March 4, 2022 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Cormac McCrimmon
Colorado College and the United States Air Force Academy often feel a world apart. First-years don’t belt out push-ups at Tiger hockey games; the drones we learn to fly are weapons of a liberal arts education, and entitlement sometimes seems to have upended rules. Only 20 minutes away, however, a trip to The Academy offers a healthy reminder of the reality outside our bubble. As it so happens, The Academy also boasts a network of high-quality trails, including the Falcon Trail.
The Falcon Trail is a 13.1-mile loop with 1,300 feet of climbing. The trail takes cyclists, hikers and runners on an excellent tour through the grounds of The Academy. A parking lot near the football stadium offers an easy start and end point to the loop. The trail begins climbing through dense trees. At times, the forest opens to reveal views of Eagle Peak and the expansive campus.
Like other trails in the region, the surface is made up of classic Pikes Peak gravel. Although it can be hiked or ridden year-round, the trees and northerly aspects on the Falcon Trail tend to hold snow longer than other areas. Since the trail is best ridden as a fast cross-country ride, you may be best off waiting until most snow is melted.
Despite crossing several roads, and even an on-base gas station, the Falcon loop has a remote feel to it. Riding my bike on a Saturday, I only passed two hikers and one cadet. For the first 6.5 miles, the trail climbs gradually, with short, flowy downhill sections. Riding clockwise, the second half of the trail is nearly all downhill. The trail passes by the cadet area, then climbs up to a ridge with a fun descent. Ride past the golf course and back to the start. Although the trail is non-technical, it offers a fun, longer ride with no repeat trails.
Need to know:
All visitors to the Air Force Academy must show a valid ID at the entry gate. Non-Department of Defense (DOD) visitors must enter and leave from the North Gate checkpoint. Visitors’ hours are limited. Non-DOD personnel may not enter after 5 p.m. Alcohol, marijuana or explosives are not permitted on campus. If going in the fall, access may be restricted on football game days. Bring water and snacks.
The route is well marked with white trail signs. When crossing roads, the trail is usually easily located on the other side. Mountain Bike Project provides additional information and an offline map for navigation.
By car: Travel north along Interstate 25 until the North Gate exit. Turn left on North Gate Boulevard, passing through the checkpoint. Turn left on Stadium Boulevard until reaching Academy Boulevard. Turn right on Academy and park in lot 5 B to the right of the stadium.
Note: Since the trail is a loop, there are other places you can park. The lot near the stadium is close to the entrance and the location to which Mountain Bike Project will route you.
By bike: For a much longer ride, or if you don’t have a car, consider riding to the trailhead. The Santa Fe Regional trail passes the North Gate entrance. Ride the Tiger Trail (Pikes Peak Greenway Trail) to connect with the Santa Fe Regional Trail.
Biking adds approximately 16 miles each way, making for a 45-mile outing.