Are you looking for a wonderful horticulture hike in the heart of Colorado Springs? Palmer Park is one of the cities most prominent landmarks. It is located right in the heart of the city and provides a wonderful variety of hiking and biking opportunities. The area was donated by General Palmer for the enjoyment of all the citizens way back in the early 1900s. While the entire park is a nice place to visit, all of us cactus lovers will really appreciate the upper plateau. This area was originally used as a horse training area and later as a series of picnic areas that overlook the city. About ten years ago, the local Colorado Forestry and Horticulture Society arranged to have the entire top of the park closed to traffic so that people would have an area to go enjoy the native plants. The Ute Crest Yucca Area hike takes you on an easy 2.3 mile loop along the edge of the bluffs with an outstanding view of Pikes Peak and downtown Colorado Springs. For the more adventurous, there is also the Mesa and Templeton Trails that are 4.7 miles in length. It is a nice combination of the vegetation in our arid climate. The entire top of the bluff is covered with yucca that tend to bloom in early July. There are also lots of opuntia and wild roses along the trails. At our elevation of 6500 feet, they tend to bloom from the end of June to mid-July. A forest of ponderosa pine and junipers are intermixed with mountain mahogany and scrub oak throughout the park and provide much needed shade on the hike.
Getting there is easy. If you are on I-25 going south, just get off at the Academy Boulevard exit and head south towards town. Take a right at Maizeland and the park entrance is the next right turn. Follow the main road through the park for about one mile and take the right turn toward the Ute Crest Yucca Area just as you start to go downhill. The parking area is another quarter mile down the road. For those of you with dogs, the trail has an extra bonus of being one of the few parks that allows dogs to be off the leash. I recommend the Yucca trail along the rim. Take a lunch so that you can enjoy the many picnic tables scattered along the trail.