One early fall day, d-low and I decided to again backpack the “Ring The Peak” trail. At just under 60 miles, it is a work in progress.
A CDT hike in miniature: unfinished, a mix of single track, jeep roads, cross country and pavement. Scenic in parts and ‘connector trail’ in others. It is a trail that someone with a thru-hiking background may only appreciate backpacking.
So we loaded our packs, head for the trailhead and forged our own path for approx 55 miles around the base of Pikes Peak.
We saw alpine tundra and climbed areas that hardly saw any people. We followed old single track. And mingled with tourists, ATV traffic and day users. A trail of mixed use and extremes.
We hiked trail, saw the mountain and ringed the peak in our own way.
I first hiked this trail in 2007.
In 2007, we hiked the trail in early summer.
Many snow drifts were here and there in the high country, thunder storms threatened and we had to take some, ah, interesting alternate routes.
In 2011? Fall was just starting in the high country, all the snow was long melted and the navigation was much easier.
Overall, it was a much more pleasant trail to hike.
We started not far from downtown Manitou Springs and quickly spotted the Garden of the Gods.
We pushed further on and left real trail to walk blacktop for a bit.
Through Manitou Springs and to the base of Pikes Peak at the cog railway.
We headed up the (too) popular Barr Trail and eventually left this hiker highway to hike the easily missed French Creek Trail.
Eventually we reached Crowe Gulch and into a later afternoon rain shower. A ‘privy bivy’ showed up at an opportune time!
Since the Barr Trail, we have been making our own path.
We rejoined the ‘official’ trail again at a good campsite and called it a night.
The following day, we sticked to the official route for most of the morning and enjoyed the views long the various reservoirs to Pikes Peak.
Towards the end of the day, we saw Sentinel Point and the ridge where we’d leave the trail to take a high country alternate route.
We climbed up to the ridge and enjoyed the glow of the early evening light.
A suitable campsite was found at the edge of treeline and we settled in for the night.
The following morning, continued to explore the tundra expanse and eventually made our way to seldom climbed Sheep Mountain.
At “only” 12k or so feet, it is often ignored in favor of Pikes Peak.
The red rock formations around the summit reminded me of the Lost Creek Wilderness to north and west.
(As it should; it is all part of the same uplift)
We made our way further down the tundra and enjoyed the view of Pikes all to ourselves.
Eventually we left the tundra, reached a dirt road and rejoined the designated trail.
The route would be a long, mainly downhill (with one stiff uphill) and gradual descent back to the car. Many miles would pass.
Instead of our solitude, we’d be sharing the roads with 4wd traffic.
But the afternoon turned into early evening.
We reached single track again and started our long descent down into the canyon.
The car was reached after many miles and many thousands of feet of elevation loss.
A long look forward to beer was consumed and calls made to our significant others.
Three days of Ringing T he Peak was over.
Until another year.
ALL THE PHOTOS
Overall impressions: The Ring the Peak trail is more along the lines of the the Tahoe Rim Trail rather than the Wonderland Trail.
Much like the TRT, it is a trail that is (generally) not far town and is often in a mixed use environment. The RTP does have some interesting views. If alternate routes are taken, the views are incredible.
I’d only do the trail if you are a hiker open to a trail that is not complete, a bit of a ‘choose your own adventure’ and wish to explore the Pikes Peak area in a unique way.
The route: D-low has done the trail four times now and each time has been different. Weather, snow conditions and just wanting to try something different all come into play. Our route minimized pavement walks and took in the high country. The official route, though not complete, is lower and involves more road walking. Any route should be an interesting experience.
The route we took was about 55 miles and 15000′ gain.
Maps: The following maps are suggested:
- The Friends of the Peak website have maps for the designated route available online.
- The Sky Terrain Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak map is also suggested
- Though not needed, the Pikes Peak Atlas has detailed maps and old ‘ghost’ trails that make for interesting alternate routes.