Rocky Mountain National Park has no shortage of views. They’re all great, but some are absolutely spectacular. Black Lake is the latter. MY RATING: 5 Stars. Black Lake is one of the best hikes ...
The climbing best known in Colorado Springs is in the Garden of the Gods park, where the sandstone is crumbly and you get to climb while gobs of open-mouth tourists point and stare. Oh funbuckets.
So while I was in town, I thought it would be best to find somewhere to climb that does not suck. While 11 Mile Canyon and Shelf Road are really not far away, the climbing in North Cheyenne Canyon is close enough that you could easily get in a few routes after work during the week.
Today’s pic comes from the Amphitheater. An 8, a 9, a 10 and an 11. All short and well protected, so a perfect place for beginning leads. Not the best climbing area ever. Like I said, short routes and not many of them. A little crumbly. But pretty easy to find, no fees, no crowds and far enough off the road to feel like you’re away from it all while still being right outside town. Directions, instructions here, or search for it on mountain project. On a side note, if you want to do the 5.7 nearby, be prepared to make your own anchor. Tourists can easily hike up to them and apparently love to clip the bolts (steal everything like total a-holes).
But in any case I was happy to finally lead a route. Which was the 5.8 called “Climbing by the Brooks”. While your typical 5.8 is something I can finish clean anytime, leading is very different. There is always the potential to, you know, fall a good long ways. Well… can and eventually will. In a way, I think my first lead is a little like the beginning of Jurassic Park. You see all the omnivore dinosaurs and are so inspired by all the glory of this scientific achievement with that joyful, rolling overture in the background. I’s all so magical. And then later someone gets eaten. I imagine my first real lead fall, in contrast to this weekend’s climb, will feel an awful lot like visiting the velociraptor exhibit.
Pikes Peak is probably the most popular of all the 14ers.
…..Because there is no need for hiking Pikes Peak at all; you can just drive up it.
Not that it isn’t pretty, but Pikes Peak is far from my favorite 14er. It sure is one of the toughest I’ve done, though, a fact which should surprise you. Given the popularity of the trail, it seems like everyone and anyone can do it.
At just over 14,100 feet, Pikes Peak is barely a 14er, but the most popular approach, via Barr Trail, is more than 26 miles round trip with 7,400 feet of vertical gain between you and the summit.
Oh and the last three miles are above treeline, meaning you will spend several hours above tree line. Read: You will be exposed to lightning (often with no warning) for a long time. Pikes Peak, in addition to being on of the most popular, is also one of the most deadly 14ers. Many people have been struck by lightning on that section. Google it, you’ll find several articles with “deadliest summit” somewhere in the title.
MY RATING: 3 Stars. It’s crowded, there’s more parking at the top than bottom and its far from the prettiest 14er. I hate that there is a stupid souvenir shop at the top and a cafeteria and fudge shoppe, but I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that I moved this hike up from 2.5 because of the donuts.
DISTANCE: 26 miles, bitches!
DIFFICULTY: Very Difficult. Technically speaking, this is one of the easiest 14ers. There are no drop offs, no cairn hunting, no boulder hopping, no talus fields.
DURATION: All damn day. Start at dark, if this is your first time summitting. The first time I did it (at 17 after I had just moved here and before I was much into hiking) it took me and a friend 7 hours to summit. As a far fitter hiker 13 years later, it only took me 4.5 hours. Give yourself plenty of time and know that you need to be on the top and ready to walk down the mountain by 12pm sharp just before the weird afternoon weather rolls in. Yes, this mean you need to have already eaten your donuts by noon.
LOCATION/DIRECTIONS: 515 Ruxton Ave Manitou Spring, CO But take the shuttle from in town; by 5am the lot is full and the only thing left is $28/day parking a half mile to a mile from the TH. Yeah, that’s the actual price of daily parking there. It’s not a joke. Check here for the free shuttle times and pick-up locations
One of the reasons I most dislike this hike is the fact that the Cog Railway and other private land owners control nearly all the land (and parking) around Pikes Peak. They have made the experience more like a hike into a cheap tourist trap run by sleazeballs than a hike up a mountain.
The hike itself is barely on public lands. The city, county and state seems to have made no effort whatsoever to purchase or improve the area for public use. Which shouldn’t really surprise anyone, it is after all, the crazy conservative bastion of Colorado.
This is a city which proudly voted taxes so low, they couldn’t even keep the city’s lights on and ended-up with a system in which neighborhoods who could afford to, could pool their money and personally fund their lights. Which, I should mention, cost them more than the taxation would have cost them. The city manager, expecting to have people back the ballot issue in the next election, was instead overwhelmed by concerned citizens thanking the government for starting the initiative allowing them to pay only for the things they personally used. Because screw poor people, they can just live in dark, crime filled neighborhoods. You’ll find this NPR story about it interesting, I think: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/459/what-kind-of-country.
