Just because the main road through North Cheyenne Cañon Park is closed until next spring, and the Powell parking lot at the top of the park where Gold Camp road meets North Cheyenne Cañon Road seems to always be full, doesn't mean you can't still enjoy the trails there.
This hike makes a loop past popular peaks Mt. Cutler and Mt. Muscoco, and then onto the newly built Sweetwater Canyon Trail, the heavily re-built Daniels Pass Trail, before closing the loop.
Starting at the Captain Jacks Trailhead/parking area, walk down Gold Camp Road — towards tunnel #1 — for a few hundred feet, and turn onto the Spring Creek Trail, on the left, just before the entrance to the tunnel. Follow the scenic Spring Creek Trail for about .75 miles until it meets the Mid Columbine Trail at a horseshoe bend, and turn left. After descending through a series of switchbacks and patches of very thick crushed Pikes Peak granite, turn right onto the Creekside Trail at about 1.3 miles. Follow the Creekside Trail until it crosses North Cheyenne Creek on a narrow plank bridge, and then cross the road to the Mt. Cutler Trailhead.
Take the Mt. Cutler Trail until you reach a saddle at about 2.4 miles, where the Mt. Muscoco Trail starts, on the right. At this point, as you're looking south, Mt. Cutler is the peak looming over you on your left, and Mt. Muscoco is the broad, flat peak on your right. Follow the Mt. Muscoco Trail as it goes to the south side of a ridge that divides north and south Cheyenne canyons. At about 2.9 miles, the trail crests a small knoll. This is a good spot to rest and take in the views before continuing on. Turn left (west) here and follow the trail, which will now be on the north side of the ridge, with Mt. Muscoco on your left. At about 3.6 miles, the trail to Mt. Muscoco's summit cuts off to the left. For this hike, continue straight on the Mt. Muscoco trail.
At round 4 miles, the Mt. Muscoco Trail ends at the Sweetwater Canyon Trail. Turn right onto Sweetwater Canyon and follow it until it meets the Daniels Pass Trail a short distance later. Bear right onto Daniels Pass for the long hike back down to the creek, passing by Bruin Trail.
At a little over 5 miles, cross North Cheyenne Creek and then North Cheyenne Cañon Road and continue on the Daniels Pass Trail for a bit over .3 miles until it reaches the Upper Columbine Trail. Turn right here and follow the Upper Columbine Trail as it becomes the Mid Columbine Trail and until you come back to the intersection with the Spring Creek Trail at about 7.20 miles. Take the Spring Creek Trail back to the Gold Camp Road and the Captains Jacks Trailhead for a total of just under 8 miles.
Things you need to know: This is a pretty rigorous hike, with plenty of uphill and downhill travel, with more than 1,800 feet of total ascent over almost 8 miles of trail. The south facing aspects (Spring Creek, Mid and Upper Columbine) generally dry out after it snows, while the north-facing aspects (Mt. Cutler, Daniels Pass) tend to get icy in the winter, so plan and equip accordingly. In the summer, all of these trails are very enjoyable. All of the trails on this hike are multi-use (no motorized, however), with the exception of the Mt. Cutler and Mt. Muscoco trails, which are open to foot traffic only. There is no water, trash or restroom facilities at the Captain Jacks trailhead. The Captain Jacks Trail, on the north side of the trailhead/parking area, is open to motorized use, so you will interact with motorized users at the parking lot. Leashed dogs are permitted. Although not part of this loop, you can also do side hikes to the summits of Mt. Cutler and Mt. Muscoco and then return to this loop. Each side trip will add about 1 mile (round trip) to this hike.
To Get There: Take Gold Camp Roaduphill from Bear Creek Road. The Captain Jacks Trailhead/parking lot is about .6 miles from where Gold Camp Road becomes a dirt road. The dirt part of the road is generally passable by car, but it can be difficult when snow-covered or when it rains, and is usually washboardy. The gates to the park are closed and locked at 9 p.m. from November to April and at 10 p.m. the rest of the year, so plan your hike accordingly.
Be Good. Do Good Things. Leave No Trace.