Saturday, October 18, 2014

Happy [new] trails

Posted By on Sat, Oct 18, 2014 at 7:57 AM

Summer’s over, and going with it are the long, lazy days of sunlight and warm temperatures. The shorter days and cooler weather may have you getting ready to put away your favorite hiking boots, or at least using them much less, but not so fast! Along with the coming snow, a 'flurry' of activity has brought a handful of new or rebuilt trails for you to try this fall and winter.

click to enlarge BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone

The Ice Cave Creek Trail
has been a long-time feature of the Palmer Lake Reservoir area network of trails. Originally, the trail required a fair amount of scrambling over large boulders, but a recent re-route has changed that.

According to Tom Mowle of the Colorado Mountain Club, the organization worked with Palmer Lake officials to re-route approximately 3,000 feet of the trail, building a new trailhead, and routing the trail above the boulder-strewn creek that is its namesake.

I hiked this trail several weeks ago and found the trailhead easy to find and navigate, with nice views over the lower reservoir and to the east. Ice Cave Creek trail connects to many other trails and Mowle suggests Pocket Pals’ "Map 13" as the best for that area.

To find the trail, park at the marked trail head on Old Carriage Road, then hike the trail and the service road next to the lower reservoir for approximately 3/4 of a mile. Look for the trailhead on your right, approximately 150 feet past the obvious boulder field near the end of the reservoir.

The Iron Mountain Trail in Manitou Springs offers up a summit that was, until recently, privately owned. But after years of legal wrangling, the property was acquired by the city and a hiking trail was built this past summer. Although a part of the Intemann Trail, it is signed, and officially known as the Iron Mountain Trail.

The trail can be accessed from the end of Pawnee Drive (approximately 100 feet from the Intemann Trail trailhead), or from the Intemann Trail trailhead on Crystal Park Road, just before the entrance to Crystal Park. The summit is one mile from the Pawnee Drive trailhead and about 1.3 miles from Crystal Park Road. The first half-mile from the Crystal Park Road trailhead has some steep sections, making it just a bit more difficult than approaching from Pawnee Drive. Also, the trail maps posted at the various Intemann trailheads do not show the new trail, so they may be a bit confusing.

The Ute Pass Trail in Manitou Springs isn’t necessarily a new trail, but after many years of being an unofficial trail that mostly followed an old utility road, El Paso County adopted the trail last year and improvements were finalized this past summer. The biggest improvement is the relocation of the trailhead from a steep, rocky drainage to a new location adjacent to the beginning of the Manitou Incline. The new approach winds to the top of a nearby hill before continuing west for approximately 3 miles.

You may not know it but the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS) is home to about six miles of trails with plans to increase that number to 13 miles, according to Andrea Hassler, Trails and Outdoors Coordinator at UCCS. The university acquired the trails, formerly on a mix of city and private lands, as it’s expanded in recent years.

All of the trails are in the open space bordered by the Four Diamonds Sports Complex to the west, UCCS to the south, Pulpit Rock Park to the north and the Austin Bluffs Open Space to the east, says Hassler. And all are mixed use trails with varying degrees of difficulty.

Hassler says that much of the work done on trails has been performed by volunteer student labor, with up to 100 students participating. Trail maps, and other valuable information, including UCCS’s 118-page recreation “Micro-Master Plan,” can be found here.

The much anticipated, long closed to the public, South Slope Recreation Area recently opened on Pikes Peak — albeit for a very short time. A limited number of permits are available each day, and all available permits for 2014 have already been spoken for. The area will close for the season soon, then reopen in the spring of 2015. I was fortunate to have been able to participate in and lead hikes in the south slope and can attest to the great job done on the trail. I'm eagerly awaiting its re-opening next spring.

The Chamberlain Trail extension from the Stratton Open Space to North Cheyenne Canon Park is almost finished — the final workday is scheduled for October 19. The extension will move the trail away from a utilities access road to run along a natural ridge just west of the reservoirs in the open space, eventually crossing into North Cheyenne Cañon Park and connecting to the Lower Columbine Trail. The project, headed by the Medicine Wheel cycling group and supported by the Friends of Cheyenne Cañon (and other groups), will expand the trails available to cyclists and hikers.

And finally, coming in 2015: A trail to the top of Cheyenne Mountain from Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Work has been in progress for a few years and should be done sometime next summer.

Mt. Muscoco Trail in North Cheyenne Cañon Park has a re-route planned in 2015 led by the Friends of Cheyenne Cañon, with support from the Colorado Springs Parks Department. Approvals have been granted and fund raising has started for this project as well.

Until next time, happy [new] trails.

Bob Falcone is a firefighter, arson investigator, non-profit board president, college instructor, photographer, hiker and small business owner who has lived in Colorado Springs for 23 years. You can follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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