When reviewing the map for Cheyenne Mountain State Park, I knew I wanted to hike the trails closest to the foothills. Earlier this summer I did the Cougar’s Shadow/Blackmer Loop, for this hike it was time to head for the North Talon Trail and South Talon Trail.
To get to the two loops, visitors typically use the main Talon Trail as an access. The Talon Trail starts near the main day-use trailhead (directions below). From the parking lot, start on the trail to the right of the bathrooms. Just a few steps away from the parking lot, you’ll come to a trail register and a trail split. While I didn’t see a sign here, this is the Zook Loop. Go left.
Take a few more steps and you’ll be at the trail split for the Sundance Loop, but don’t turn off. Take a few more steps, cross the bridge and come to another trail split. Here you’ll find a park map telling you where you are and a turn off (to the left) for the Talon Trail. Look just a couple inches off the ground and you’ll see the trail signs. The color on the sign matches the color of the trail on the park map.
Turn left on the Talon Trail. Talon is a dirt path, maybe three people wide. As you turn on the Talon Trail, look for an old corral in the field to your right. This is also a great place to get a view of the parks namesake, Cheyenne Mountain, to the west.
Head up a short hill and pass the first of many nature signs. Signs along the Talon Trail talk about the trees like the Ponderosa Pine, the Douglas Fire, the Mountain Mahogany and the White fir.
As you walk here, you may hear the sound of traffic on nearby Highway 115, but I tried to concentrate on the sounds of the birds, the chirps of the nearby prairie dogs, the sound of my boots on the ground and the occasional bike rider or runner passing me.
At the first turn-off, you’ll pass the Little Bear Trail. Stay on Talon and a short distance away, a sign tells visitors about Pikes Peak and the man the mountain was named for. Lt. Zebulon Pike and a small unit were exploring the area of the Louisiana Purchase in 1806 when Pike spotted a mountain in the distance. It’s believed it was the mountain we now call Pikes Peak. However, the sign explains that historians think Pike and his group climbed Mount Rosa, a nearly 11,000-foot peak and not the mountain named after him.he Talon Trail winds through meadows and short sections of forest as it heads for the southern border of the park. Every time the trail turns west, enjoy the views of Cheyenne Mountain.
You’ll pass the Turkey Trot Trail split, then come to the Sundance Trail splits. Splits as in two. The Sundance Trail and the Talon Trail share the same trail for a few feet so pay attention, watch the signs and make sure you stay on the Talon Trail, for now. But remember this spot on the way back, because you’ll have some options for your return trip.
After passing the Sundance Trail, the forest sections get longer. The trail goes up and down, but it’s never steep for too long. This is a nice, peaceful walk out here.
About 1.6 miles from the trailhead, there’s a trail split and a sign that says “Overlook ahead.” This is a nice side trip. Take the overlook path a short distance to a bench with a view. This is a great spot to take a break. Up here, you’ll find yourself above the trees and you can really see how forested this park is.
Back on the main trail, you’re hiking a ridge of sorts above the trees. It’s pretty cool. At 2.1 miles, there’s another overlook trail. Why not take this trail, too? This overlook has a bench that faces west/northwest and a sign that explains the raptors who live in this area including the peregrine falcon and the prairie falcon.
Return to the main trail and get ready for a bit of a hill climb. At the top, about 2.4 miles from the trailhead, there’s the first turnoff for the North Talon Trail. Looking at the map and how the loops intersect, I decided to take North Talon first. I’m glad I did. I think North Talon has more elevation gain, is a bit steeper and it’s definitely longer than the South Talon Loop.
The North Talon Trail is an up and down trail that winds its way around several ridges and valleys. It’s a good workout, but it’s not too hard. You’re in the trees, hiking around several U-shaped valleys, but you’re hiking near the top of the valleys. The trail winds through the forest, but there are some open places with a bit of a view.
About three-quarters of a mile from the start of the North Talon Trail, I came to a trail split. It was another overlook. Take this short trail to a bench with a view and a sign. This sign explains that the pink hue of the granite here is unique to this area and why. There’s a bench here, so take a break and enjoy the rocks.
On the way back to the main trail, you’re near the high point of the trail and there’s a nice view of Colorado Springs and the Front Range. Back on the main trail, it’s just a tenth of a mile or so to the highest point on the North Talon Trail. At that top, there’s a wide open spot where the trail gets wider and there are four nature signs. This is a nice picnic spot if you want a sunny spot with views. However, if you prefer a spot in the forest with tall trees and rock outcroppings, it’s not too far away.
After passing the high point, the trail crosses a rocky ridge and starts to switchback down. The trail drops about 200 feet in elevation over the next 0.6 miles or so to the big Talon intersection.
The big Talon intersection may be one of my favorite spots in Cheyenne Mountain National Park. This spot is where the main Talon Trail, the North Loop and the South Loop meet. The intersection is in the forest, under tall trees with rock outcroppings. It’s a peaceful, quiet place to have lunch or a snack. Climb a rock or pick a spot off trail and just watch the bikers and hikers go by.
You’ve now hiked about 4.1 miles. It’s decision time. Do you just take the Talon Trail back or do add the South Talon Loop? I recommend the South Talon Trail. It’s less than a mile and it’s not very hard. However, the South Talon Trail starts with a steep hike up through the forest, then the trail mellows out with just some short ups and downs. It’s easier than the North Talon Trail. There are no nature signs on this trail, no overlooks, you’re just on a nice path through the far south end of the park.
The South Talon Trail ends at an intersection with the main Talon Trail. Once again, there’s a bench, if you want to take a break. This is actually a good spot to pull out your map and look at the options. At this point, you’ve hiked about 5.1 miles. If you hike out the way you came, it’s about 2.55 miles back for a hike of about 7.65 miles. However, take a look at that Sundance Trail. You can take the west side or the east side back. I would suggest the west side because it’s further into the park and the east side trail eventually parallels Highway 115.
You can also take Talon to Turkey Trot, to Sundance, to Zook or create some other combo. Whatever you choose, enjoy your time exploring at Cheyenne Mountain State Park.
Details: The hike on the Talon Trail, out and back, with detours for the two overlooks, plus the North and South Talon loops is about 7.65 miles with about 1,000 feet of elevation gain with all the ups and downs.
Get a park map and more information on the Cheyenne Mountain State Park website. In Colorado Springs, don’t miss the Incline, Saint Mary’s Falls and Red Rock Canyon. Don’t miss any of my trip reports, sign up for an email alert by clicking on subscribe at the top of this page. Get more ideas on this list of 200+ hikes in Colorado.
Entrance fee: $7 (in 2014)
Directions: From I-25, take exit #135 South Academy and turn west. Drive about 1.9 miles to Highway 115 and turn south. Drive 1.9 miles to State Park Road. Turn off at the Visitor’s Center or stay on the road to the entrance station and then the trailhead parking lot.