Two and a half hours to drive 36 miles?? Now there's a clue to
road conditions, and I'm assuming that's when it's dry.
More about Gold Camp Road below.
This is kind of a hodge-podge of remaining activities I either
did today, did recently, and/or want to do in the Colorado Springs/Pikes Peak area
on our next visit here, possibly later this summer. This is
more travelogue than sport, although I'm including some more
After hiking and driving around this morning
I also visited the Garden of the Gods
Trading Post on Beckers Lane at
the southern edge of the park property.
The original trading post
was built in the early 1900s by local Indian-goods trader
Charles E. Strausenback to resemble the homes of the nearby
Pueblo Indians. Through the mid-1950s, Native American
silversmiths and artisans worked and lived at the trading post
making jewelry, weaving blankets, and creating pottery.
About thirty years ago TAT Enterprises, Inc. took over
proprietorship of the trading post. The company has been renovating and
expanding the original building ever since. Some of the original
decorative fixtures and features can still be seen, as well as
old photographs of the building and interior.
I think these attractive designs painted on the exterior wall of
the building near the entrance are fairly recent:
I pretty much ignored the touristy gift shop and patio cafe (despite the lure of getting some buffalo chili or
a buffalo burger), but enjoyed browsing the books . . .
ROCK LEDGE RANCH HISTORIC SITE
Because of poor timing we weren't able to visit this living
history museum and working farm just inside the east entrance to
Garden of the Gods. The site is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays,
the days we were at the park this week and last. It is listed on
the National Register of Historic Places.
When the site is open, interpreters in
period clothing depict pioneer and American Indian life in the
Pike's Peak Region. Displays include a 1770s Native American
(Ute and Plains Indians) camp, the
1860s Galloway homestead, the 1880s Chambers home and ranch, a 19th century
blacksmith shop, and a 1907 Edwardian country estate built by
the founder of Colorado Springs, General William J. Palmer.
I'd like to visit Rock Ledge
next time we're in the area. The cost is $6 for adults, $4 for
seniors (65?) and students, and $2 for kids 6-12. I assume it's
free for kids under 6. You can purchase tickets at the Garden of
the Gods visitor center or at Rock Ledge Ranch.
There are at least two good websites with additional information about Rock
Ledge Ranch and special events held there:
http://www.rockledgeranch.com/ (Living History
Association, which privately supports the historic site) and
of Colorado Springs, which manages the historic site).
ROCK FEATURES OUTSIDE THE GARDEN OF THE GODS
There are other interesting rock formations outside the GoG park
property that are privately owned. Some of the easiest to see
from the road or the Foothills Trail are these just north of the
park along 30th Street:
Most of the rocks in Garden of the Gods are shades of pink,
orange, and red. Outside, there are some in the off-white/tan
and gray color ranges. All of them are a beautiful contrast to the
sky, white (or gray!) clouds, and just about every shade of
green there is.
INTO THE STORM
Gray clouds, you say?
Oh, yes. These are the Rockies so you can expect a storm to blow
in over the mountains almost every summer afternoon. Today was
no exception. Angry-looking clouds were darkening the sky to the south while I
was taking the photos above.
So guess where I was headed next??
I wasn't intentionally heading into a storm this afternoon. I
just wanted to see some of the other red rock parks and scenic
mountain roads southwest of Colorado Springs and our time in
the area was quickly
RED ROCK CANYON OPEN SPACE
My next stop was another City of Colorado Springs park that is
free for the public to enjoy.
View of storm over Pike's Peak (the
mountain with snow
on top) from Red Rock Canyon
We've driven by the large parking area for Red Rock Canyon on US 24
between Manitou Springs and the western edge of Colorado Springs several times but have never
checked it out. We still haven't run or hiked there, but
at least I got a gander at the trailheads and picked up a
brochure with a good trail map inside.
