Friday, September 21, 2007

Aspen season has arrived

You can see it from town: high on the flanks of Mt Rosa and Almagre Mountain there are spots of yellow. This seen doesn't last long -- perhaps a week. So you have to seize the day!

Here are some of the best places in the Pikes Peak region. If you have other favorites, post them below.

Colorado Springs and Colorado State Parks plan to buy the top of Cheyenne Mountain over the next three years and add it to Cheyenne Mountain State Park.This oft-seen but rarely visited mountaintop is a real gem. The steep sides guard a gentle top with long, lush meadows flanked by arcades of mature aspen. Much of the top is public land. It can be visited by combining two almost forgotten historic trails, the McNeil Trail and the Swisher Trail. Click here for details.

ANOTHER FAVORITE: DOME ROCK LOOP -- This is a sneak peak at next week's Happy Trails
Few places are as gorgeous, or as little visited as the Dome Rock, Spring Creek Loop. The hike strings together a saunter down a willow choked creek with views of soaring granite ramparts and quiet aspen groves. But few people ever see it, because, to protect the resident big horn sheep herd during lambing season, the area is closed most of the year.
Right now, with the aspen colors at their peak, is the best time to visit.Rating:
Three boots, 9.6 miles, 1,300 elevation gain.
To get there: Drive U.S. Highway 24 west to Divide. Turn left on Colorado Highway 67. Drive 5.8 miles to Four Mile Road. Turn right onto County Road 61 and drive 2 miles to sign for Dome Rock State Wildlife Area. Turn right at the sign and park in the lower of two parking areas.
The hike: Your feet will get wet on this hike. Choose a quick-drying shoe. Start by heading west from the trail head past a large display about bighorn sheep. A wide, gravely trail follows a broad canyon with a meadowy bottom and granite towers on either side. It relentlessly crosses the creek a total of 10 times. In just over two miles, reach the ruins of an old cabin chimney and a trail junction. Stay left on Dome Rock trail. A few steps after the junction, glimpse the first view of dome rock in the east. The trail circles around Dome rock 3.75 miles from the trailhead. The broad meadows here are a good rest spot. Just south of the Dome, turn right onto Spring Creek Trail at a signed junction and begin to climb. The trail is gradual, gorgeous, and thankfully has no more creek crossings. This is where the best aspen viewing is. About 2.5 miles later, the trail reaches the top of the climb at a stunning meadow with a long view to the south. The trail then heads east along a rolling ridge for just over a mile to a saddle where it makes a clear turn left down a dirt road.This is the home stretch. The trail drops steadily, loosing 800 feet as it heads north to the parking lot.Details: Closed Dec. 1 — July 15

Rampart Reservoir: possibly the most gorgeous ride in the region follows the many-fingered shore of this mountain reservoir. THis is a ride that is fun for any skill level.
To get there: Take U.S. Highway 24 west to Woodland Park. Turn right on Baldwin Street (at McDonald's); turn right on Loy Creek Road. When pavement ends, turn right on Rampart Range Road and drive to Rainbow Gulch trailhead parking on your left.
Trip log: Two boots, 3 to 14 miles
The Ride: This trail, a classic bike ride in the summer, transforms into a great cross-country ski trail in the winter. The back-to-back storms of the last two weeks dumped a huge amount of snow that's perfect for skiing. The Rainbow Gulch Trail is a great beginner cross-country route. It's level, and because the trail is actually a forest road, it's wide as well. It heads gradually downhill to the reservoir, but the return trip uphill isn't steep enough to require climbing skins. After about 1.5 miles, you'll reach the reservoir. From there the trail turns to a smooth gravel singletrack with a few nearly impossible boulder problems. The trail follows the reservoir around. When you get to the dam, you're more than half-way done. Make sure to bring food and water. After crossing the dam, pick up the trail just after a small gate house and wind back to the road.

This is a nice 2.5 hour drive that makes a circle around Pikes Peak. Drive west on Highway 24 to Divide. Turn left onto Colorado Highway 67. Drive south for just under 6 miles to County Road 61 on the right. Veer onto it. Let the aspen show begin. This is the low road to Cripple Creek, and passes through some amazing country. When the road rejoins Highway 67, turn right and wind down into Cripple Creek. On Bennett Ave, take a left on 2nd Street, which is also highway 67. From here the road winds over to Victor. Go through the historic mining town. Highway 67 ends, becoming Count Road 81 (also called the Lazy S Ranch Road). Take this paved road east through town, up over a hill and around until you see a sign for Gold Camp Road. Turn right onto the dirt road. Follow this former railroad bed as it winds through spectacular hills, coming down to Colorado Springs, some 27 mile later, near the Broadmoor Resort.


gulo said...

I took some pictures yesterday at Horsethief Park




Zen said...

Beautiful. Hey any of you guys live in / around Woodland Park? I'd love to get a community hiking / green group formed. Have tried in the past with limited success. Thought this time I might throw it out here too. Email me at with your thoughts or ideas.