|Elevation Gain||1,358 ft|
|My Time||2 hr 26 min|
|Closest Town||Co. Springs|
Palmer Trail Section 16
The Palmer Red Rock Trail Loop, also referred to as the Section 16 trailhead, is part of the Red Rock Canyon Open Space. There are some amazing views from the inside of the canyon and a really steep hill to get you there.
To get started you have two options. You can either take the trailhead which will take you on a counter-clockwise path or you walk to the gated section of the road to go clockwise. I took the trailhead version so that is how I will describe the hike.
From the trailhead you will start up a series of steps and onto a gently sloping hill. For the first mile you won’t really see many inclines greater than 10% so it isn’t too bad. The trail does get a little confusing during this first mile. There are a few off-shoot trails that you will intersect with and none of them are marked. A trail map or an app like AllTrails would be helpful here.
Once you reach the one mile mark you will start to climb the hill. Almost all of your elevation gain will come from this big hill. You will gain over 800 feet of elevation in about 1.2 miles with grades as high as 40% but consistently in the mid 20% range. There aren’t really any switchbacks until the end so it is basically straight up the hill.
This backside hill is also mostly forest so you get a lot of shade. In the winter it means that the trail could have some snow while the rest of the trail is dry. At the 2 mile mark you will come to the top. The top is more of a ridge than a peak and you will have some great views on the inside of the canyon as you begin your descent.
The Inner Canyon
As you reach the top ridge and start your descent the views of the inner canyon really get to be amazing.
These views will be with you for almost the entire walk down the mountain. The trail will meander down the side of the inside of the canyon for another two and a half miles. This is a fairly easy walk from this point with well defined trails that lead you down.
Around the 5 mile mark you will come to a road that will take you back towards the trailhead. This road was closed when I was there and I am assuming it has seasonal road closures as it was covered in snow. It did make for a very pretty walk through.
The road is about a mile back to the parking area’s depending on which one you decided to park at. Watch out for bike riders as there were plenty while I was there even on the snow packed road.
Elevation and Distance
If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 5.97 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 1,358 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 7,858 feet. I was also moving for a total of 2 hours and 26 minutes.
That back hill was a pretty brutal incline. The good thing is that is the only really hard elevation gain of the hike. Here is the step total from my Fitbit.
The terrain is mostly hard packed dirt/clay throughout the hike. There are a few rocks and roots in the trail but nothing too bad. The trail is very well defined and easy and to follow for the most part. I would suggest a good pair of hiking shoes as the incline can be a little tough.
Parker Trail Section 16 Trailhead is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. There are several parking area’s for this trail. Most of the area’s had 8-10 parking places and there were port-o-potties close to the trailhead. The parking spots are located on Gold Camp Road. Here is a map to the spots closest to the trailhead.
This hike was interesting in that it was almost like a couple of hikes wrapped into one. Half of the trail that was in the sun was like a fall hike with the snow melted and dirt trail. The half that was in the shade still had plenty of snow. Likewise, the outer canyon that was sun drenched looked dry and brittle while the inner canyon looked green and full of life.
The trail is mostly gentle and easy to hike except but also very steep and challenging on the hill. Overall I liked it a lot. I didn’t like the hill as that was a crazy workout but it was nice to be able to take my time and really enjoy the inner canyon. If you are on a lower level you may want to try to start on the road and do the trail clockwise and see how far you are comfortable with. Nice hike!
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