Pikes Peak forms the backdrop to Colorado Springs, and it is irresistible to both beginning and experienced hikers. Most choose the Barr Trail, which is the 13.3-mile path that is best known for hosting the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon. For a trail truly less traveled, however, go to the other side of the mountain and head uphill to Devil’s Playground.
Start at the trailhead for the popular Crags Trail west of Colorado Springs. The trail follows Fourmile Creek; watch for a marker for Forest Service trail 664A, which crosses the creek and heads uphill. This is a steep climb, made bearable and pleasurable by views of distant mountain ranges, and in the early summer, caches of wildflowers. The trail winds up to a saddle above treeline; after that, it levels out a bit as you walk through the granite foundations that give this area its name. These rock sculptures can be stars during the frequent lightning storms here, and there are signs indicating this hazard.
The high-elevation basin, at about 13,000 feet, can be your destination, making it a 13.6-mile round-trip hike, but you can also continue two more miles to the summit of Pikes Peak by crossing the Pikes Peak Highway and continuing on the left side of the road. It can be somewhat tricky finding the actual trail in this moonscape, so pay attention to cairns that mark your way through the boulder field. This trail is open year-round, but is best in the summer and fall. Those who hike to this open bowl should pay attention to developing storms and the lightning that loves to play in the playground.