High and dry in Rampart Reservoir

Go for a ride in the shadow of Pikes Peak, near Colorado Springs
Ted Alan Stedman

Late spring can be sketchy for Colorado fitniks looking for snowless, high-country, single-track rides (or hikes). If the law of averages prevails, though, the trail around Rampart Reservoir (at 9,000 feet in elevation) near Woodland Park can satiate preseason cravings with some of the best high and dry trails around. Near the base of Rampart Range, the groomed trails of Garden of the Gods Park provide more postwinter fun. Bonus: In May, you'll encounter no crowds ― a real boon along crowded Front Range trails.

GETTING THERE

To get to Rampart Reservoir from downtown Colorado Springs, take U.S. 24 to Woodland Park, turn right on Baldwin St., and go 3 miles to Loy Gulch Rd. Turn right, continue 1½ miles to Rampart Range Rd., turn right and follow signs to Rainbow Gulch Trailhead. To reach Old Colorado City, turn north on 21st and 26th Streets from U.S. 24.

GO

Rampart Reservoir Trail #700 Hike or bike the 12-mile loop, which circles the 500-acre Rampart Reservoir. The trail is naturally paved with pebbly granite and forest duff that drain moisture and muck. Bikers should ride the loop clockwise to avoid blind encounters with other trail users. INFO: Pike National Forest, 719/636-1602.

Garden of the Gods Park Fifteen miles of maintained trails explore weirdly sculpted natural red-rock formations. First-timers can opt for free 30-minute, naturalist-led walks (daily at 10 and 2). Or head out independently on the Ridge, Siamese Twins, or Scotsman/Buckskin Charlie Trails for up to 3-mile loops that reveal glimpses of Pikes Peak. INFO: Free parking; 719/634-6666.

Historic Old Colorado City The four-block historic district's boutiques and restaurants make it a great hangout after a day of exertion. INFO: W. Colorado Ave. from S. 24th to S. 28th Streets; 719/577-4112.

FOR BIKE RENTALS

Team Telecycle is the best (and last) bike shop before the reservoir. Owner Paul Magnuson dispenses 20-plus years of local riding wisdom for free. INFO: 615 S. Baldwin St., Woodland Park; 719/687-6165.

EAT

Spice of Life, an Ingredients Emporium On the way to Rampart Reservoir, perk up here with coffee, or stop in for a box lunch to go. INFO: $; 727 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs; 719/685-5284.

Il Vicino In the heart of the downtown high-rise district; sit outside and order a wood-fired pizza with a local microbrew. INFO: $; 11 S. Tejon St.; 719/475-9224.

HAPPENING NEARBY

No footwork is required for a local ride that'll take your breath away. The Pikes Peak Cog Railway is the country's highest, climbing 9 miles toward the 14,110-foot summit. Round-trip rides are about three hours long, and views are dazzling. INFO: $30, reservations required; 719/685-5401.