Palmer Lake, situated in the heart of Colorado, boasts one of the intriguing trails known as the Winding Stairs Trail. With a distance spanning 20 miles and marked as an intermediate level out & back route, this journey promises a mix of thrill and scenic beauty.
Navigating the Trail
- Set out on the single track trail leading to an intersection with a dirt road.
- Continue uphill past two reservoirs: the lower one around 0.6 miles and the upper reservoir an additional 0.5 miles.
Weather Station to Beaver Pond
- From the weather station above the dam at the upper reservoir, coast downhill alongside the reservoir.
- Watch for a road curving around a water body extension. At its tip, a side trail beckons to the right.
- Following this trail, riders will encounter a fork near an old beaver pond. Opt for the left.
Through the Aspen Forest
- Venturing through an age-old aspen forest is next on the list. However, keep a keen eye out for a sudden right turn.
- At this juncture, the base of the hill to the left introduces the start of the Winding Stairs Trail. Initially concealed by overgrowth and less discernible, it soon reveals itself as an ancient rutted jeep track.
- Brace for a series of steep, eroded switchbacks marred with deep ruts. The next 0.3 miles might require pushing the bike by foot. But patience pays off.
Rolling Hills & Stunning Views
- Atop the switchbacks, cyclists are rewarded with undulating landscapes and breathtaking panoramas of unique rock formations.
- The journey culminates as the trail intersects and concludes at Rampart Range Road.
For those keen to embark on this journey, here are the directions:
- Take I-25 to Exit 161 and proceed on highway 105 West towards Palmer Lake.
- A left turn on South Valley Rd, followed by another left on Old Carriage Rd will guide you down a one-way hill.
- The trailhead and parking facilities await at the hill's base.
- Map Misalignment: Some users observed that the topo map might not be entirely accurate. The trail can be spotted with red dashed lines veering westward.
- First Mile Challenge: The initial stretch, especially near the upper reservoir, may necessitate a good bit of hiking.
- Alternate Finish: For those seeking added adventure, upon reaching Rampart Range Road, heading south for about 3 miles will lead to Balanced Rock Road. Turning east here circles back to the upper reservoir's west end, adding a few more miles but amplifying the ride's intrigue.
In conclusion, the Winding Stairs Trail offers a balanced mix of challenge and picturesque beauty, making it a must-try for every cycling enthusiast exploring Palmer Lake, Colorado.