Hogback Valley trailhead
This is from the brochure and
The Red Rock Canyon area is
characterized by a series of canyons and ridges sculpted by
erosion of the area's uplifted rock strata. The ridges and
canyons offer beautiful views and sheltered enclaves for
inspiration, varied terrain for recreation, and a 240-million
year slice of geologic time for education. The varied terrain
and geology support a wide variety of plant and animal
communities. Human use of the area has left a heritage of
diverse and colorful history including Ute defensive positions,
stone quarries, and gold mills.
Part of the educational aspect of the park
Red Rock Canyon is part of Colorado Springs' 14,000 acres of
park lands and open spaces. Fourteen thousand acres!! I'm
totally impressed by that. I think Colorado has been very wise
to protect so much land all over the state.
"Open spaces" have several
characteristics: they are in a primarily natural state,
they contain significant natural, aesthetic, or cultural
features that warrant protection, and they are permanently
Red Rock Canyon was purchased by the City of Colorado Springs
in 2003. It connects to two other protected spaces, Section 16
and Bear Creek Cañon Park, which adjoins the one million-plus
acres in the Pike National Forest. That means you can park your
vehicle at Red Rock Canyon and hike/run into the national
Red Rock Canyon offers about 13 miles of multi-use trails for
hiking, running, mountain biking and horse riding, off-leash dog
loops, a bicycle free ride area, rock climbing, a picnic area,
an open-air pavilion, and educational resources.
According to the trail
map, there are two
pedestrian-only trails. One is called the Garden of the
Goddesses Contemplative Trail. There is also
a "bicycle free ride area" that is only for
cyclists who want the extra challenge of riding over
teeter totters, drops, and skinny bridges. Part of that course
is shown in the next three photos.
Dogs area allowed on the trails but must be on-leash except for
two very short off-leash dog loops that total less than 5/8
miles of trail. Guess Cody-the-ultra-Lab will have to be on a
leash to get in the miles he'll want!
The trail to the off-leash dog loops starts
at the bike free ride area
Four more miles of trails are planned at Red Rock Canyon. The Mesa and Greenlee
trails already connect to trails in Section 16 and more trails
will be added in a new open space called
There are 85 established technical climbing routes in Red Rock Canyon.
Climbing is encouraged but folks must register at the Garden of
the Gods Visitor Center first and have proper equipment.
A cyclist returns to the trailhead near the
free ride area.
As with Garden of the Gods, there is a non-profit volunteer
organization, Friends of Red Rock Canyon, that helps the city
parks and recreation department with advocacy and community
outreach (fund raising, special events), education, and
stewardship (trail maintenance, protection of the resources).
You can find out more about this group at this
link or the City of Colorado
We plan to explore these areas on our next visit. Until I'm able
to take photos,
here are some scenic pictures
taken by two photographers of the Red Rock Canyon area.
GOLD CAMP ROAD/BEAR CREEK CAÑON/NORTH
So by now the advancing storm is on my side of Pike's
Peak and continues to rage to the south of Red Rock Canyon.
That's where I'm headed to find the northern part of historic
Gold Camp Road . . .
Looking west toward Pike's Peak (center)
from Red Rock Canyon
I've driven on Gold Camp, High, and Cheyenne Canyon roads previously
but it's been so many years ago that I wanted to go back. I've
also forgotten in the ensuing years just how narrow and rough
those roads are! It became very clear after it began raining
that narrow dirt roads high on a mountainside are not advisable
during a downpour. I was alone and I didn't want to get stuck in
the mud somewhere.
So that little excursion got cut short after less than an hour.
Looking west toward open space land from
Gold Camp Road is described in the 2010 AAA Colorado-Utah
. . . a narrow, twisting, 36-mile
gravel trail that follows the Cripple Creek Short Line Railroad
roadbed through North Cheyenne Canyon. President Theodore
Roosevelt described it as the "trip that bankrupts the English
language." It is a favorite scenic route for cyclists.
