City of Colorado Springs / Environmental Sustainability / Bicycle Tours / Bike Tree Tour

Colorado Springs Bicycle Tree Tour

People on a guided tree tour
More than 60 people celebrated World Environment Day with a guided version of this tree tour.

Suitable for beginner bicyclist and botanists alike. Plan 2 to 3 hours to ride the full route.


Start at the Monument Valley Park parking lot on Glen Avenue.


1.       Visit the symmetrical and well-formed Golden Rain Tree (Koelrueteria paniculata) near the center of the Horticultural Art Society Heritage Garden. The Golden Rain Tree is native to China & Korea and prefers hot, dry river valleys. It flowers yellow blossoms in the mid- to late summer and has lantern-like seed pods. Leaves turn yellow in fall. The Golden Rain Tree grows to 40 feet tall and is a City Forestry-approved street tree. The Horticultural Arts Society Garden is maintained by some of Colorado Springs’ most dedicated volunteers. Monument Valley Park was established in 1907 as a gift to the citizens from Colorado Springs founder William Jackson Palmer.  


Continue north on Glen Avenue as the road turn sharply to right then left.


2.       Four Hawthorn (Crataegus) ornamental trees grow along the east side of Glen Avenue in Monument Valley Park. These trees have brilliant red to orange fall color and fragrant whitish pink flowers. The reddish ½" to 1" fruit is edible, apple-like and eaten by many birds and animals. The fruit of hawthorn, called haws, are edible, but commonly made into jelly, jam, syrup or wine rather than eaten fresh. Botanically they are pomes, but look similar to berries. A haw is small similar in size and shape to a small olive or grape, and red when ripe. The gray-red peeling bark is scaly and branches and can be covered in 1-3" thorns (hence the name), which adds some protection to birds who choose to nest in these trees. Hawthorns grow 15 to 25 feet tall. Hawthorns are low water-use trees that improve air quality. Thorn less varieties are City Forestry-approved street tree. Many trees provide the most basic of benefits - food.


Continue just a few feet further until past the Hawthorn trees.


3.       The giant American elm (Ulmus Americana) to the east of Glen Avenue is a "notable" tree at 49" in diameter with a beautiful umbrella canopy. American elms generally grow to 70-100 feet tall and prefer moist soils and full sun. They have a non-descript, tiny reddish brown flower the leaves turns yellow in the fall. This species was nearly eliminated for a time as a result of Dutch elm disease, this tree survived. This is not a City Forestry-approved street tree.  This tree grows south of circa 1907 Van Briggle Pottery building, which operated as a pottery factory producing thousands of renowned ceramic art and architectural pieces (notice the tiles on the building exterior). 


Leave Monument Valley Park by turning right at Uintah and using the sidewalk to cross Monument Creek. Immediately take the Pikes Peak Greenway Trail underpass to cross under Uintah Street. Once on the north side of Uintah and back at trail grade, take the neighborhood trail access to the right that connects with Culebra Avenue. Continue for three blocks until you reach a triangle median at Carmillo Street. You are entering the Old North End neighborhood. Notice how the street trees here create a pleasant ambiance. This neighborhood has made efforts to promote the use of street trees which can have a positive effect on property values.


4.       Two strong-wooded and drought tolerant Bur Oaks (Quercus macrocarpa) are located on the north and east corners of the Culebra Avenue triangle median. These trees were planted in the early 80s. The bur oak tree is tolerant of a variety of moisture and soil conditions and adapts well to urban settings. It is a very long-lived tree that grows 50 to 80 feet tall with an 80-foot branch spread. Its fringed, edible acorns are large and enjoyed as food by wildlife and have heavy crops every 3 to 5 years. Bur oaks are native to North America. Males have non-descript yellow flowers and leaves turn yellow-brown in fall. The bur oak is a low water-use tree, but can negatively impact air quality and is slow to sequester carbon. This is a City Forestry-approved street tree. Plant a bur oak in full sun in zones 3 to 8. Trees save energy. Trees are natural air conditioners - they lower air temperature by evaporating water in their leaves. Trees can also reduce home heating and cooling costs. Large, broad-leafed shade trees, such as the bur oak, are most effective shading the east and west windows from summer sun while keeping south-facing windows open to the winter sun reduces the need to heat in winter.  


