Sometimes, bigger isn’t better. Manitou Lake Recreation is a perfect example of that. The reservoir that is the centerpiece of this popular fishing and picnicking area is small – five acres – but it’s perfect for a little serene paddling. The reservoir, fed by Trout Creek, is closed to motorized boats. Located at 7,700 feet in elevation, this recreation area is surrounded by ponderosa forests that are home to mule deer, elk, and mountain lions. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout, and paddlers and anglers on the shore share the view of Pikes Peak standing majestically in the background.
What Makes It Great
This small lake is nestled into a hollow, so there’s very little wind. Motorized boats aren’t allowed, so this is a perfect place for flat-water paddling. It’s relatively shallow with a shoreline that makes for an easy put-in. This area is known among bird-watchers – expect to see redwing blackbirds among the cattails in the marshy portion of the lake, and watch for raptors – red-tail hawks and occasional bald eagles - catching the air currents overhead. Bears and mountain lions like to visit this small lake – watch for footprints on the sandy shore.
An asphalt bike trail, the Centennial Trail, connects this recreation area to campgrounds along Colorado Highway 67, and can take cyclists or hikers all the way to the town of Woodland Park. Manitou Lake is close enough to other flat-water areas that paddlers could make an epic day with stops at Rampart Reservoir – also in the Pike National Forest - or Eleven Mile Reservoir, the centerpiece of the Eleven Mile State Park in the South Park area.
Who is Going to Love It
Manitou Lake is a part of the Pike National Forest. The forest covers more than 1.1 million acres in southeastern Colorado, and is the closest national forest to the Colorado Springs metropolitan area. It’s a well-utilized area open to hiking, mountain biking, camping, fishing, four-wheeling, horseback riding, picnicking and mountain climbing. The national forest includes the 73,000-acre Mount Evans Wilderness Area (which holds Mount Bierstadt and Mount Evans), Lost Creek Wilderness Area, and Windy Ridge Bristlecone Pine Scenic Area near Alma. Manitou Park, which includes Manitou Lake, has been a popular tourist area since the 1800s, attracting visitors with its dense ponderosa forests and grassy meadows.
Campers, mountain bikers, hikers and anglers already love this place. It has a group picnic shelter, so it’s often filled with picnickers as well.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Colorado Springs, take U.S. Highway 24 west to Woodland Park. Turn right (north) on Colorado Highway 67 and drive seven miles to the entrance for Manitou Lake (on the right side of the highway, one mile north of Colorado Campground).
Camping is available at campgrounds along Colorado Highway 67 – Colorado, Painted Rocks, South Meadows - and near Rampart Reservoir – Meadow Ridge and Thunder Ridge.