Length: 4 miles roundtrip and around 1,200 vertical feet
Why We Love It: It’s an everyday hike (for Colorado Springs locals, at least) with a big payoff: 360-degree city and mountain views.
Pre-hike Buzz: The Exchange has a vast food menu to accompany its Cuban coffee and other caffeinated beverages.
When to Go: Year-round, though it can get icy in the winter (bring microspikes to be safe)
Distance from Denver: Around 75 miles
Dogs: Must be leashed
I realized too late that I should have brought gloves. My husband and I had just started up the Mt. Muscoco Trail a few miles outside of Colorado Springs and my fingertips were already starting to feel numb. It was an early December morning, and I could feel that reliable Colorado sunshine, but the temperature still hovered around 40 degrees. The dirt trail starts with a steep ascent, though, which quickly got my blood pumping and brought feeling back to my hands.
The well-marked, out-and-back trail leaves from a side-of-the-road trailhead. Part of the 1,600-acre North Cheyenne Cañon Park, the area is carved from 1.5 billion-year-old granite. These ancient rocks provide shade early on the hike as the trail climbs upward for a half-mile to the shared saddle with Mt. Cutler. (In fact, most of the route is well-shaded, meaning the snow and ice can build up in colder months.) We turned right to continue our journey to the 8,020-foot summit of Mt. Muscoco.
The trail mellows out a bit for the next half-mile, with glimpses of cityscapes to the east popping through the trees every so often. We then traversed some exposed sections (take caution) as the route curves around the mountain before reaching the final half-mile segment.
This is the most advanced section as it’s steep with loose rock and requires some scrambling, though there’s nothing technical. We missed a small arrow sign directing us around and up—keep an eye out as the signage is a little less clear as you reach the end of the trail—and instead started to sweat as we clambered over uneven boulders. I banged my knee on one and needed a minute to let the throbbing subside. (I’ll ended up with a tiny bruise.)
Finally, we reached the top, where I took a deep breath and looked around: The summit affords 360-degree views of Colorado Springs and the peaks and valleys of the San Isabel National Forest. We took our time exploring and warming up under the sun’s rays—and selfie-ing, as there was no one else around—before starting the return journey.
How to get there: From Denver, take I-25 south to Colorado Springs, exit 140 (Tejon Street). Turn right on South Tejon Street; at the traffic circle, take the second exit onto Cheyenne Boulevard. You’ll make a slight right onto North Cheyenne Canyon Road about 2.5 miles later. Follow the winding road for another 1.5 miles. The gravel parking area will be on the left. (Google Maps will take you right there.)