Starting at the Palmer Lake Recreation Area, the 14-mile New Santa Fe Regional Trail is popular with Colorado Springs outdoor lovers of all stripes. The north-south trail is rated easy and follows the abandoned Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad right-of-way for the first 6.5 miles, then winds through the U.S. Air Force Academy for another 6.9 miles. Along the way you’ll meet folks on foot, bikes and horseback, and discover informative signs, interesting geological features and wildlife. Some of the more common animals found along the trail are deer, gophers and an occasional snake. The trail bisects two distinct ecosystems—high desert and riparian (along a riverbank)—which affords the opportunity to view a great variety of wildflowers. There are also some fantastic viewpoints, including one of Pikes Peak.
The New Santa Fe Regional Trail is part of the American Discovery Trail system and has a 1,200 foot drop in elevation from north to south. It passes through the town of Monument, where you’ll find some shops and restaurants and then crosses the Air Force Academy campus, taking you past the stadium, chapel and north entrance gate. Be sure to heed the warnings about staying on the trail as you traverse the Academy campus. The trail officially ends at Woodman Road, where it becomes part of the Pikes Peak Greenway.
Although the gravel trail is labelled dog-friendly, there are some clearly marked portions where dogs are prohibited. Bicyclists must wear helmets. Trail hours are dawn to dusk and the phone number is (719) 520-7529.
You can access the trail at several different spots:
- Palmer Lake Recreation Area: Take I-25 to Exit 161; head northwest on Route 105 for about 5 miles then east on County Line Road to the park entrance
- Third Street in Monument
- North Gate Rd. (north entrance of the Air Force Academy)
- Baptist Rd.
- Ice Lake trailhead at the Air Force Academy
- Two areas at E. Woodman Rd.: westbound on Woodman, parking is north of the road; eastbound on Woodman, turn south on Corporate Drive then west on Mark Dabling Blvd. and make an immediate right into the lot.