Florissant Fossil Bed Trails

Florissant Fossil Bed Trails

Hiking Trails – Florissant Fossil Bed Trails
National Park Service 

Access:fossil
From Colorado Springs, take Hwy 24, through Woodland Park, and Divide to Florissant. Turn south on Teller County 1. Go for 2 1/5 miles. You will pass by the Hornsbeck Homestead on your right. The Visitors Center and Trail Head Parking is on the right down the dirt road.

From Cripple Creek, take Teller County Road 1 north for approximately 15 miles. The entrance to the park is to your left.

Admission to the park is $2.00 per adult, $4.00 for families. Children 16 and under are free. Seniors 62 and older are free with a Golden Age pass which is available for a one-time fee of $10.00. The Golden Age pass is good for admission to all national parks. The park closes at 4:30 in the spring and 6:30 in the summer, so park outside the gate if you expect to stay out on the trail a little later than that.

Attractions and Considerations:
A variety of foot and cross-country ski trails are available. Motorized vehicles are prohibited.

Narrative:
A variety of terrain may be experienced along the trails including unique features such as giant petrified redwood stumps and outcroppings of fossil bearing shales, ruins of various settlements, and vistas of nearby peaks.

Walk Through Time
Length: 0.5 Mile
Difficulty: Easy greencir
A self-guided trail provides a scenic introduction to Florissant Fossil beds. The path features giant petrified redwood stumps and outcrops of fossil-bearing shale.

There are pamphlets at the trail head for you to borrow, return them if you are done. If you should decide to keep it, it costs $0.50. The visitors center has a copy of the descriptions available in Braille.

Petrified Forest Loop
Length: 1.0 Mile
Difficulty: Easy
A self-guided trail through the bed of ancient Lake Florissant exposes an unusual natural history. The colorful “Big Stump”, the remains of a 38 feet in diameter, dominates a forest of silica giants along the path.

There are pamphlets at the trail head for you to borrow, return them if you are done. If you should decide to keep it, it costs $0.50. The visitors center has a copy of the descriptions available in Braille.

Sawmill Trail
Length: 2.1 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate
The variety of terrain provides a good example of Colorado’s mountain life zone (8,000-9,500 ft.). Forests of aspen, pine, spruce, and fir; meadows frequented by elk; ridge top views of Pike’s Peak; and shaded streams makes this a favorite.

From the front of the Visitor’s Center, head south (to your left). The trail heads up a gentle slope in an open meadow. After a half mile or so there is an interesting ruin on the left of an old sawmill. I have seen elk droppings in this area, but no animals except for prairie dogs and squirrels. The trail then gets a little steep and climbs a hill. There is a really nice view towards the east (your left) of Pike’s Peak (14,110ft) with Raspberry Mountain (10,605ft) and The Crags (10,820ft) in front. On the top of the hill, there is a turn to the left to go on Hans Loop (which I recommend if you have the time).

Sawmill Trail goes straight down hill from there and meets with Hans Loop again. Here, the trail meanders through a quiet aspen grove with a little creek running in it. Recently (4/97), it was snow covered and had tracks on it. It looked like a deer was looking for water. The trail goes over a little wooden bridge and continues through a coniferous forest back to the Visitors Center. To the north you can see a prominent cone shaped Crystal Peak (9,630ft).

Hans Loop
Length: 1.2 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate bluesqar
An extension of the Sawmill Trail. Provides vistas of 14,110 ft. Pikes Peak. It passes remnants of a rustic homestead and a wetland habitat rich in plant and animal signs.

On the top of the hill (See Sawmill Trail), make a left turn instead of going straight. The trail follows the ridge towards the south and climbs a little. The only distraction from the serene nature is the Homestake Delivery Aqueduct, a pipeline that delivers water to Colorado Springs from the Collegiates. There is a steep decent into a wide meadow. This meadow could be host to deer and elk, although I did not see any droppings in the area. In the summer this area is full of a large variety of wildflowers. It is here where there is a ruin of an old mining camp. Be careful, much of the effects of the early settlers, like old bottles of booze, barbed wire, and tin cans are strewn about and still laying on the ground. In the old mining shack, there is still an old coathanger hanging from the wall. Please leave these things there for others to see, take only photographs with you. There are some interesting rock formations on the east side of the trail as it catches the Sawmill Trail again. Continue down the Valley, there are some interesting sights up ahead.

Cave Trail
Length: 2 Miles one way
Difficulty: Easy greencir
Meandering past ponds and wetlands, this sunny trail meets the Monument’s western boundary at a distictive rock formation – “The Caves”. Water birds and animal signs are common.

Hornsbeck Wildlife Loop
Length: 4 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Following meadows, the trail to the historic Hornsbeck Homestead crosses land once occupied by Lake Florissant. The return route overlooks the ancient lakebed and the mountain ranges beyond. Signs of elk, deer, coyote, and other wildlife are common along the scenic loop.

Shootin’ Star Trail
Length: 2 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate bluesqar
This trail follows an old logging road and leaves the meadows to travel through the Ponderosa Pine Forest. It was named after the nearby Shootin’ Star Ranch. Look for signs of former agricultural activity.

Recommended season:
Spring x
Summer xx
Fall x
Winter x

Maps: Pike National Forest H-6
Quad Maps: Lake George
Beginning Elevation: Visitor’s Center 8,400 ft.

Special Considerations:
This is a good trail for family hikes. Bring sun protection since many of the trails have a lot of sun exposure. Two trails, Walkthrough Time and the Petrified Forest are wheelchair accessible with assistance. Both of these trails are on packed gravel. The visitors center has Braille maps available. For the hearing impaired, there are many self guided tours and brochures.

Weather:
Temperatures are about 10 degrees cooler than Colorado Springs. Afternoon thunderstorms are common throughout the summer.

Camping:
Camping is prohibited.

Drinking Water:
Drinking water is available by the visitors center. Hikers are advised to carry an adequate supply. Water from streams should be treated before use.