Natural water slide in San Isabel National Forest worth the search

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — It’s worth looking, I’d been told.

From a patron at a gas station in Colorado City, off Colorado 165 heading west toward the Wet Mountains. From a woman behind a counter of fudge inside a wooden lodge farther west, closer to the destination I’d heard about near Lake Isabel. Also in the lodge were a man and his young boy, who said I should try the raspberries I find on my way.

They were sweet all right. They clung to bushes along the unmarked trail I hiked through San Isabel National Forest; the trail that indeed took me to what I’d been told: a natural water slide.

Over wide, smooth rock faces, a cold creek rushed, and there was a teenage couple riding the water, their arms raised like they were on a roller coaster. They rode the stream and dropped with a short waterfall into a pool.

“It’s one of those places,” Kayla Roberts, 18, said beside the creek in the forest, rock cliffs towering around her and her boyfriend, both from Pueblo. “If you can find it, then it’s worth it.”

You can find it, as I did, by parking in the lot nearest the dam stretching over Lake Isabel. There are no signs, and you won’t find a sign on your way. But at the back of the lot, find the pathways that mar the ground sloping into the forest. It’s a steep descent that flattens into a meadow of tall grass and aspen. The path heads to a creek and continues on the other side.

As you go — a total mile, maybe — there will be a few more creek crossings and some awkward maneuvering over boulders. The trail stretches along the creek, which provides a soothing soundtrack. The flowers are yellow and pink, purple and white, and the butterflies dancing around them are just as varied.

Tragedy hangs over the beauty. A year ago, an 18-year-old from Pueblo hiked with his buddies to the slide, where he’d climbed up one of the surrounding cliffs. He fell. A helicopter recovered his body.

“The guy was really well-liked,” said Dylan Shapiro, 18, with his girlfriend Roberts at the slide. “I think a lot of people got scared to come out here after that.”

I hadn’t spotted anyone about 30 minutes into my hike. The only signs of civilization were a Rockstar Energy Drink can standing against a spruce’s trunk and a Pringles can littered in a meadow.

Then I crossed the Starrs. The Colorado Springs family had spent the morning at the slide. Mariah, 15, and Savannah, 12, had strong reviews. Their aunt, who’d ridden it years ago with a boyfriend, led the way.

“Finding something new,” the girls’ mother said, “that’s what we’re always trying to do.”

Added their father: “The farther you go, the less people.”

There were only two on the sunny afternoon I was there — the teenagers who made it a date spot. Shapiro knew of a more epic slide deeper into the forest.

“I’ve hiked in another 20 minutes and still haven’t found it,” he said. “Maybe one day.”

It’s worth looking, he’d been told.

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