Travel two blocks east on Carmillo and then turn left onto Wood Avenue. Travel 4.5 blocks on Wood Avenue until you reach the northern portion of Monument Valley Park.


5.       Four Kentucky coffeetrees (Gymnocladus dioicus) grow along Wood Avenue in Monument Valley Park (the 2000 block). The Kentucky coffeetree tolerates most conditions, drought and pollution. Picturesque in summer and winter, it grows for 50 to 75 years to 40 to 60 feet tall with a 45-foot spread of coarse ascending branches that often form a narrow crown. Oval leaflets emerge late in spring, changing from pinkish-tinged to a dark, almost blue-green. The leaves are among the first to turn yellow in the fall. It blooms with small, fragrant white flowers in late spring or early summer. This is a City Forestry "Street Tree to Try." Plant a Kentucky coffeetree in full sun in zones 3 to 8. The Kentucky coffeetree is a low water-use tree that improves air quality, is quick to sequester larger than average quantities of carbon, and native to the Central and Eastern United States. Trees keep our air fresh by supplying the oxygen that we breathe and absorbing the carbon dioxide that we exhale and are emitted by factories and engines. Some trees, such as the Kentucky coffeetree, take air quality benefits even further by also trapping and filtering out dust and pollen on their hairy leaf surfaces. The tree gets its name from the seeds, which were roasted by early settlers for a coffee-like drink.


Turn right on Jefferson and go one block. Turn right again onto Cascade Avenue and travel 1.5 blocks south.


6.       Two groves of Japanese tree lilacs (Syringa reticulate) grow in the center median of the 1900 block of N. Cascade Avenue showcasing this under-used flowering ornamental. Japanese tree lilacs have a spread of 15 feet, white flowers and are considered a low water-use plant. Japanese tree lilacs are underused tree in our area and could be planted more.


Continue south on Cascade Avenue for 2.5 blocks. These historic medians and wide avenues are lined with mansions built in the late 1800s and early 1900s.


7.       A stand of "notable" red oaks (Quercus spp.) grow in the N. Cascade Avenue median (1600 block) and boast scarlet to maroon fall color. This is a species native to North America that typically grows to 65 feet. Males have yellow-green flowers in late spring. These are the largest red oaks in our city. This is a City Forestry-approved street tree.


Turn left on Caramillo Street and travel east for 5 blocks. Welcome to the Patty Jewett neighborhood. When you intersect the Midland Trail at Wahsatch Avenue, follow it south using the intersection crossings. Note the Gelato/Coffee/Sandwich shop at the Columbia Street intersection. (At the Uintah crossing the trail picks up again just a few yards south of the intersection.)


8.       Giant plains cottonwoods (populus deltoids var. sargentii) run along the north/south section of Franklin Street in Shooks Run Park. Cottonwoods and of the most common trees in all of Colorado, but these are "notable" for their large (more than 70" in diameter) size. These are a few of the remaining original Palmer plantings brought from the Arkansas Valley in 1872. Cottonwoods prefer sunny, wet soils along streams, rivers, and lakes. They are a native tree that lives 50 to 200 years and normally grows to 70 to 100 feet tall, but can reach 150 feet tall. They are known for the massive release of seed-bearing "cotton," from where it gets its name.  Branches tend to be brittle and break in storms. However, these breaks create cavities which provide shelter for wildlife. Trees stabilize soil and prevent erosion. Trees also absorb stormwater. This helps keep pollutants out of our waterways and slows runoff, which reduces the need for expensive infrastructure projects.


Turn east on to Willamette Avenue and travel through the Shooks Run Neighborhood for six blocks. Turn right (south) on N. Sheridan Avenue and go one block to Boulder Park. At Boulder Park a restroom and a playground are available.


9.       The Japanese pagoda (Sophora japonica) tree in Boulder Park is "notable" for its 26" diameter. Look for this tree between the tennis courts and baseball diamond about mid-park.  Native to China and Korea, this tree generally grows to 65 feet. White, fragrant, flowers bloom in late summer to early autumn. The leaves sometimes turn yellow in the fall. This park was once a reservoir at the end of the of the El Paso Canal built to establish street trees and landscapes when Colorado Springs was a young town on the plains.


