Just outside of Divide, Colorado, a few miles to the south is Mueller State Park. Even though this area is dominated by the Pike National Forest and Pike's Peak, Mueller State Park offers some great trails of it's own for easy hiking and trailrunning not far from places like Woodland Park, Manitou Springs, and Colorado Springs.
Since Divide, CO already sits above 9,000 feet in elevation, even if you don't end up running any major mountains in this area, you will still feel tired unless you are acclimated to the higher mountain regions. Fortunately, when my wife and I traveled out to Colorado this past Summer, we had been at elevation in Montana for about a month, though not quite this high. We could even feel a change from 5500+/- feet to 9,000+/- feet.
There are lots of short trails all through Mueller State Park, and they have a great little map you can obtain from where you get your park pass or at the visitor's center. The first day my wife and I parked at the visitor's center and hiked/ran about a 5K loop primarily of trails #7, #25, #11 and #1, (the Outlook Ridge, Geer Pond, Lost Pond, and Revenuer's Ridge trails). Outlook Ridge has several stubs off it that are each about 1/3 of a mile in distance and take you out to several differently named overlooks, like Raven Ridge, (#8), Red Tail (#9), and Lone Eagle (#10). The trails are fairly easy and provide nice views, though we didn't do each and every one of the overlooks. After this stretch, we took one steep, short-cut downhill that meant later on just past Lost Pond on the the Lost Pond Trail, we had a long drag uphill. Much of the trails on this loop that we put together were wider than single-track, but not double-track, perhaps more like the width of a golf cart path, but not paved! Some pics from this hike/run follow.
|A view from the Raven Ridge Overlook in Mueller State Park.|
|Another view from the Raven Ridge Overlook.|
|My wife squinting in the glare as she sits for a moment at the Raven Ridge Overlook.|
|A pic my wife took as I stand on the rocks near the edge of the Raven Ridge Overlook.|
|Some of the paths were very wide and gentle for trailrunning or hiking upon in Mueller State Park.|
|My wife training for her first 5K at elevation in Mueller State Park, CO.|
|I love trail views like this, so cool!|
The day pass for Mueller State Park is good the day you purchase it until noon of the following day. So...cheapskate that I am...I got up early the next morning and drove back to Mueller State Park to get an early run in before our other planned activities of the day. This time, I drove all the way to the back of the park, which took a little time as you have to drive slow and through some campground areas. The far end of the park road puts you out at just under a 1/2 mile run/hike to the top of Grouse Mountain at 9843ft +/-. That was my first goal. From the parking lot, you run maybe just over 1/10 of a mile to a turnoff for trail #16, Grouse Mountain Overlook, and then almost immediately start climbing steeply uphill. It's not technical uphill, just steep for a couple tenths of a mile before a more level trail that rolls nicely until the end at the overlook. Here's a few pics from that part of the run.
|A view from the trail after it levels off and heads toward the end point for the Grouse Mountain Overlook.|
|A beautiful view of the Grouse Mountain Overlook at 9800+ feet in Colorado.|
|Another view from the Grouse Mountain Overlook in Mueller State Park.|
|A withered old tree at the top and end of the Grouse Mountain Overlook trail.|
|Even though it was July, it was still cool enough to need long sleeves at 9800+ feet in Colorado.|
|Part of the Grouse Mountain Overlook Trail.|
After going up and down Grouse Mountain, I headed out for the rest of my run and made a loop by combining trails #34 and #33, Cahill Pond and Buffalo Rock. In places these trails were similar to what I experienced the day before with my wife, in other places, it was double wide grass out on the end of Cahill Pond before it hit Buffalo Rock. It was a beautiful sunny day and it felt like you were out running through a section of high mountain grassland before heading back into the woods to come back around toward Grouse Mountain. A few more pics below.
|An old cabin on the Cahill Pond trail.|
|A beautiful view along the Cahill Pond Trail in Mueller State Park.|
|The grassy trail on the Cahill Pond trail.|
|Coming back toward Grouse Mountain on the Buffalo Rock trail.|
|Heading uphill on the Buffalo Rock trail.|
|Back at the Jeep after a run around Grouse Mountain in Mueller State Park.|
As I drove away from my run near Grouse Mountain at the end of the park road, I kept thinking I wanted to add another mile or two to my run, so as I drove back through the park, I finally decided to pull off and ran the first part of trail #18, Elk Meadow, until trail #22, Peak View Pond, and then ran the length of Peak View Pond and back. The first part of the run on Elk Meadow was wide and downhill, but then Peak View Pond turned off to the left and started heading downhill thru a beautiful wooded area. The pond eventually sat near a low spot on the trail while the last bit climbed uphill more quickly to hit trail #19, Peak View. Some pics from this out and back run are below.
|A beautiful wooded trail on the Peak View Pond trail.|
|Another pic from trail #22 with a bendy tree!!!|
|Peak View Pond.|
|Another pic of the pond from a bit higher up on the trail as it heads toward trail #19.|
|A switchback on the way back up Peak View Pond trail.|
|A goofy pic of me after doing two short runs at over 9100+.|
There are great trails in Mueller State Park and plenty of places to camp as well! Check out the links below to get more acquainted with the park!