Hiking feeds my soul. I know, that is definitely such a typical thing to say when you live in Colorado. But with the Rocky Mountains at my backdoor, I’ve declared hiking my happy activity. Sometimes I think I’ve explored just about every inch of Colorado Springs and then something comes along and makes me realize there’s still so much more to see. Even though I’ve hiked those mountains before, stumbling upon the Section 16 trailhead, AKA Palmer Trail Loop, opened my eyes to some pretty fabulous new views.
The views are never the same. Maybe that is why I love the mountains so much. Every time I glance west I see the same old mountains in a fresh new light. I’m never disappointed, not even a little bit.
This year I decided that I wanted to hike new trails. My quest for somewhere we’ve never been before lead me to the Section 16 trailhead. Fun Fact: this area is situated between Bear Canyon and Red Rock Canyon.
Directions to the Section 16 Trailhead – The Quick Version
(BTW you can find the Section 16 Trail head by plugging it into your GPS as well)
- Head to 21st Street.
- If you are coming from Cimarron Street and you are headed South, you will take a right onto Lower Gold Camp Road. If you are coming from Cheyenne Blvd and you are headed North, you will take a left onto Lower Gold Camp Road. Insiders tip: If you are not good with north, south, east, and west, just remember that the mountains are always west. In this case when you are on 21st street you will always turn towards the mountains.
- You’ll cross Bear Creek Rd and Lower Gold Camp Road will drop the lower and turn into just Gold Camp Road.
- Keep driving and you’ll run right into the trailhead and a parking lot.
- If you can’t find parking in the first spot, keep driving, there’s more areas to park just down the road.
Once you’ve found the trailhead, you’re ready to roll. Just hop on the trail. Warning: this is where it gets a little tricky. If you are not looking for the right signs, you will likely end up in Red Rock Canyon. Which is also a beautiful place to hike. But if you want to actually hike into the mountains, ending up in the red rock area can be frustrating. To avoid any mixups make sure you are following the signs for Palmer Red Rock Trail!
Starting at the Section 16 trailhead you will immediately start small switchbacks up the trail, both sides will be heavily covered in brush but you will still get a great 365 degree view. Once you make it to a fork in the path you’ll want to follow the arrow that takes you to Palmer Red Rock Trail. After this initial sign, the rest of the signs pointing you in the right direction are actually just on markers. Meaning they are small and easy to miss. So keep your eyes open!
Once you start up the actual trail it will be steep! Your calves will feel it. Getting to the top of the mountain is the most excruciating part. But it’s worth it. Once you make it to the top, the views are second to none and you can rest easy knowing that the rest of the trail is literally downhill from here.
Ready to conquer Palmer Loop Trail?! I’ve got a view tips to set you up for success!
- Follow the signs that lead to you Palmer Loop Trail. While, I’m sure all of the trails are beautiful in their own unique way, if you are looking to hike the way I did, you will want to make sure you are on Palmer Red Rock Trail.
- The trail is approximately 5.5 – 6 miles. I believe we hiked a total of 7.5 miles that day.
- I would say that the difficulty for this trail is probably moderate.
- This trail is steep to start with and for that reason I don’t recommend it for beginners. There are also a few narrow ledges with cliffs that are pretty big so be cautious.
- I don’t recommend this as a family friendly trail because of the aforementioned facts. If you are bringing children on the trail, please keep them close. Actually, if you are bringing children on the trail, make sure this is not their first trail.
- There will be people on bikes, so please be courteous and move out of their way. Common trail etiquette is that bikers have the right of way regardless of which direction they are going. With that being said if you are on a bike and you are passing someone ahead of you, please give them a warning. I find a bell works nice, but you can also shout out something.
- Wear proper hiking shoes. I wore tennis shoes, but I really needed something with some extra oomph. You’ll need great traction and I’m serious the steep climb at the beginning is no joke.
- As always, take plenty of water. Always take what you think you need and then pack some more.
- We started this trail a little bit earlier in the day and I had yet to eat breakfast. I needed to stop about halfway up the steep climb and eat a little snack. I recommend eating before any hike, but if you are like me and you tend to occasionally skip breakfast, make sure you bring a light snack or two.