Red Rock Canyon Open Space in Colorado Springs, Colorado
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Guide to Hiking Red Rock Canyon Open Space in Colorado Springs

When most people hear or think of red rocks in Colorado Springs, most assume you are talking about Garden of the Gods.  And as stunning as that park is, I’m going to go ahead and say it – you need to visit Red Rock Canyon Open Space instead!  In all my years and many hours of time spent enjoying Colorado hiking, I have spent a whole 10 minutes in Garden of the Gods, and that was by choice.  I have made multiple visits and spent hours hiking all the trails in Red Rock Canyon Open Space, and I have no regrets about the proportionality of time spent there in comparison to neighboring Garden of the Gods.  In this guide, I’ll not only tell you why Red Rock Canyon Open Space is the underrated alternative to Garden of the Gods, I’ll also tell you just what to expect and how to get the most out of your visit to Red Rock Canyon Open Space in Colorado Springs, Colorado!

Red Rock Canyon Open Space in Colorado Springs Colorado

Disclosure: Below are some affiliate links-these are all products I highly recommend. I won’t make any recommendations on this page that I haven’t tested or personally used!  Enjoy this guide to Red Rock Canyon Open Space in Colorado Springs!

 

Guide to Hiking Red Rock Canyon Open Space

 

This guide covers everything you need to know about the park, including location, fees, hours, pet policies, and of course, trails and trail reports!  Before getting into the actual hiking trails, here’s what you need to know before you go!

Red Rock Canyon Open Space in Colorado Springs

 

 

What Exactly Can You Do at Red Rock Canyon Open Space?

 

There are awesome hiking opportunities here, in the classic red rock environment that Colorado Springs is famous for!  But there is more than that at Red Rock Canyon Open Space!  You can:

 

  • DAY HIKE
  • ROCK CLIMB (with a permit)
  • MOUNTAIN BIKE
  • WALK YOUR DOG
  • HORSEBACK RIDE
  • HAVE A PICNIC
  • LONG DISTANCE HIKE
  • BRING THE KIDS AND THE WHOLE FAMILY

 

Red Rock Canyon Open Space
Get ready to explore the best of Red Rock Canyon Open Space in Colorado Springs, Colorado!

 

 

Know Before You Go

 

Red Rock Canyon Open Space in Colorado Springs CO
Red Rock Canyon Open Space in Colorado Springs CO

 

  • Fees:  None!  Parking and exploring Red Rock Canyon Open Space is 100% FREE!
  • Hours: Dawn to Dusk

 

  • Directions: Red Rocks Canyon Open Space is located off of Highway 24 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  It is easy to find, and Google Maps will take you straight to “Red Rock Canyon Open Space”.

 

  • Parking:  There are multiple parking lots on either end of the park, with ample parking spots.  There is zero wait, zero lines, and zero traffic entering, exiting, or getting a parking spot!

 

  • Facilities:  there are portable toilets in the parking lots.  There are also picnic pavilions located in the park for those wishing to break and eat.

 

  • Elevation of Red Rock Canyon Open Space: ~6,500 feet elevation

 

Trail maps at Red Rock Canyon Open Space
Trail maps posted in the parking lots

 

  • Pet Policy:  leashed pets are welcome at Red Rock Canyon Open Space!  There is even a fenced off  leash dog area and hiking trail for your pup!  

 

  • Best Time of Year to Visit:  Red Rock Canyon Open Space is open daily year round, and it can be enjoyed year round.  Spring and fall are ideal shoulder seasons, but summer and winter are enjoyable as well.  Summer temperatures can get hotter, so plan for early morning hiking or activities.  Winter can see colder temperatures and some typical winter weather including snow, but the trails can still be enjoyed with proper preparation.  

 

  • Trail Conditions/Maintenance: most of the trails at Red Rock Canyon Open Space are well maintained, though there are a few where route finding can be a little more difficult.  The most popular trails in the park (like the Contemplative, Red Rock Canyon, Mesa, Greenlee, and Sand Canyon Trails), are very well maintained. 

Some trails are wider than others, like the Red Rock Canyon Trail, while some trails are narrower, like the Contemplative Trail or the Lion Trail. On narrower trails, exercise caution and be on the lookout for other users like mountain bikers.  

 

  • How are the Trails Marked?  Signage is posted with the trail name at intersections and crossings.  Some trails and connecting trails could be slightly better marked or more frequently marked, but I don’t see it being an issue with proper research ahead of time.  Download the park trail map, or a map from an app like AllTrails, or take a picture of the park trail maps that are posted at both of the parking lots, and you should be good.  

