Rainbow Gulch

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About

Summary

All the best parts of the Pike National Forest can be found on the Rainbow Gulch Trail, which is decorated with tangles of wild columbine and iris in the summer and the sparkle of aspen leaves golden in the fall. This wide path is perfect for hiking and is also popular for mountain biking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Written by

Deb Acord

Distance

5.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

15.4 miles

Difficulty

2 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

1 hours

1-2 hours

Seasonality

All Seasons

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Dogs are allowed off-leash if they are under voice command.

Fees Permits

No

If you drive to the reservoir, you’ll be charged a $6 day use fee.

Land Website

Rainbow Gulch

Review

Intro

The Rampart Reservoir Recreation Area is a vast section of the Pike National Forest to the northwest of Colorado Springs.  The area features two popular campgrounds; a deep, cold reservoir covering 400 acres, and miles of trails used by hikers, mountain bikers and runners in the summer, and cross-country skiers and snowshoers in the winter. The most popular trail, Rainbow Gulch, provides the perfect entry point for the reservoir. 

What Makes It Great

All the best parts of the Pike National Forest can be found on the Rainbow Gulch Trail, which is decorated with tangles of wild columbine and iris in the summer and the sparkle of aspen leaves golden in the fall. This wide path is perfect for hiking and is also popular for mountain biking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Rainbow Gulch leads to Rampart Reservoir, a cold, deep body of water that is part of the Colorado Springs watershed. Start at the trailhead just off Rampart Range Road and plunge into the mixed pine and aspen forest. The trail meanders downhill 1.4 miles to the water’s edge. As you near the reservoir, you’ll walk alongside a creek that feeds into the lake. 

Part of the beauty of Rampart is the drive here. If you enter from the Woodland Park side, you’ll find yourself surrounded by high-altitude pastures, with the most stunning views of Pikes Peak you will find. Stop at a pull-out and gaze at the massif  - its cliffs, valleys, forested ridges and even the Pikes Peak Highway are visible from this angle. Once you reach the reservoir, plan on finding a sunny slope for lunch. The reservoir water glitters in the summer months, and in the winter, ice booms and cracks like a symphony.

Who is Going to Love It

This is a popular spot for anglers who are drawn by rainbow, brown and lake trout that are stocked here. This trail ends at the lake, where it intersects with another popular area trail – the Rampart Reservoir Loop, a 12-mile route around the water that is a classic mountain bike challenge. Rainbow Gulch is a perfect first hike for children, who love the water payoff at the end. 

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

To get to Rainbow Gulch Trail from I-25 in Colorado Springs, take U.S. Highway 24 west to Woodland Park. Turn right on Baldwin Street and drive out of town (road becomes Rampart Range Road). When you reach a Y, turn right; when the pavement ends, turn right again and watch for trailhead parking on your left.

The recreation area is open year round. The reservoir is open from mid-May through mid-October, depending on weather. Rainbow Gulch is easy to reach in the winter; the road is plowed regularly. If you enter the area from that trailhead, there’s no entrance fee.  If you drive to the reservoir, you’ll be charged a $6 day use fee.

Camping is available in the summer at Thunder Ridge and Meadow Ridge campgrounds. 

Location

Castlewood Canyon State Park

2989 S State Highway 83
Franktown, CO, 80116
38.978056, -105.00929

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