Striking images can be found here, the zone between the plains and mountains where dramatic red spires and outcrops collide with rich green flora.
This is a high-quality foothills ecosystem along the southern Front Range. A treasure trove of plant and animal communities call this home.
Named after ornithologist Charles Aiken, this is a great destination for birders—more than 100 species have been seen. Aiken, a U.S. surveyor, taxidermist and collector, first surveyed this region in the 1870s.
Southcentral Colorado, about 16 miles south of Colorado Springs
What to Expect
A well-maintained, four-mile-loop hiking trail begins at the entrance. An additional 3/4 mile trail branches off from the loop and makes its way through the canyon. Interpretive signs highlight important features along the trail.
Why The Nature Conservancy Selected This Site
Aiken Canyon is one of the last high-quality examples of the southern Front Range foothills ecosystem. The preserve is composed of a mosaic of habitat types, including shrublands, tallgrass prairie meadows, pinyon juniper woodlands and mixed coniferous woodlands.
Conservation targets include the following:
- Canyon systems
- Foothills riparian systems
- Lower montane shrublands
- Shrubland birds
- Tall grass prairie butterfly community
What The Nature Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
In 1991, TNC signed a 99-year conservation lease, giving it exclusive right to manage 1,080 acres of state land. Since then, TNC has acquired another 541 acres, bringing the entire Aiken Canyon Preserve to 1,621 acres.
Given its proximity to Colorado Springs, the preserve is a strategic location for engaging the public in the Conservancy's mission. An innovative straw-bale Field Station doubles as an educational facility for visitors and students.
We recently revised our management plan. We will more actively engage our neighbors and key public partners in conservation action in the landscape. Volunteers and researchers assist us with:
- Interacting with visitors when the field station is open
- Inventory and weed management efforts
- Leading field trips
- Maintaining trails and facilities
- Ongoing bird monitoring, and
- Teaching school programs