Ute Pass Trail
I was surprised to encounter yet another fine trailhead on the edge of Manitou Springs in early April of 2010. The trail quickly takes you into quiet wilderness and gets the heart pumping with ascents to several ridges.
Directions: Just before you reach Barr Trail's parking lot and the Cog Railroad Depot
, park along Ruxton Ave. by the Iron Springs Chateau (white building) and walk up a short street (just to the left of red car in first photo below) which ends to the left of several new 3-story condos (second photo below). Trailhead will be on your right with a "Ring the Peak - Ute Pass Trail" sign.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate. 3.5 miles one-way with an elevation gain of 1040' and a loss of 340' due to going up and down several ridges. The section approaching the first ridge was the only steep area with slippery gravel. After the first ridge a 4WD road takes you to Hwy 24, 1/2 mile east of Cascade.
The trail starts out easy with a view of Manitou Springs and Hwy 24 to the right.
Soon rock walls separate you from the city noise.
Where the path splits, take the bypass on the right if the gate ahead is closed. Or go right and right again (second photo below) if you want to explore the tunnels for a former railroad track, paralleling Hwy 24.
The view leading to the first ridge is quite beautiful. It didn't seem like the path was that steep, but we soon got a little short of breath.
As we neared the first ridge, the water treatment plant at the top came into view. This was the section I did not enjoy because it was steep and covered with slippery gravel.
It had been warm and peaceful in the valley, but at the ridge strong, cold winds hit suddenly. Looking ahead I realized I could breathe easy now because the rest of the trail was a 4WD road for utility vehicles with a gradual hills.
Looking back at the first ridge.
At the second ridge a sign notes the elevation is 7000' and Cascade is 2 miles farther. It was here that we saw the first hikers. They informed us that the road to the left of the sign headed toward The Incline. Since that route was longer than the one we just took and I wasn't feeling really ambitious, we planned on returning the same way we came. The path continued to be easy with a few muddy spots in the shade.
We soon came across a sign marking the former intersection of Ute Trail and Ute Wagon Trail. From a casual glance, we couldn't see where the wagon trail would have been. It was probably the wagon trail started in the 1860's connecting the Leadville mining camp to Colorado City (now Old Colorado City just west of Colorado Springs).
A gas pipeline follows the road most of the way.
I had just enough energy for the return trip and didn't want to deal with more hills, so we turned back here. Below is the last view we had looking northwest and the path leading to the small town of Cascade about a mile farther.
As we headed to Manitou Springs, I crossed over what I thought was ice on hard dirt, but my boots broke through the crust and sank a few inches in gooey mud caused by runoff from a nearby hill. If I hadn't darted out of there, I would have sunk a few more inches and Greg may have had to pull me out of the muck. I will proceed over ice more carefully next time.
The view of sunlit red rocks surrounding Manitou Springs was the best view of the whole hike.
As the sun set over the hills separating us from The Incline and Barr Trail, I thought it would be nice to take that route back someday. We only saw five hikers total that Saturday, making for a relaxing afternoon.