Apr 16, 2021 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Cormac McCrimmon | Photo by Bibi Powers
The Paul Intemann Memorial Nature Trail, which connects Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs, offers hikers, bikers, and runners access to numerous backyard adventures.
After two years of living in Colorado Springs, I’ve developed my own list of favorite places to go for a trail run or bike ride without leaving the county.
While Red Rock Canyon Open Space or Section 16 usually deliver a healthy dose of off-campus fresh air, it can be nice to escape the crowds on weekend days or extend your trip for a longer outing.
The beauty of the Intemann Trail is that it seamlessly connects many of El Paso county’s outdoor gems, while still feeling like a semi-hidden treasure.
Round trip distance: 12.8 miles (from Section 16 to the base of the Incline and back)
Round trip elevation gain: Approximately2,500 feet
Finding the trail involves using one of two access points in Colorado Springs.
Section 16 Trailhead: The first way to access the Intemann Trail is using the Section 16 Trailhead. Section 16 is located off of Gold Camp Road, due west of Bear Creek Regional Park. Parking is located along the narrow road at a series of pull offs. Additional parking can be found by continuing on Gold Camp Road, or on the adjacent Bear Creek Road. From the trailhead, hike northwest along the Section 16 Trail, passing junctions for the ridgeline, waterfall and Red Rock Canyon Overlook trails. Bear left to continue on the Intemann Trail. Maps and signage exist along the trail, but if it’s your first time, it will help to familiarize yourself with the route in advance.
Red Rock Canyon Trailhead: From the parking lot at Red Rock Canyon Open Space, make your way south, to the top of the canyon. The Mesa or Greenlee trails offer the most direct path to the Intemann Trail, but other routes also work. From the Mesa Trail, follow signs for the Section 16 Connector Trail, that serves as a short bridge between Red Rocks and the Intemann Trail.
Once on the Intemann Trail, the route is easy to follow. Most junctions are well-marked. Since the Intemann Trail is a part of the larger Ring the Peak loop that surrounds Pikes Peak, some junctions are marked with Ring the Peak signs.
Hiking west, the trail begins as a well-designed single-track path. The trail offers broad vistas of Garden of the Gods and Colorado Springs. With enough imagination, it’s possible to pretend that you’re soaring through the Utah desert, rather than 15 minutes from Colorado College.
After crossing a small stream and Crystal Park Road at mile 2.8, the trail climbs steeply up the flanks of Sheep Mountain. The trail widens as it joins an old road and climbs towards Iron Mountain. A short spur, near the top of the climb, offers a terrific vantage point from Iron Mountain.
From the top of the Iron Mountain, the trail descends a set of steep switchbacks, which may serve as the crux of your return route. After descending three switchbacks, cross Pawnee Avenue and continue northwest.
From here, the path opens and offers colorful views of the Victorian town below. Near mile 5.6, the trail crosses a junction to Red Mountain. For extra credit, consider adding the 1.4-mile round-trip detour.
At its Manitou Springs terminus, The Intemann Trail drops hikers along Ruxton Avenue. Follow the path along Ruxton Creek to the base of the Incline or Barr Trail if you seek to extend your hike, or find a spot along the creek to rest or soak your feet. I recommend dunking your hair in the cold water if you’re hiking on a sunny day.
Like many local spots, the Intemann Trail is often dry in early spring and late fall. The Intemann Trail is very exposed to the sun at many points. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen. During the first week of April, the trail was free of snow and mud, save for a couple of easy to manage, north-facing sections.
Additional information can be found at Hiking Project.
For a truly epic day, consider biking to Section 16 or Red Rocks, running the Intemann Trail to the base of the Incline, climbing the Incline and retracing your steps. Please plan accordingly. Reservations are still required on the Incline. (Not responsible for pain and suffering.)