The New Santa Fe Trail is part of the American Discovery Trail, a route that reaches coast to coast. The 6,800-mile ADT connects several north-south trails throughout the country, along with local and regional trails. It covers 15 states, and is the only coast-to-coast non-motorized recreation trail. In Colorado, there are more than 800 miles of ADT trail, more than any other state in the country. The northern and southern routes of the ADT converge in Denver.
What Makes It Great
The New Santa Fe Trail (not to be confused with the Santa Fe Trail, the historic route used by settlers in the 19th century), is a part of the southern route, a 14-mile multi-use path that starts at Woodmen Road on the north end of Colorado Springs and stretches northward, through the town of Monument to another small town, Palmer Lake.
There are several trailheads along the way, so you can tailor your trip according to your desired mileage. If you start at the Palmer Lake trailhead, you’ll head gradually downhill for about 3.5 miles to the next town, Monument. You’ll be parallel to the railroad tracks, and will be able to see Elephant Rock in the distance. After Monument, the trail is wide, straight and open. This section can be windy, and if weather moves in, there is no shelter.
From the Baptist Road trailhead, the trail becomes more hilly, with some gradual climbs between there and Northgate Road. At Northgate, the trail enters the Air Force Academy and you begin an eight-mile stretch with no other obvious access points until you reach Woodmen Road. On Academy grounds (which sprawl over 18,500 acres), stay on the trail.
Who is Going to Love It
This trail is perfect for runners, bicyclists and walkers. It has a crushed rock surface and is fairly wide, making it perfect for a marathon that takes place here each fall.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From I-25 in Colorado Springs, there are several trailheads, all of which include parking areas, restrooms, picnic tables and interpretive displays: at Palmer Lake, on Third Street in the town of Monument, and at Baptist Road just west of I-25. Other trail access points can be found at Highway 105 in Monument and at Northgate Road and Ice Lake at the Air Force Academy.
If you choose the academy trailhead, follow these rules: To enter, you’ll need a valid photo I.D. and your car may be searched. Bicyclists must wear helmets and reflective outerwear; group riders on the roads must stay in single file and ride with traffic. Security requirements may vary – for information, call the Visitor Center at (719) 333-2025.
Trails on the academy are open from 5 a.m. to sundown every day. A trail map is available at the visitor center. Pets aren’t allowed, and if you are planning on a side trip to the Visitor Center or the Cadet Chapel, you can’t have backpacks.