There have been far more accommodations made for people driving Pikes Peak, hikers are an afterthought. The cog railway holds a monopoly on the area around the TH and charging obscene prices for parking. $28/day is the cost for a parking spot in the vicinity of Pikes Peak.
There is a hiker’s lot has room for maybe 20 cars for $5/day. You won’t get a spot, though, because there are a ton of people up at first light to run up the incline in addition to people who are there at first light to hike.
REGULATIONS: Dogs on leashes. No horses. No bikes. Though I did see some cyclists. Don’t do it. Too many blind corners, too many people. With how tricky this would be on a mountain bike and how crowded the trail is, you should not have a bike up there.
But its not like this is a regulated area. I actually saw a ranger say absolutely nothing to a guy who had his dog off leash and out of control running around underfoot at the incline the last time I was up this way (dogs are not allowed on the incline at all). The people of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs do not give a shit for their open spaces unless they can drive on them. Or charge fees for them.
It made me appreciate, as nearly all my “on the road” posts do, how great the Larimer County and City of Fort Collins do to conserve and make open spaces accessible for human-powered recreation. By the way, the taxation measure that keeps the City Natural Areas Department in business is up for renewal this fall- if you’re reading this, you probably hike or ride, so you had best plan to vote yes for it!
FEES: a whopping $28 dollars to park nearly a mile away from the TH. I highly recommend that you use the free shuttle instead of trying to find your own parking spot. No entry fee.
TRAIL USE: very heavy. There’s a super highway up at the top with probably around a hundred parking spots as well as a jam-packed gift shop on the top.
ACTIVITIES: suffering up 7400 feet, or staring out a car window.
Pinewood Reservoir might not actually count as one of the Fort Collins Lakes, since it’s actually in the Loveland/Big Thompson area, but it’s still in Larimer County, and that’s good enough for me.
Pinewood is a small reservoir, much smaller than the neighboring Carter Lake or Fort Collins’ Horsetooth, but what it lacks in pizzaz, it makes up for in quiet.
MY RATING: 2.5 Stars. Not much hiking, the view are only ok, the banks are muddy and unapproachable in most areas, and campsites are close enough to the (not very busy) main road that you can hear cars go by. So while this is a nice area, its not fantastic. Also I find the payment system annoying- more on that in a minute.
Despite the fact that I rate the area pretty low, this would probably make an excellent camping area for families looking for a weekend out of the house since there is a short hike which is on the water, swimming, fishing, and camping with fire pits. It would be really easy to set up camp, use the picnic shelters/tables and get in and out of the campsite if you need to.
Know Before You Go:
1. YOU MUST BUY YOUR DAY PASS/CAMP PERMIT AT THE STATION BEFORE YOU REACH CARTER LAKE. That’s right, miles and miles and miles away from the reservoir is the only place you can pay your fees. Larimer County Annual Pass will get you in the door, but doesn’t cover camping.
I got up there and realized my pass was in the other car and that I would have to drive more than 12 miles round trip to go back down to Carter Lake in order to pay the $6 day pass. I opted to risk the ticket since the gas money and fee would have cost about the same as a ticket. It’s stupid.
2. Pinewood Reservoir is very, very low. Somehow. Despite every other water-bearing body in the entire state swelling to it’s fullest, this one is pathetically low at the moment. The swimming area is probably sanded, but the rest of the perimeter is nothing but thick, black, squishy mud. You will sink to your ankles ten feet before you get to the water’s edge and it never gets more firm. There is glass and rock in this quagmire along with your tender little toeseys and you will not be able to keep your shoes on your feet. So, be warned. Even standing near the water’s edge in order to cast a fishing line has the potential for icky, muddy sinkage.
There is camping around the lake in little campsites which are pretty close to the main road, but these will still be less hectic than the campsites at the other lakes. You can reserve a campsite or check out the map at the Pinewood Reservoir Ramsay-Shockley Open Space website.
DIFFICULTY: Easy. The reservoir borders/includes the Ramsay-Shockley Open Space, which is a small area to the North and West of the lake. There is a very moderate loop about 4 miles long that travels near the water’s edge on one side and ventures up some hills on the other. The maps are not terribly clear and there are lots of false trails near the Fisherman’s cove area since it is where many people access the water, so pay attention. It’ snot like you’re going to get lost or anything, but I did find it a little annoying.
I took puppy-munch on his first real run on this loop last weekend, which was a nice, gentle little loop that still accomplished my main goal: to wear out my dog.
TRAIL USE: There were lots of other people out on this tiny trail, so it did feel a little crowded, but no more than any other trail on a weekend.
REGULATIONS: No collecting firewood, no glass, dogs must be on a leash no longer than 10′, dogs may not swim, no fireworks, wakeless boating, life preservers required on all boats, no swimming except at the swimming cove, you may have alcohol (max 3.2 percent) but no kegs.