Ascending from the trailhead is a real challenge. Once you are on the ridge it is a pretty nice run, and descending the route via Balanced Rock Rd.
is fun. Do not run it in reverse. The descent is rocky and lots of loose granite bits can turn an ankle.
This trail connects the Palmer Lake Reservoir Trailhead to Balanced Rock Rd.
south of the upper reservoir. It tracks parallel to Balanced Rock Rd.
along the ridge over Chautauqua Mountain.
Starting at the Palmer Lake Reservoir Trailhead, head directly south toward Monument Creek. This is an open area without a distinct trail, but once you get near the creek, you'll find a trail that tracks right alongside. There are several places where you could cross the creek, but the start of the Chautauqua Trail will be obvious if you cross at the right point. This is the only place where finding the trail is a bit of a challenge, but once you are on it, the trail is easy to follow.
Immediately after crossing Monument Creek, the trail ascends switchbacks for about 1/4 mile. This section can be slippery after rain or with snow, as there is more dirt in the soil and the trail is steep. The rest of this trail is in much better shape, but it is rocky. If you are out of breath after that first little climb, you might want to reconsider!
After a short segment that is mostly level, the trail climbs the ridge. There are a few places where you could get into trouble if you get off trail, so be careful in the snow. Stay on the right (ascending) side of the ridge and pay attention for switchbacks. The top of Chautauqua is at the one mile mark and offers fantastic views of Palmer Lake, Palmer Ridge, and the plains east of Monument.
From the summit, the trail simply tracks along the ridge southward. At several points, the trees open up and you have nice views of Limbaugh Canyon and a valley to the southeast. There are some short climbs and descents along the ridge and it weaves through some boulder outcroppings. At around mile 1.7, the trail has a couple of points that squeeze between boulders. Stay on the ridge!
At mile 2.3, the trail ends at Balanced Rock Rd.
Turn right (north) to return to the parking lot.
Black-eyed Susans, scarlet galea, bluebells, geraniums... the usual!