Palmer Park packs a spider's web of trails into a few square miles of rugged sandstone bluffs in the heart of Colorado Springs. You can choose a route of any level of difficulty, elevation gain, and length within the park, but the Yucca Flats area specifically provides all of these options with safe parking, great views, and easier navigability.

The Basics:

It might be easy to overlook Palmer Park if you're planning an adventure outing in Colorado Springs, but definitely don't discount this inner-city oasis! It took me many years to memorize Palmer Park's confusing trail system (the trail maps don't help), but whether this will be your first or fiftieth run here, I think that the Yucca Flats area is the best place to start for many reasons. 

Located predominantly on top of the northern-most bluff, this area has commanding views of the city and Pikes Peak around every corner. Also, it has a great mix of trails: wide, flat paths for off-leash dog walkers, flowy singletrack, and intense, rocky hiking trails. Third, the parking lot is one of the largest and safest in the park. Finally, I think Yucca Flats is the easiest area for someone new to the park to navigate. So let's get started!

The most direct way to drive to the Yucca Flats parking lot is to enter Palmer Park from the West on Paseo Rd. After you climb up the road, take a sharp left turn onto a dirt road with signs for Lazy Land and Ute Crest. Stay straight on this dirt road toward Ute Crest/Yucca Area until it dead-ends into the circle parking area. Palmer Park has a bad reputation for car break-ins and illegal activities in the parking areas, but this lot is predominantly used by dog walkers. There are always people coming and going, which discourages the pot smokers or thieves from parking here.

The Run:

Because of the topography of this sandstone bluff, the easiest trails are located on the flat top in the middle (Mesa Trail). These trails are wide and often have dozens of dogs and walkers on them. As you branch outward toward the side of the bluff, the trails become narrower and have more ups-and-downs (Yucca Trail). On the extreme edge of the bluff, the difficult and rocky 3.5 mile Templeton hiking trail circles the area. 

From the parking lot, my recommended trail (pictured above) begins on the southwest corner of the lot and heads toward Pikes Peak. This smaller, singletrack trail is technically unnamed, but it runs parallel, in-between Mesa and Templeton trails. You can follow this singletrack (or Templeton, or Mesa) all the way to the far overlook (1st picture above). From the overlook, you can choose to loop back to the parking lot on the North side of the bluff (Mesa/Yucca trails), or return the way you came. Depending on which trails you take, the overall distance to the overlook and back is around 2-4 miles. 

The Area:

Of course, feel free to incorporate the vast network of other trails in the park into your run. The Grandview and Kinnickinnick trails also make a good loop. The entire trail system is too difficult to put into words, so just go out and run different variations each time until it sticks! My best advice would be to run with a local who can show you the best loops and secret trails. I still find new trails here after 20+ years!

There are abundant picnic tables and benches scattered throughout Yucca Flats and the rest of the park -  perfect for a mid-run snack stop, or for a family hiking picnic adventure. There is a large playground near Maizeland and Academy, as well as a fenced-in dog park.

Pack List

Necessary:

  • Running shoes (trail tread recommended)
  • Water

Recommended:

  • An adventurous, exploratory attitude
  • Sunscreen (very little shade on top of the bluff)
  • Camera
  • Picnic stuff
  • Mountain bike - it's just more fun ;)
Show More
RT Distance 3 Miles
Activities Running, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Trail Type Loop
Features
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Groups
Picnic Area
Romantic
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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