Hiking Queen's Canyon in Colorado Springs: To the Punchbowls and Beyond

In 1881 the final version of General Palmer’s Glen Eyrie castle was completed in West Colorado Springs. Standing in the mouth of Queen’s Canyon, it was and is a beautiful example of English Tudor architecture. But, despite its advanced design, lovely appearance, and historical interest, it is the canyon in which it stands that is the true marvel. Queen’s Canyon, named the for the General’s beloved and oft-missing wife, is a jewel in the crown of Colorado Springs.

Starting at the parking lot next to the castle, a hiker winds up the narrow, cliff-sided creek over a system of waterpipes and bridges. The creek is rocky and narrow. The cliff walls tower above you on both sides, red and rugged. From time to time the mountain wind blows down the canyon through the aspens and pines, cooling you off.

At a quarter-mile, you arrive at a beautiful waterfall, perhaps one-hundred feet tall. The water floats down off the smooth rocks into a clear mossy pool. Take the path to its right. Follow the rocky pitch around the side of the falls into a notched overlook of the canyon, both ways. Don’t forget to look back! This view is one of the most rewarding in all of Colorado Springs.

Only a quarter mile farther and you’re now at the “Punchbowls,” a system of circular pools with small cascading waterfalls. The water is clear as crystal in these conical bowls of red rock. But be careful! The approaches on either side of the bowls are water-smoothed with time, and slippery. You can either take a slow hand/foothold approach or simply run around the pools, hoping you don’t fall in!

After the Punchbowls, you’ll enjoy the meandering path that continues to follow the trickling creek up the canyon. Keep your eye out for baby trout! And don’t miss the bamboo stand that will surprise you amidst the pines!

After another quarter mile or so, you’ll climb one more pitch and then descend through the scree to another lazy section of the trail. Once you pass a small open meadow at a leftward bend, keep your eye out for the old abandoned mine to your left. It’ll simply be a black square hole in the cliff, heading into the darkness. Hopefully you’ve brought your headlamp! But watch out for the moths guarding the entrance!

After you’ve searched the mine, feel free to continue to the ‘Y’ or simply turn around and enjoy the hike back. Think of me when you’ve hit that first notched overlook again and thank God for General Palmer, but especially the Queen.

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