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Best Ways to Explore Pike National Forest

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Pike National Forest and all of its 1,106,604 acres is an adventurer’s paradise. Brimming with graceful pines, unexpected reservoirs, winding hiking trails, and bike paths, there are endless ways to explore this massive playground. And it practically surrounds Colorado Springs, making it easy to access all of it when you stay with us at Cheyenne Mountain Resort. With so much to choose from, we thought we’d share some of the most popular ways to explore the most popular sights within the region like Pikes Peak Mountain, Gold Camp Road, Rampart Range Road, Devil's Head Lookout, Manitou Park, and Eleven Mile Canyon. 

  1. Climb to Devil's Head Lookout

We’ll start with what may seem like an obvious hike that delivers a high reward for relatively minimal effort. Devil’s Head Lookout is a moderate to easy seasonal hike that is a 2.8-mile out-and-back trail leading you to a distinct granite rock outcropping in the front range west of Castle Rock. It is also home to the only fire lookout tower in Colorado that is staffed by the National Forest Service. This grants it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, and should therefore have a spot on your hiking list! But more than its historical significance, after climbing almost 1000 feet in elevation, and ascending 143 stairs at the summit, you’re afforded spectacular views of the Rampart Range of the Rocky Mountains for 100 miles in all directions. On the way up, your path will be shaded by a mixed Aspen and Pine forest. And there are plenty of shaded benches where you can take a break to catch your breath as you go. A sign even marks the halfway point for you! One thing to note, the parking area is limited so it we suggest getting there early!

  1. Fly Fish at Eleven Mile Canyon

Eleven Mile Canyon is a forested, rocky area located below the Eleven Mile Reservoir dam that carves through picturesque boulders and tall pines. The fast-moving South Platte River that carves through it provides plenty of rainbows, cuttbow, and brown trout, making it a perfect location to fly fish. In fact, Eleven Mile Canyon is one of Colorado's most famous trout fisheries. Boasting more than 3,000 fish per mile it’s earned a reputation as one of the most scenic and prolific stretches of the South Platte River. But given its popularity, the trout see some sort of angling pressure 365 days a year and have therefore adapted elusive strategies to evade your lure. Experts advise making sure you have an array of small midges and baetis patterns. Late spring and summertime in the canyon can produce some of the most abundant dry fly hatches around. But one of the best tools you can wield is simply to wear a good pair of polarized sunglasses to see beyond the surface better.

  1. Hike to the Top of Pikes Peak Mountain

Another somewhat obvious choice, perhaps, but a Top 5 wouldn’t be complete without it. But there’s more than one way to get to the top of the 14,115-foot mountain. Two trails take you to the summit of Pikes Peak: Barr Trail and the Crags Trail. Both are long and strenuous hikes, but with thoughtful planning and packing, you’ll be sure to enjoy both. The most popular way to get to the summit of Pikes Peak is probably the Barr Trail. This 13-mile (one-way) hike gains 7,400 vertical feet in elevation from its trailhead at Manitou Springs. Though many sections of Barr Tail are considered to be easy, the full hike to the summit of Pikes Peak is anything but. Hiking it in a single day could take anywhere from 6 to 10 hours depending on the weather, your fitness, and technical ability as well as other factors. Many stop to camp about 6.5 miles up and continue the trek to the top the next day. The Crags Trail is not as popular as the Barr Trail to summit the peak but since it's shorter at 4.8 miles and has less elevation gain, it is a much easier way to get to the top. It also offers arguably better views of the Continental Divide to the west and it is much less crowded.

Then again, if hiking isn't your thing, you can also drive, bike, or shuttle up the mountain! Or, hike up and ride down!

  1. Take a Visit to Manitou Park

Nestled between Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak, historic Manitou Springs is centrally located to the unique attractions of the Pikes Peak Region. So much more than a place to refill your water bottle, Manitou is a place to play. Take in picturesque pines on any one of many hiking trails, get your blood pumping climbing the Manitou incline, hunt for the many mineral springs sprouting around town, or simply go shopping! Whatever you do, just don’t leave before watching the sunset over Pikes Peak.

  1. Take a Drive along Gold Camp Road and Rampart Range Road

Both Gold Camp Road and Rampart Range Road are scenic drives proving stunning views of Pikes Peak, jaw-dropping rock structures, and towering pines. Rampart Range Road offers 60 miles of gravel road that takes you from Garden of the Gods to Colorado 67 between Sedalia and Deckers, while Gold Camp Road connects southwest Colorado Springs to Victor in Teller County. Either ride requires a driver’s full attention in a vehicle with four-wheel drive. But trust us when we say, the effort is certainly worth it. Stop and hike at any one of the trailheads you’ll pass on your way.

Want more? We’ve got more! Start with these and we’ll share the rest when you get here. Plan your adventure and reserve your stay with Cheyenne Mountain Resort today!