Sounds like my kind of road trip!
There's also the quote at the top of this entry that warns
drivers about road conditions. Hmmm . . . I can't vouch today for Old Stage Road,
High Road, or Cheyenne Canyon Road, all of which connect to
Gold Camp Road to make a big, convoluted scenic loop, because I
didn't get there. Weather
conditions, lack of time, and a tunnel collapse in North Cheyenne Park
made those off-limits today. I have been on them previously,
however, and they are indeed awesome.
I drove south on 26th Street past some residential property,
turned right onto Gold Camp Road, and soon came to Section 16
open space land. I stopped at the trailhead for one of the
trails that connects to both Red Rock Canyon and Bear Creek Cañon Park:
Did I explore that trail?
Nope. Much as I wanted to, that's when it started raining on my
parade. I can't even show you any great photos of the mountains
through Bear Creek Cañon Park property or down into
the huge valley as I drove higher and higher on Gold Camp Road -- they came out dark and crummy
in the rain and fog.
I finally turned around here, as the road got narrower and more
I drove back down toward the intersection with High Road (which
goes one way the other way) . . .
. . . continued past Bear Creek Cañon
Park, and turned right on Lower Gold Camp Road, which is paved
and urbanized. By then it had stopped raining but I decided to
save any further exploration of Bear Creek or North Cheyenne
parks for another trip. These two regional
parks cover a lot of territory
and warrant several hours (days?) to explore.
There is a nature center at Bear Creek that features
self-guiding nature trails, hands-on interactive Colorado
wildlife exhibits, and multimedia nature films. It is free.
North Cheyenne Cañon Park has distinctive rock formations and
waterfalls, including popular Helen Hunt and Silver Cascade
falls. Hiking and biking trails are available; some are quite
challenging. As at other city and regional parks in the area,
technical climbing requires a permit and proper gear. There are
two visitor centers. The one at Starsmore Discovery Center has
exhibits about area wildlife and park history. Both centers
offer nature programs.
I'll put both parks, and the scenic roads that connect them, on
my list of Things to Do Next Time we're here.
This evening on the news I heard that parts of southwest
Colorado Springs got hail and were flooded. Although I was in
the southwestern part of the metro area I'm glad I dodged that
bullet. All I got into was some rain.
HISTORIC MANITOU SPRINGS
Another place I drove through quickly this afternoon, before the
rain began, was "downtown" Manitou Springs. This little town of
about 5,000 residents sits at the eastern base of Pike's Peak. Native
Americans named the mineral springs for which the town is famous
for the Great Spirit Manitou.
Thanks to tales of the curative powers of the "miracle" springs
in the late 1800s, Manitou became a leading spa, then resort and
vacation, area. Quaint houses are built on narrow streets that
snake up the mountainside:
The town has a cool art-colony ambiance. Numerous shops, art
galleries, and restaurants draw visitors year-round to the
So does the Cog Railway, which begins on narrow Ruxton Street:
To really see the old buildings and shops you need to get off US
24 and onto Manitou Avenue. I've walked through most of the
streets in this little town before and just wanted to see the
main street briefly today. I didn't take time to go into any of
These pictures are "windshield shots." I couldn't find a place
to park along the main drag -- on a Tuesday afternoon, no
less. If you visit in the summer, get there early and be
prepared for a lot of walking because it isn't practical to move
your vehicle once it's parked near the main shopping area.
Also be aware that the streets in the historic area, especially
residential streets, are very
narrow and you might have problems navigating and parking a
medium- to large-size RV. There are a couple of RV parks and
parking areas off Manitou Ave. before you get into the heart of
the town. Park your camper there and walk or drive from there in your small
"toad" (towed vehicle, in RV-speak).
HISTORIC OLD NORTH END
Another day Jim and I drove through what is considered one of
the oldest and nicest neighborhoods in Colorado Springs. The
homes lie in an area on or near Cascade Avenue, between Monroe
to the north and Unitah to the south.
