It’s early May in Colorado. While the rest of the country assumes that blooming daffodils and lilacs indicate summer is almost here, you never know what gifts the weather will bring in the Spring to this 6,000 ft elevation. One day, it can be 60 degrees. The next, the wind blows in a wet snow storm and drops the temperature 30 degrees. So when I reserved a spot at Cheyenne Mountain State Park in January for dates in May, I was hopeful that we would enjoy Spring weather. I got my wish.
Cheyenne Mountain State Park is located in the city of Colorado Springs, next to Ft. Carson Army Base and NORAD. While these seem like odd neighbors for a sprawling state park, the location couldn’t be better for camping and exploring many of the famous area attractions. Even if you want to escape for a weekend, this state park is the place to “rough it” with full hook-ups at each site, ample hiking and biking trails, a friendly visitors center, and a camper services center that sells everything you need to make an excellent s’more. This newer state park opened in 2006 and has clean, well-lit restrooms, showers, a laundry facility, and playgrounds. Previously a cattle ranch, the property has been gently converted to feature both expansive prairies where one can see prairie dogs popping their heads from their holes, to the ponderosa pine, scrub oak, and wildflowers that dot the more mountainous landscape of Colorado. This park is truly a gem.
We reserved campsite 12, a back-in location at the end of a cul-de-sac of campsites. The site has water, electric and sewer hook-ups, making it ideal for our first post-winter camping adventure. We arrived a little before 1 p.m. and quickly backed into the mostly level site. This particular location sits next to a trailhead nestled in scrub oak. The Cheyenne Mountain view from the campfire ring and table is one that most sites at this campground enjoy. Other sites also have views of Colorado Springs, which are fantastic at night. These sites are much more open with fewer trees. Since we prefer more privacy, site 12 was perfect for us. One of the quirks about camping at Cheyenne Mountain is the morning wake-up call provided by Ft. Carson at 6 a.m. They have the usual bugle call, followed by music, and it echoes across the entire park. This never has been an issue for us, even when tent camping in the summer. We have successfully slept through the call, but it is important to mention for light sleepers.
While we have visited Cheyenne Mountain numerous times, we enjoyed a relaxing 3-mile hike on Zook Loop and Medicine Wheel and only gained 300 feet in elevation. One of our favorite hikes here is Blackmer Loop, though we didn’t do it this trip. We have hiked most of the trails at Cheyenne Mountain and these trails are a treat. The trails are well-marked and include interesting facts about the location. Mountain bikes are welcome, but didn’t seem overly prevalent. On our hike, we saw the early mountain flowers blooming. The trees were beginning to weaken their hold on the buds in the scrub oaks. We enjoyed the abundant deer, bunnies, prairie dogs and lizards. This is bear country, so the park is complete with bear boxes for trash and boxes for tent campers to store food. Luckily, we didn’t see any of these creatures out yet.
The warmth of the day was easily dispelled by my son’s need to walk to camper services and get ice cream. They sell several different ice cream bars and their freezer had just been stocked when we arrived. While the ice cream is pricey, the joy it brought on the warm afternoon was worth it. We meandered back to our campsite, taking the Acorn Trail around the back of our “culdesac” and ending next to our camper.
One of the delights of this camping trip was cooking on our new BBQ. I thought this might be an excessive purchase. After all, we have a 3 burner stove and oven in the camper and most places we camp have a fire ring. We should be covered for all types of cooking. But after using our BBQ, it seems that this was a great investment. Not only does this grill have a regular grill grate, but it can be switched for a griddle or a stove-style gas burner. Two trays pull out from under the grill and provide a spot for tongs, plates, and grilling sauces.
After a quiet, relaxing weekend, we remembered why we liked camping so much and we were ready for our next adventure.