Red Rock Canyon Open Space trails

 

 

Hiking the Red Rock Canyon Open Space Trails

 

Hiking is what draws most visitors to Red Rock Canyon Open Space in Colorado Springs.  There are numerous hiking trails here, ranging in length and difficulty, so there is something for everyone.   Keep in mind that it is very common to combine some of the trails listed below to form longer loop trails.  I will go over the most popular combinations, so be sure to keep reading!

 

Here’s a quick summary and individual breakdown of the Red Rock Canyon Open Space trails, including how they are rated individually:

 

  • The Contemplative Trail (canyon walls) – INTERMEDIATE
  • The Mesa Trail (open trail with views of Garden of the Gods) – EASY
  • The Greenlee Trail (one of the trails to the water feature) – EASY
  • The Roundup Trail (elevation gain and slightly more technical terrain) – INTERMEDIATE
  • The Sand Canyon Trail (stunning canyon hiking and views) – INTERMEDIATE
  • The Quarry Pass Trail (traversing a pass up, through, and down rock “stairways” and steps chiseled out of a canyon wall – INTERMEDIATE
  • The Hogback Trail/ Lion Loop (nice ridgeline views – Lion Loop is narrow and heavily used by bikers) – EASY/INTERMEDIATE
  • The Upper and Lower Dog Loops (near the entrance of the park at the parking lots – the Upper Dog Loop is the off leash dog area) – EASY
  • Coddell Trails Loop (the easternmost perimeter trails in the park, somewhat moderate trails) – INTERMEDIATE/HARD

 

This is not an exhaustive list of EVERY trail in Red Rock Canyon Open Space.  There are a handful of short connector trails, like the Meadowlark Trail, that connects the Sand Canyon and Mesa Trails, and trails in the southern part of the park that are more remote and meander into adjoining areas like Bear Creek Canyon Park and Section 16, for example.  For day hiking in general, these trails listed above are a great reference point and cover all well maintained, popular, and best hiking in Red Rock Canyon Open Space.

 

The Greenlee Trail in Red Rock Canyon Open Space
The Greenlee Trail in Red Rock Canyon Open Space

 

 

Popular and Common Trail Combos in Red Rock Canyon Open Space

 

Because most of the Red Rock Canyon Open Space trails are individually on the shorter end, it is very common to combine trails to form longer loops that are worth a day’s hike.  Because many of the trails connect and loop together, it is easy to follow these common and popular trail combinations.  You can always pick your favorites of the shorter, individual trails and do them on repeat as an option, if you have some you just really love (I could probably hike the Contemplative Trail back and forth all day long, or happily do multiple loops of the Mesa / Greenlee, and Red Rock Canyon Trails loop).

Here are 9 of my favorite trail combos in Red Rock Canyon Open Space.

 

#1: Mesa / Greenlee / Red Rock Canyon Trails Loop

 

Length: 2 miles roundtrip loop

Elevation Gain: 262 feet

Mesa Greenlee Red Rock Canyon Trails Elevation Chart
Mesa/Greenlee/Red Rock Canyon Trails Elevation Chart

 

Rating: Easy

Estimated Time to Complete: 45 minutes

 

This trail combo is one of my favorites, because it involves the wide open expanses and views of Garden of the Gods on the Mesa Trail, the peaceful pond views of the Greenlee Trail, with the fun Quarry Pass Trail, and the easy, open trail and rock climber people watching of the Red Rock Canyon Trail!  Only a few sections of brief incline, with the Quarry Pass Trail the only real section of non – flat terrain involving some steps, descents, and ascents.  

The Quarry Pass in Red Rock Canyon Open Space
The Quarry Pass in Red Rock Canyon Open Space

 

#2: Mesa / Red Rock Canyon Trail Loop

 

Length: 3.3 miles roundtrip loop

Elevation Gain: 521 feet

Mesa/Red Rock Canyon Trails Elevation Chart
Mesa/Red Rock Canyon Trails Elevation Chart

 

Rating: Easy

Estimated Time to Complete: 1 hour 15 minutes

 

On this trail, much like #1 above, you start out on the Mesa Trail, but instead of taking the Greenlee Trail where it splits, continue on the Mesa Trail until it loops to connect to the Red Rock Canyon Trail.  This is an easy loop with slightly more mileage, slightly more elevation gain, and slightly more challenge, with all the same stunning scenery!

