Hiking to Pancake Rocks
Teller County, Colorado
On Thanksgiving Day of 2008 my husband and I decided to hike to Pancake Rocks for the first time. We ran into only one person. He was prepared with a pair of Yaktrax (dense coils for traction - about $20 to $25 at Walmart or a sporting goods store) on his boots which were ideal for gripping on the icy sections of trail. Wearing only hiking boots, I had to go slowly at times to keep from falling. A 5.5 mile round trip trail that should have taken 3 to 4 hours took me almost five hours, including a 15 minute break to climb the rocks and take photos at the top.
Directions : From the intersection of highways 24 and 67 (Divide, CO), travel south toward Cripple Creek about 9 miles and you will see the parking lot on your left (east side of road) next to the south entrance of a closed tunnel.
Difficulty : This nontechnical hike is moderate to strenuous with an elevation gain of about 1,200 ft. to a 10,931 ft. summit. If you include the elevation change of a valley along the trail, you end up climbing over 1,400 ft. total. Bring a GPS if there is snow on the ground because it is possible to lose track of the trail in a few spots.
The first part of the trail has a continuous gradual incline with one switchback through woods.
After just under a mile of hiking it was nice to have a change of scenery from the tall trees and come to this clearing where we saw a beaver dam and mountain peak (below). Near this area is a sign pointing to Horsethief Falls to the left. Though it isn't that far, we didn't have the time to check it out. Go right to reach Pancake Rocks.
About two thirds of the way, after going through several switchbacks, we were rewarded with a beautiful view of a cliff on the left and distant mountain ranges to our right.
My knees appreciated the break when we descended into a shallow valley. Then we started climbing again and I got impatient to see the summit. When we finally reached the top, a cold wind met us as we gazed at the odd piles of flat pancake-like rocks surrounding us. The inspiring view of the expansive plains below and hazy mountain ranges beyond were worth the effort of the hike.
We enjoyed climbing on the rocks and taking photos. It would be a great spot in the summer for a picnic.
It felt like a remote area, so we kept looking for wildlife, but didn't spot anything.
We were a little late for our Thanksgiving dinner and quite famished. The good thing about going on a rigorous hike before a holiday meal is that you don't feel the least bit guilty about stuffing your face.
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