I took the next three photos on Cascade Avenue, a wide, attractive boulevard
lined with beautiful homes and yards:
This was the "respectable" side of town back in the heyday of
the mining boom and the raucous life several miles west in Old
General William J. Palmer and his associates with the Denver &
Rio Grande Railroad were mostly responsible for laying out this
with broad boulevards, parks, school lots, and space for a
college in 1871. It was
centered at Pikes Peak and Cascade Avenues. They dug irrigation
ditches, planted thousands of cottonwood trees, and built nice
Tudor homes and gentlemen's clubs for the rich gentry who
settled in the neighborhood, which soon became known as Little
London because it was a playground for the wealthy.
Per the 2010 AAA Colorado-Utah TourBook (p. 49), "When
not playing cricket or attending social functions, these Britons
and their American counterparts speculated in mining. They made
millions, especially after the bonanza in Cripple Creek. The
city benefited in the form of parks, office buildings, mansions,
and hotels. By the first decade of the 20th century, Colorado
Springs ranked among the wealthiest cities per capita in the
I'd like to do a walking tour of this area sometime so I can see
more architectural and landscaping details.
If you're interested in historic homes and other buildings, this
page lists all the addresses on
the National Register of Historic Places in Colorado Springs.
THINGS TO DO AND SEE ON OUR NEXT TRIP HERE
Eleven days in the Colorado Springs area wasn't long enough to
do and see everything I wanted to do and see! Here are some of
the things on my list for next time, in no particular order:
- Hike ~ 13 miles up Pike's Peak from Manitou Springs to the summit
and ride back down with Jim in the truck; he can run down to
meet me on the trail and walk back up with me.
- Hike all or part of the New Santa Fe regional
which stretches 15 miles from Palmer Lake Rec Area to the city of
Colorado Springs on the west side of I-25. Part of it goes through the
Air Force Academy, which is where we'll camp whenever we visit the
- Hike more trails in Garden of the Gods, Red Rock Canyon, and
Section 16 open spaces.
- Visit Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site in Garden of the Gods park.
- Check out some other parks in El Paso County, like Paint Mines --
only four miles of trails but lots of natural wonders.
- Take walking tours of the Old North End (Cascade Ave. area of
Colorado Springs), the Broadmoor area (even more grand estates and the
historic Broadmoor Hotel), Old Colorado City, and Manitou Springs.
- Walk through the historic shopping district in Manitou Springs and
eat at one of the restaurants there (we seldom eat out, so when we do
it is a real treat).
- Drive more of Gold Camp, High, North Cheyenne Canyon, and Old
Stage Roads on a dry, sunny day.
- Visit the Bear Creek Nature Center.
- Check out the trails and waterfalls in North Cheyenne Canyon Park.
- Visit the Colorado Springs Pioneers
Museum, an historic building in a
beautiful downtown park.
- Visit the Colorado
Wolf & Wildlife Center in Divide, CO,
which has one-hour tours of its wolf sanctuary.
- Visit Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument and Mueller State Park just
west of Divide on US 24.
- See the new firefighters' exhibit at Miramont Castle in Manitou
Springs. I've been in this Victorian museum before but now we have a
new reason to go since Jim's a volunteer fireman.
There are many, many more things to do and see in the Colorado
Springs area and Pike's Peak Region. Some we've done before,
some we haven't, and some we'll never do for various reasons.
Wherever we go, I'll probably report on it here if I think it
might interest some of our readers.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Jim and I have really enjoyed our visit to the Colorado Springs
area but it's time to move on. Our next destination is the Dory
Hill Campground between Black Hawk and Golden Gate State Park
west of Denver. Jim's running a 50K race in that park this
Saturday. I've got my fingers crossed that we'll return to
Colorado Springs later this summer.
Next entry: the Golden Gate Dirty Thirty (50K) ultra run
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil