Bridges and Waterfalls, and Mountains, Oh My!
Seven Bridges Trail – North Cheyenne Cañon Park
text and photography by Ryan Stikeleather
Warmer weather, longer days, traffic jams...for a lot of people, Memorial Day weekend signals the triumphant return of summer. In Colorado, however, Mother Nature doesn't always bend to our wishes. This year, the end of May brought chilly weather, rain and overcast skies...so much for the backyard barbecue. However, this weather is perfect for a hike as the cooler temperatures make me feel like I could hike all-day. A hot day always drains my energy. Instead of being baked under a cloudless sky, I had dense gray clouds and a light breeze.
Just The Facts
- Location: North Cheyenne Cañon Park, southwest side of Colorado Springs
- Trail: Seven Bridges Trail (#622)
- Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
- Elevation Gain: 1680 ft.
- Distance: 2.25 mi. (4.5 mi. round trip)
- Trail Use: Hiking, Running, Mountain Biking
- Trail Condition: Well maintained, good luck finding a marker
- Bring Your Dog: Yes! But must be on a leash at all times
- Access: Open Year Round
- North Cheyenne Cañon map
You Say Canyon, I say Cañon
Cañon (Spanish for canyon) is used a lot in Colorado. The state has a rich Hispanic history and the influences are everywhere. If you see Cañon, or even Canon, it's the same as Canyon. Easy, right? The itch to hike a trail has been building all week, now that the long weekend is here, North Cheyenne Cañon Park is a great place to get into the mountains. The park is located near the Broadmoor (on the southwest side of Colorado Springs), tucked away in the rocky foothills. The twisty N. Cheyenne Canyon Road follows along the edges of North Cheyenne Creek past numerous pullouts, trailheads and picnic areas before connecting with Gold Camp Road. The busy canyon brings lots of summertime visitors to the popular Helen Hunt Falls, dedicated cyclist pedaling up the steep canyon road and hikers exploring the trails and mountain tops...be prepared to deal with foot and wheeled traffic of all kinds.
After an overnight rain, the brimming creek shows off many little waterfalls. A fun way to see them is along Seven Bridges trail. Just to be clear, most of these waterfalls are pretty tiny, dropping only one or two feet. As it turns out, Seven Bridges crosses the creek seven times and delivers oodles of waterfalls in a short hike. I started at the Gold Camp Road parking lot and ambled along Upper Gold Camp road, which is an old railroad bed that carried the Short Line from Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek. In the formative years of Colorado Springs, trains chugged through the mountains transporting people and delivering supplies to the mining town of Cripple Creek and carried raw materials back down the mountain. Over one hundred years later—free from the railroad ties and metal tracks—Upper Gold Camp road is used for hiking, mountain biking, running and horseback riding. Even though it is wide enough for cars, no motor vehicles are permitted on the path.
X Marks the Spot
I hiked along for just under a mile until I crossed over North Cheyenne Creek. Just before the road bends, look for the #622 trail marker (on the right), this is the start of Seven Bridges. Seven Bridges is not the best marked trail I have ever been on. I saw two markers for #622 (at the start and after bridge #7) and there are no markers that say Seven Bridges, at least none that I could find. the hike starts under a canopy of thick trees, reaching the first and second bridges just a few yards from the trailhead. With all the rainfall, the babbling creek, has transformed into a mini river, with waterfalls splashing and washing against rocks and fallen trees. This is only a taste of what to expect along the trail as it follows the creek. Slow down and relax. I took my time and enjoyed all the little pools and cascades as I made my way deeper into the canyon. Soon, wildflowers will be blooming out of the winter browns and grays, carpeting the banks and rocky slopes with yellow and purple pastels. The temptation to stop and take pictures is around every bend.
Bridge #3 is the only one that is a little worse for wear. I'm not sure if from heavy snow or from regular use, but the bridge has collapsed. It still crosses the creek, it just isn't suspended like it used to be; more like laying over the rocks. I made it across without any issue, but it could become a hazard if it isn't repaired soon. I didn't have to wait long before reaching bridges #4 and #5, each crossing another new waterfall. After the quick succession between #4 and #5 it takes a little longer to get to #6. Just before you reach bridge #7, a colossal boulder guards the trail, the top of the mammoth rock towers over your head and shadows the trail. Even after all the rain, the trail is dry under the cover of this rock. Bridge #7 is a common endpoint and an enjoyable place to sit and have lunch. You can turn back here or continue on for more of a challenge. The trail becomes more difficult (after bridge #7) as I climbed up and out of the canyon. The hillside changes to lose scree which can suck away your momentum, each of my steps shifting and sinking into the loose material, like sand on a dry beach. This section isn't long, but it could take it out of you. But, I didn't give up, the best views of Colorado Springs below are from the top of this climb. Once at the top, I took a break to catch my breath, and soak up the city views down through the v-shaped canyon.
After the mountain top view, the trail comes to a junction for Gold Camp Road, Deer Park and Rosemont. I wasn't ready to quit and decided to hike along trail #622A about another half a mile. The environment starts to change from the rocky and narrow foothills to grassy meadows and Aspen groves of the montane. In the fall, this grove will be filled with a soft chorus from the Quaking Aspen and their vibrant, glowing yellow leaves. With the gray skies turning dark (and the growing chance of rain) I decided to head back. Even though the cool weather is fine and dandy, I didn't really want to be wet.
For an out-and-back half-day hike, Seven Bridges offers more than just a few pretty waterfalls. It's easy to get to, fun for the whole family and a challenging enough trail to keep your interest.