 

#3: Contemplative / Roundup / Red Rock Canyon Trail Loop

 

Length: 3.5 miles roundtrip loop

Elevation Gain: 488 feet

Contemplative/Roundup/Red Rock Canyon Trails Elevation Chart
Contemplative/Roundup/Red Rock Canyon Trails Elevation Chart

 

Rating: Easy

Estimated Time to Complete: 1 hour 15 minutes

 

This combo choice includes one of my favorite trails in the park, the Contemplative Trail.  I love the feel of this trail, more in tune and intimate with the canyon walls, and more “removed” from its surroundings.  And the Roundup Trail portion is great for a little elevation gain and change!

The Contemplative Trail in Red Rock Canyon Open Space
The Contemplative Trail in Red Rock Canyon Open Space

 

#4: Sand Canyon / Roundup / Red Rock Canyon Trail Loop

 

Length: 3.8 miles roundtrip loop

Elevation Gain: 511 feet

Sand Canyon/Roundup/Red Rock Canyon Trails Elevation Chart
Sand Canyon/Roundup/Red Rock Canyon Trails Elevation Chart

 

Rating: Easy

Estimated Time to Complete: 1 hour and 30 minutes

 

Similar to other loops mentioned above, just swapping the Sand Canyon Trail and its characteristic canyon views into the mix on this one!  

 

#5: Contemplative / Sand Canyon Trails Loop

 

Length: 1.8 miles roundtrip loop

Elevation Gain: 216 feet

Contemplative/Sand Canyon Trails Elevation Chart
Contemplative/Sand Canyon Trails Elevation Chart

 

Rating: Easy

Estimated Time to Complete: 45 minutes

 

Short, sweet, simple, and full of stunning canyon scenery!  Great for those short on time, or for families with children looking for a shorter, doable day hike.  

 

#6: Contemplative / Roundup / Mesa Trails Loop

 


Length: 2.6 miles roundtrip loop

Elevation Gain: 429 feet

Contemplative/Roundup/Mesa Trails Elevation Chart
Contemplative/Roundup/Mesa Trails Elevation Chart

 

Rating: Easy

Estimated Time to Complete: 1 hour

 

A hike through the canyon walls, with some elevation gain and minor technicality on the Roundup Trail, and then out through the open Mesa Trail with views looking out towards Garden of the Gods in the distance!

 

Red Rock Canyon Open Space in Colorado Springs
Views of Garden of the Gods from the open Mesa Trail

 

#7: Lion / Hogback Valley Trails Loop

 

Length: 3.3 miles roundtrip loop

Elevation Gain: 505 feet

Lion/Hogback Valley Trails Elevation Chart
Lion/Hogback Valley Trails Elevation Chart

 

Rating: Moderate

Estimated Time to Complete: 1 hour and 30 minutes

 

If you want to explore the more eastern part of Red Rock Canyon Open Space, these two trails form a loop through a typically less populated area.  While this loop hike might sound less popular, it is no less invigorating, with a healthy amount of challenge and elevation gain, and a sense of seclusion and having the trail more to yourself.  This loop offers a scenic ridgeline to climb, with stunning vista views as the payoff!  You can see the Quarry, Garden of the Gods, and even Pikes Peak from this vantage point!

 

*note that the Lion Trail is narrow, and is largely a mountain bike use trail, though hikers are able to use it.  Hiking the Lion Trail necessitates paying close attention for bikers and the ability to move off the trail quickly.  You can connect to the Red Rock Rim Trail alternately.  

 

#8: Old Quarry / Red Rock Rim / Lion / Section 16 / Lion Trails Loop

 

Length: 11.3 miles roundtrip loop

Elevation Gain: 2,168 feet

Old Quarry/Red Rock Rim/Lion/Section 16/Lion Trails Elevation Chart
Old Quarry/Red Rock Rim/Lion/Section 16/Lion Trails Elevation Chart

 

Rating: Difficult

Estimated Time to Complete: 4 – 5 hours

 

In the mood for some serious challenge, serious elevation gain, and serious mileage?  These connecting trails will provide you with a full day’s hike with over 2,000 feet of elevation gain, and a hike that takes you to the more remote parts of Red Rock Canyon Open Space!

 

This loop hike passes through not only the southern portions of Red Rock Canyon Open Space, but also adjoining areas like White Acres, Manitou Section 16 Open Space, and Bear Creek Canyon Park.  There are some rocky portions, and some more technical portions.  

 

This is one of those trails and hikes that are not as well maintained, so be sure to come prepared with route finding and navigation, downloaded maps, etc.  Cell service is also not reliable in this portion of Red Rock Canyon Open Space.  

