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Divide, Colorado, United States

Horsethief Falls & Pancake Rocks

Hiking on the back side of Pikes Peak

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    This guide contains photos
 (5 votes, 3 reviews)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 7.6 miles / 12.2 km
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly • Dog Friendly
 
Overview: I did part of this hike at the end of April. I didn't know then that despite the snowmelt in most of the area (Colorado Springs, Woodland Park & Divide), this trail runs along the north face of one ridge and the south face of another. So the snow was still quite deep. So with no snowshoes, the only one who enjoyed that trek was the dog.

Drive west from Colorado Springs on US Hwy 24, through Woodland Park, to Divide. Turn south (left) on CO 67. Go about 9 miles. You'll see the remains of an old tunnel facing you as you come around a curve. On the other side of this tunnel is the trail head on the left. There is no sign! You can park on either side.

This is a popular place in July -- easily 20 cars in the parking area around the trail head; but everyone was spaced evenly enough that it didn't seem crowded at all. I like this hike because the trail is covered most of the time, the pine, spruce and aspen trees creating a shimmering mosaic of light and sound as the breeze dances through their branches. Then occasionally the forest opens to reveal stunning views of near and distant mountains covered by an ocean of blue sky. The two terminal points of the hike (the falls and the rocks) are also worth the effort it will take to reach them.


Tips: Take snacks and water! If you take your dog, take snacks and water for it as well.
Use sunscreen or cover up; when the sun is out, it can burn easily at this altitude.
Go early in the day because thunderstorms can arise suddenly in the afternoon.
Walking sticks help, both as propellants and as stabilizers.

Points of Interest

Parking
map

Trail Head

The trail head sits at 9760 feet of elevation. No sign indicates your location, just the remains of the old road tunnel. The parking area accommodates around 25 vehicles. I'd advise arriving early, especially in the summer, so you can hike while it's still cool and the light is good for photos.
Viewpoint
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Arbor Trail

As the trail ascends, you'll feel as though you're in an arbor. The filtered sunlight is soft and soothing, both in summer and winter. The two pictures here are only 65 days apart; because the trail runs along the north face of the ridge, the snow hangs around a long time.
Junction
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Trail Split

After walking a mile and ascending 400 feet, you'll arrive at a sign indicating a split in the trail. Straight ahead lie the falls; to the right about 2 miles (and another 800 feet of altitude) is the Pancake Rocks area. Just north of the trail is a meadow and a pond made by beavers taking advantage of the flatter terrain.

For this hike, I chose to continue on to the falls. When I return, I think I'll do the Rocks first, while I still have some oxygen in my blood stream. When you reach the falls, be careful. The decomposed granite slab down which the water flows is treacherous. You should still climb up as high as you like to the top of the water source; just be cautious.
Water
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Horsethief Falls

The falls is really more of a "flow." Here the stream descends across the granite face at the foot of Sentinel Point. The high moisture content of the soil makes an ideal location for Colorado Columbine. You can climb around and enjoy exploring quite high up the rock formation. However, be careful, the decomposed granite here can be treacherous.
map

Domed Viewing

To the north (left as you face the falls), through a small copse of trees, is another granite face. It only rises about 75 ft above the forest floor, and it's not steep nor is the footing loose. When you reach the top, you'll find a chair sized knob perfect for propping you up while you gaze westward toward the inner range of the Rockies.
Viewpoint
map

Western View 1

After I enjoyed the falls, I headed up the trail toward Pancake Rocks. UP is the correct term. The trail tops out at 11,088 ft, where the air density is 67% of what you'll find at sea level, and your body is operating with about 88% of the blood oxygen level you'd have there. ... Sucking wind is not a bad thing, it slows you down so you can enjoy the scenery more. ... Along the way be sure to enjoy the views of the mountains to the west.
Viewpoint
map

Western View 2

Another spot to catch your breath and enjoy the breath-taking landscape.
Viewpoint
map

Pancake Rocks

When you reach the top, take some time to explore the rock formations. Here the granite fractures in horizontal patterns rather than the vertical ones you'd see at the Crags about three miles to the north. ... The hike down is a lot quicker than the hike up. But, be careful how you place your feet, because the granite gravel can be slick in places.
Pictures in this guide taken by: dougknighton
Reviews
kwarren1970
I did this hike with a group of friends earlier this year. There was still snow on the trail especially in the shadow areas making for slippery sections. If you hike this when snow is still around, I highly recommend those shoe chains to put around your hiking shoes and maybe even a hiking pole. That makes a world of a difference! Falling hurts! Trailhead is on the same road as the turn off for Mueller State Park. In fact, I think it might of been a 1/4 of a mile away on the opposite side of the street so easy to find.

I thought the trail was intermediate. We decided to go to Pancake Rocks. I can see why it is called Pancake Rocks. Once at the top, the view is just beautiful! I had to strike a yoga pose up on those rocks too. Very empowering!

Visited on Feb 15, 2014

by kwarren1970 on Jun 15, 2014
Natrajk
First time to this trail and did take Pan Cake trail. Awesome one and the view at the summit was priceless!!
We managed to cover the round trip in 4 hours.

TIPS: Take enough food and water.

Visited on Jul 06, 2013

by Natrajk on Jul 12, 2013
sjsteph
This is my first time using the EveryTrail app, and it worked great! I downloaded this guide and we snowshoed to Pancake Rocks today. It was so easy to reference the guide to see where we were, and it helped us know exactly what to expect. The trail was well-traveled and packed down, and our dog had an awesome time in the snow. We only saw three other people on the trail (on a Friday). We would definitely go back to Pancake Rocks - a scenic and easy half-day hike that we'll enjoy taking visiting family or friends on. We saved the Falls for another time and will definitely go back to see them!

The guide by dougknighton was spot-on and very helpful.

Visited on Dec 30, 2011

by sjsteph on Dec 30, 2011

Horsethief Falls & Pancake Rocks Trail Map


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About the Author

dougknighton
dougknighton
30 guides
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Retired Air Force Chaplain who began military life as an Airborne Ranger. Evidently I didn't get enough...

Horsethief Falls & Pancake Rocks 3 Day Forecast

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