By Sarah Jayne Bellando
This one is for those of you who like to take the path less traveled. From dino tracks to spiritual vortexes, these hikes offer a little something more than just a gorgeous view (although, they do have that too). So, if you’re looking for a new adventure, just keep reading.
I recently moved to Colorado, so when I heard there were sand dunes nearby, like major sand dunes, this outing quickly moved to the top of my list of things to do. This national park is 30 square miles and features the tallest dunes in North America! With hikes ranging from 1.5 - 8 miles, there is sure to be an area for anyone to explore.
The fun doesn’t just stop at hiking these dunes. If you are needing a ski run fix, visitors can sandboard, sled, and ski down these natural wonders as well! Just a tip: although summer air temperatures are pleasant at this high elevation, the sand surface can get quite hot, so we recommend making this an early morning outing with your group.
If you’re looking for a fun day trip, look no further than Paint Mines Interpretive Park. The Paint Mines are named for their colorful clays that were collected by American Indians to make paint and ceramic pots. Excavations have revealed arrowheads, spear tips, and petrified wood tools, evidence of Native American activity here many centuries ago; the earliest habitation dates from around 7000 BC. The beautiful rainbow stripes you see along the way are caused by oxidized iron compounds, how cool is that?
This 3.4 mile loop is on the easier side, so bring along the whole crew and make a day out of it! + If you’re looking for the perfect selfie spot, and trust me you will want a photo, one of the best locations for taking photos of the paint mines is at the bench about 1.2 miles into the hike. This really is one of El Paso County’s most unique open spaces.
If you love all things spooky, you will love this hike. Let me tell you about Black Forest Regional Park. The story goes that a professional truck driver, Steve Lee, had visited the beautiful Black Forest area in Colorado Springs, and found his dream cabin in the woods. In 1992 he and his family moved in, but it wasn’t as perfect as it seemed. Lights would go on and off unexpectedly and they could smell strange chemicals. Long story short - a shaman told the authorities and residents that the property was located on something called a “Rainbow Vortex” or basically a gateway between the living and the dead worlds. ~Spoooookkkyy~
Although the Black Forest Regional Park has a pretty spooky history, it also has some scarily beautiful trails to hike. There are 3 trails to hike ranging in length, but totaling to 4 miles long and perfect for beginners. Do you dare go on this uniquely odd hike?
As someone who spent summers as a kid going to Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas, this next hike really piqued my interest. 2 words. Dinosaur. Tracks. That’s right, at the Purgatoire River track site you can hike one of the largest dinosaur track sites in North America. With more than 100 trackways, made up of more than 1500 individual footprints, you can see dino tracks that are 150 MILLION years old.
This hike is a little more advanced. With a distance of 11.2 miles and hot temperatures, make sure to pace yourself and bring plenty of hydration. In addition to the amazing dinosaur tracks and hike itself, there are incredible Spanish expeditions, ancient ruins, and restaurants that make this site worth visiting. We recommend setting your calendar on OOO and making a long weekend out of it.
Apparently, there are a lot (like A LOT) of abandoned towns in Colorado? So you know we couldn’t let this list come to an end without including at least one abandoned something! Not only does the Continental Falls Hike include mountain range views and an amazing waterfall - it also boasts an abandoned mine. Kind of a full package hike if you ask us.
About 2.5 miles into the hike you will find the ruins of a mining operation complete with cabins, mine shaft, and old mining equipment. Just make sure to be cautious as a collapse of the mine could cause toxic fumes, and no one wants that. If you go on another 20 minutes you will get to Mohawk Lake with the most breathtaking views. This 5 mile hike could be difficult if you aren’t used to the elevation, so consider that before setting out to unpack the history of this old abandoned mine.
SARAH JAYNE BELLANDO
Sarah Jayne Bellando is one of the newest members of the Halfdays team! With a background in fashion and social media, you probably will find her scrolling Instagram or Twitter for outfit inspo or funny memes. Some of her favorite things include her cat Mochi, blackberry mojitos, and DIY projects.
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