 

#9: Hogback Valley / Lower Codell Trails Loop

 

Length: 1.7 miles roundtrip loop

Elevation Gain: 252 feet

Hogback Valley/Lower Codell Trails Elevation Chart
Hogback Valley/Lower Codell Trails Elevation Chart

 

Rating: Easy

Estimated Time to Complete: 40 minutes

 

This loop hike including the Lower Codell portion of the Codell Trails is located in the farthest east part of Red Rock Canyon Open Space on the perimeter.  It is a simple hike, with a healthy amount of elevation gain for a short distance and decent views.  So good return on investment if you are short on time but want a little uphill.  The Hogback Valley gets its name from the parallel ridges, also called “hogbacks”, along this path.  

 

 

Which Red Rock Canyon Open Space Trail or Trails Combo is Right for You?

 

  • If you like hiking in the shadows of canyon walls and want to feel “closed in”, do a hike that includes the Contemplative Trail.

 

  • If you want to see a water feature, do a hike that includes the Greenlee Trail or Red Rock Canyon Trail.

 

  • If you want to enjoy some quicker elevation gain with slightly more technical terrain, do a hike that includes the Roundup Trail.

 

  • If you want to see Garden of the Gods in the distance, do a hike that includes the Mesa Trail or the Lion / Hogback Valley Trails loop.

 

  • If you want to hike in more wide open trails and expanses, do a hike that includes the Red Rock Canyon Trail or the Mesa Trail.  

 

  • If you want to take your dog to the off leash fenced in area, do a hike that includes the Mesa Trail (where the Upper Dog Trail is located off of), or do a hike involving the Upper and Lower Dog Trails.

 

  • If you want the chance to witness some rock climbers in action and maybe do a little people watching, do a hike that includes the Red Rock Canyon Trail.  

 

  • If you want to climb up and down rock stairways and steps chiseled out of a canyon wall, do a hike that includes the Quarry Pass Trail.  

 

  • If you want to explore a less populated and hiked part of the park, do a hike that involves the Hogback Valley and/or Lion Trails.  

 

Rock "stairways" on the Quarry Pass in Red Rock Canyon Open Space
Rock “stairways” on the Quarry Pass

 

The Quarry Pass in Red Rock Canyon Open Space

 

 

What Are My Own Favorite Red Rock Canyon Open Space Trails and Trail Combos?

 

  • I love the Contemplative Trail when I want to feel more “closed in” and in touch with the canyon walls.  You can connect the Contemplative Trail to a handful of other trails (as shown above).

 

  • My other favorite is the Mesa Trail / Greenlee Trail / Red Rock Canyon Trail combo.  It just has a lot of enjoyable aspects to it.  Great views of Garden of the Gods, the pond water feature, and getting to connect to the Red Rock Canyon Trail via the fun Quarry Pass.  The details for this loop are posted again below.

 

Length: 2 miles roundtrip loop

Elevation Gain: 262 feet

Estimated Time to Complete: 45 minutes

Rating: Easy

 

From the left parking lot (proceed left after entering), take the Mesa Trail trailhead, passing the fenced in off leash dog area, until arriving at the split with the Greenlee Trail.  Reaching this point involves some slight uphill in full sun.  From this point on the trail, you can also see the stunning formations of Garden of the Gods in full view from across the highway!

 

Proceed to the left to take the Greenlee Trail here, then passing the tranquil and picturesque pond, until arriving at the Quarry Pass Trail.  This portion of the trail offers some of the most fun hiking and stunning views, as you traverse this choppy and rugged pass, chiseled out of the canyon, up and down rock stairways and steps, until arriving at the merging with the Red Rock Canyon Trail.  The Red Rock Canyon Trail is more open, and you may see some rock climbers enjoying the cliffs on the right hand side of this trail, as you get closer to the trailhead.  

 

Some of my favorite views in Red Rock Canyon Open Space
Some of my favorite views on the Greenlee Trail

 

Continue to follow the Red Rock Canyon Trail until you reach the parking lot.  You will emerge into the eastern part of the parking lot, so a short walk is required from here to get back to the western part of the parking lot at the Mesa Trail trailhead.  

 

Overall, this is an easy trail combo, as each of the individual trails are rated as easy, with the exception of the short section of the Quarry Pass connector trail, which is rated as intermediate.  When you combine these 3 trails, you get a perfect combo of wide open expanses, secluded canyon walls, idyllic ponds, stunning views, slight challenge with the fun and unique Quarry Pass, and peace and quiet – all without as many crowds, the traffic, the noises, and the congestion!  It is the perfect outdoor escape when in Colorado Springs, Colorado!

Click here for a complete downloadable trail map of the entire Red Rock Canyon Open Space

 

Be sure to check out more of my favorite Colorado hiking trails!

 

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Red Rock Canyon Open Space in Colorado Springs Colorado

 

Red Rock Canyon Open Space in Colorado Springs Colorado

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