Return to the Shooks Run Bicycle Trail via N. Sheridan Avenue and Willamette Avenue. Continue south and turn right onto Bijou Street. Continue west for four blocks into downtown and enter into Acacia Park. You will find restrooms and a wading fountain at this park, though no acacia trees. Downtown also offers many bicycle racks and restaurants. Trees shelter us from direct sunlight on hot summer days. In an urban setting they also lessen "heat island effect" which occurs in cities during the summer creating temperatures as much as 15 degrees hotter than non-urban spaces.


10.   A Rock elm (Ulmus thomasii) in Acacia Park is “notable” for its 26” diameter. The elm is the first deciduous tree to the west of the bandstand. This tree survived the 1970s Dutch elm disease that killed many of the city's American elms.  This species is known for the sandpaper-like texture on its leaves. Acacia Park was originally named North Park and embodies a traditional mid-west town square.  


Continue east on Bijou Street for two blocks and use the trail access (before I-25) on the right to connect to the Pikes Peak Greenway Tail (the bicycle ramp is located all the way to the right). (Note: To end your ride here, cross Monument Creek on the trail bridge and ride north through Monument Valley Park to the parking lot where you started.) Take the underpass under Bijou Street and continue south on the Pikes Peak Greenway Trail until you reach the trail roundabout at America the Beautiful Park. Turn west and ride a short segment on the Mid-land trail over Monument Creek into the park. Ride the trail through the playground. You will also find restrooms and a wading fountain at this park.


11.   West of the playground are four newly planted Austrian pine (Pinus nigra) trees. These are very hardy trees able to withstand city or seaside conditions, heat and drought, and clay and alkaline soils. They can be grown from seed and transplant easily. Austrian pines grow to 40-60 feet with a 20 to 40-foot branch spread and can live up to 100 years. The Austrian pine improves air quality and is quick to sequester larger than average quantities of carbon. The Austrian pine is native to Europe and grows in zones 4 to 7. This is not a City Forestry-approved street tree, but may be approved with special permission. Groupings of this tree work particularly well as a windbreak. Conifers, such as these Austrian Pines, can decrease energy use when planted to shade the east and west windows of a home or business. Avoid planting conifer trees along south-facing windows in order to keep your windows open to winter sun to reduce the need for heat in the winter. In addition, confers can create effective noise barriers (though only when planted densely - such as a swath of forest 100 feet deep or more).


Retrace you route to the Midland Trail/Pikes Peak Greenway Trail roundabout and continue west on the Midland trail as it goes under I-25. You will see a series of tree-themed mini-murals painted by volunteers on the columns under the I-25 underpass as part of the Arbor Day 2011 celebration.  Continue for one block and stop after crossing Chestnut Street.


12.   Here you will find several young tree species planted as a part of the 2011 Arbor Day celebration. This location was chosen for the 2011 Arbor Day planting in an effort to increase the trail user experience. This is an example of how trees can benefit a community by enhancing landscapes and camouflaging unsightly views. Watch for tree tags to help you identify these trees

·         The first trees planted to either side of the trail are Boxelders (Acer negundo). The box elder is a native medium-sized deciduous tree with an irregular form that reaches 30 to 50 feet high (the boxelder may also appear as a large shrub). The boxelder has a fast growth rate (2 feet or more in a single year when young) and a shorter life span of about 75 years. Twigs are stout, light green to purplish or brownish color with a polished look and has tassel-like flower clusters. Once established, the box elder is a drought-tolerant tree, but is prone to box elder beetles and internal decay. These boxelders are part of the 2011 Select Tree Program. Each year the Colorado Tree Coalition test a species of tree that may show potential for growing well in Colorado cities by giving communities some specimens to try. Then forestry divisions monitoring the trees and reporting back on how they do. This is not a City Forestry-approved street tree.  

·         The Honey Locust (Glenditsia triacanthos), the next tree you will see, is native to most of the United States. It lives 100 to 125 years and can easily and quickly reach a height and spread of 40 to 60 feet. The fast growth rate and tolerance of poor site conditions (pollution and salt) make the honey locust a good selection for new parks, housing developments street trees, and in disturbed and reclaimed environments, such as mine tailings. The honey locust casts only light shade, which allows turf to grow beneath them. Honey locusts are hardy to zone 4 and grow best in full sun in deep, moist, fertile soils of neutral pH, though it is adaptable to a range of soils. Honey locusts produce a high quality, durable wood. The fruit of the honey locust is a flat pod with a sweet, edible pulp on the inside which gives the tree its name. The pulp was used for food by Native American people and is currently used as high protein cattle fodder, but can be numerous and messy. Blossoms are nondescript, though fragrant, and leaves turn a showy, clear yellow in the fall. Honey locusts commonly have defensive thorns that can be safety concern. The honey locust is a low water-use tree and is quick to sequester larger than average quantities of carbon. Shademaster and Skyline varieties were planted at this location. Thornless varieties of honey locust are City Forestry-approved street trees.

