Hiking Cheyenne Mountain State Park, CO

Hike summary: 4.3 miles, all in snow 2-8″ deep (more as the altitude increased, of course). Temp 11F, 450 ft altitude change.

Last Wednesday, after I had completed a bunch of work and a couple telecons, and lunch, I headed out to Cheyenne Mountain State Park (CMSP), which is southwest of Colorado Springs, and between Fort Carson and the NORAD facility.

So the day before I got to Colorado Springs, it had snowed some. I wanted to rent some snowshoes. I checked out the website for CMSP, and noted that the park was open, although the Visitor Center was closed due to flooding. I called the main number to ask about whether I would need snowshoes, and got an answering machine. The Voice On The Machine noted that the park was open, but the Visitor Center was closed, but people were there, and if you would leave your question, they would get back to you ASAP. So I left my number and my question. Three hours and two more calls later, I didn’t have my answer. Hmmm….

So I drove out there, and as soon as I hit the parking lot I ran into a Ranger, and asked him the same question. He said that if I didn’t mind occasional snow up to my ankles, I didn’t really need snowshoes. I avoided the temptation to ask why they couldn’t seem to be able to return phone calls.

It costs $7 to get into the park. A bit high, especially given that there was not a single restroom available anywhere. The Visitor Center was closed, of course, but all of the heads at all the other areas (the day use area, the camping area, etc.) were all closed. I think the fee is cash only; I didn’t see any credit card stickers. I paid at the drive-up window entrance to the park.

After paying, I walked back to the visitor center and finished getting ready. I was pretty heavily dressed, since the temp was 11F at 1330. It didn’t get any warmer, in spite of the cloudless, sunny sky. I wore thermals top and bottom, jeans, and my insulated pants, and a t-shirt, mock turtleneck, and sweater. This was finished off with a knit hat, my boots (with two layers of socks), and a heavy coat. I was never cold, and in fact, I got a bit sweaty during some of the slogging phases of the hike.

The snow was in fact over my ankles, just a few places. I didn’t posthole into the snow very often, but walking efficiency was not very good.

I had a vague plan for hiking, but it got modified after the first trail… The trails are largely a set of interconnecting loops, which is nice, as you have a lot of options. I started off by the visitor center. The mountain is Cheyenne Mountain.

I started off in about two inches of new snow. I was the first person to walk on it, so that was kind of cool.

One thing I was amazed by, the animal tracks. I saw a number of different critter tracks. These are coyote or dog tracks, albeit filled in a bit.

This was a set of mouse or vole tracks, leading to (or away) from a burrow. While most of the tracks were into the brush on the side of the trail, one set came out of a burrow, then went down the trail at least 50 ft, then turned around and went straight back.

These were deer tracks.

Most of the trail was pretty easy to follow, as it was the wide stripe. As I got farther back, there were more human tracks, which was nice, since the trail was a bit harder to pick up due to rocks and roots.

As I got farther away from the Visitor Center, and higher, there was more trees and a bit more brush. The trail got a bit steep in places, and with the altitude, this flatlander was puffing a little bit. A minute on the side of the trail to rest got my breath back quickly. You can see the snow here is quite a bit deeper.

This tree was one of the few with snow stuck to it. I could not figure out why. There were a number of other conifers nearby that didn’t have the snow on them. I also liked how the tree stood in contrast to the sky.

This was about as thick as the surrounding trees got.

As I walked up the hill, at one point I came around a slight bend and walked within 10 ft of these deer. They looked at me a minute, and then walked off. I didn’t seem to worry them very much.

This area was about the deepest the snow got for any period of time. It was consistently about 6-8″, and one or two places close to 12″. I was wearing my insulated pants, which have built-in gaiters, and didn’t get any snow inside my pants or boots.

I was headed back down when I came into this clearing. The mountain is a bit closer, and there was a good view down onto the plain. The view is generally Fort Carson, I think.

I got done around 1645. It was, of course, harder to walk in the snow. I saw exactly *1* other person on the trail the entire time I was there. The stillness was broken by traffic on CO 15 and helicopters from Fort Carson.

Here are topo, Google Earth, and altitude tracks for the hike.

The trails I walked were Coyote Run, Talon (very little), Zook Loop, Blackmer Loop, part of Boulder Run, Raccoon Ridge, Acorn Alley, Bobcat Way, and finally Soaring Kestral.

This was an enjoyable hike. I didn’t have any problems finding the trails through the snow, although a couple times I did walk off the trail, I found it again in seconds. I would like to go back and hit Cougar Ridge. The Park includes the peak of Cheyenne Mountain, and will supposedly be developed to extend the trails to the peak at some point in the future. That would also be a nice hike.

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