-your-leg treks that are close to major roadways. These may not be the most scenic, strenuous, or silent routes, but each offers a respite from talk radio, red taillights, or fast-moving semi trucks. Last week, while en route to the in-state football battle at the Air Force Academy between Colorado State University and the Falcons, we pulled over for a quick jaunt on the New Santa Fe Regional Trail. This gentle 14-mile path runs parallel to I-25 from Palmer Lake to (and into) the Academy’s grounds. There are several places along the path to park, and we decided to start at the Baptist Road Trailhead and head south.
The wide path is ideal for families with strollers, and has plenty of room to accommodate bikers, too. You’ll cross the occasional road and walk past businesses along the way, but much of the trek is surprisingly quiet. You can see I-25 in the east, but the noise won’t bother you. Instead, you’ll have time to admire the golden grasses, now-hibernating plants, and ancient cottonwoods. On our hike, with kickoff time approaching, we only covered a small portion of this trail before turning back to the parking lot. Normally, not finishing a trek would bother us, but as we walked back to our car, we were already making plans to use this as a diversion on future road trips. In other words: We’ll be back—soon.
Getting there: Take I-25 south to West Baptist Road (exit 158). Turn right on West Baptist Road and turn right again into the trailhead’s parking lot.