·         The Swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor) is not native to Colorado. Yet, many kinds of wildlife eat the acorns, which are sweet to squirrels and particularly ducks. The hard strong wood is commercially valuable and is usually cut and sold as white oak. Swamp white oaks are naturally found in lowlands, along edges of streams, and in swamps subject to occasional flooding. Swamp White Oaks prefer rich, deep, moist to wet, poorly-drained, acidic soils, but adapt well to dry and average soils that are neutral to slightly alkaline in pH. It thrives in full sun to partial sun (but is shade tolerant in youth) and is found in zones 4 to 8. Under ideal conditions it is rapid growing and long lived, reaching 300 years. The growth habit of Swamp White Oak is perhaps the most stately and uniform of the White Oak group, being densely oval, upright, and symmetrical through middle age, then becoming more spreading with advanced maturity. It grows to a 60-foot spread with a height of 60 feet tall. Leaves turn brown to red in the fall. This is a City Forestry-approved street tree.

·         The Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) tree grows 50 to 75 feet tall in 40 to 50 years with a 20 to 40-foot spread. Large, fragrant, white orchid-like flowers grace the catalpa tree in late spring. Its narrow crown has a lovely upright candelabra shape with distinctively large heart-shaped, bright green leaves and long, bean-like pods. The catalpa tree withstands wet, dry, alkaline soils and hot, dry environments. Native to the United Springs and quick to sequester larger than average quantities of carbon. Plant catalpa trees in sun or partial shade in zones 4 to 8. This is a City Forestry-approved street tree.

·         Tolerant of a wide range of conditions, the Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) is a good landscape choice for urban areas as it can withstands wind and city conditions. The hackberry tree grows for 100 to 150 years to a height of 40 to 60 feet with a 50-foot broad crown of arching branches. The berry-like fruit are edible, though fairly tasteless, and turn orange to dark purple when ripe. The fruit, which will stay on the tree through winter, are a favorite among birds. The leaves turn yellow in the fall. It is native to North America and grows in zones 3 to 9. The hackberry is a low water-use tree and quick to sequester larger than average quantities of carbon. This is a City Forestry-approved street tree.

·         The English oak (Quercus robur) is a large, long-lived deciduous tree that grows 80 to 115 feet tall with a wide spread crown of rugged branches and very short leaves. It works well as a shade tree. Yellow flowering on male trees takes place in mid spring and acorns ripen by the following autumn. Plant an English oak in full sun with moist, fertile, well-drained soil. This is a City Forestry-approved street tree.


Retrace your route on the Midland trail and take the spur trail access north (left) to Walnut Street just before the I-25 underpass. Continue north on Walnut for two blocks and turn right on Pikes Peak Avenue. Travel one block and turn left to continue north in the bicycle lanes on N. Spruce Street for 9 blocks. (Alternatively, you can turn right on Bijou Street and travel one block before turning north (left) to access the Mesa Springs Greenway Bicycle Tail.) At Mesa Avenue turn left (west) to access Bristol Park on Walnut Street.


13.   The Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra) in the center of Bristol Park near the picnic tables is "notable" for its 26" diameter - it is the 2nd largest in Colorado. Its green flowers have a foul odor when crushed. The spiny capsule fruit house poisonous seeds avoided by wildlife. The tree has attractive yellow to orange fall foliage and grows 20 to 40 feet tall in 100 to 125 years. This is a City Forestry-approved street tree. Gold tycoon and early founder Winfield Scott Stratton built a home on this property (visible across the street to the north) in the 1880s.


Retrace your route on Mesa Avenue and turn south (right) when you encounter the Mesa Springs Greenway Bicycle Tail. Take the I-25 overpass back into Monument Valley Park and head north back to the parking lot. 

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Bicycle Tree Tour.pdf

GPS coordinates and photos for easy identification.

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Suitable for beginner bicyclist and botanists alike. Plan 2 to 3 hours to ride the full route.