4.2 miles, 1-3 hours
Sometimes granite erodes horizontally into monumental slabs resembling stacks of gigantic red pancakes (see my guide for Horsethief Falls & Pancake Rocks). Not too far away the same kind or rock erodes vertically into colossal collections of cusps, ready to take a bite out of any clouds that venture too close to the earth. A few miles south of Divide CO, this kind of rock formation is called “The Crags.” The hike out to the granite dome (another kind of erosive pattern in this neck of the woods) from which you can view these stunning features is only two miles long. The trail is well marked (#664) and well travelled. In fact, this trek is so popular with area residents that the Forest Service just finished building a new trailhead parking area. Along the trail you’ll pass through forests of enormous quaking aspen, and you’ll trace the track of the beginnings of Four Mile Creek. At the end of the trail, you’ll surmount a wind swept dome from which you can gaze at the Rampart Range, Ute Pass, and the whole of the Catamount Creeks drainage, including the blue reservoirs that capture and control their release.
This is the perfect hike for newcomers to the Colorado Springs area, not too long and not too much altitude. You can make the four miles out and back in less than two hours, but only if you don’t succumb to the temptation to remain on the top of the mountain gawking and the scenery and marveling at the brazen Whisky Jack Jays that populate the wind twisted Bristle Cone Pines.
Directions: Exit I-25 west at Cimarron Ave (exit 141) in Colorado Springs onto US Hwy 24. Drive west through Woodland Park to the town of Divide. Turn south (left) on CO Hwy 67 and drive about 4 miles. Just past the entrance to Mueller State Park, you’ll see a small sign indicating a left turn on a gravel road to the Crags Campground. This will take you through the middle of a Mennonite Camp; don’t worry; you’re on the right road. In about 3 miles you’ll find another small sign directing you to turn left again. The new trailhead parking is on the right. The Crags Campground is at a cul de sac at the end of the road; the old trailhead leads up from here.
Pay attention to the trailhead you use. On the way down, you’ll have a choice to make as the trail forks left and right. The sign reading “trailhead,” and pointing right, takes you to the new parking area. If you mistakenly follow this trail, having parked at the old trailhead, don’t panic. You can just walk back along the road for about .5 miles to where you parked your car.
This is a dog friendly trail. You are even allowed to have them off-leash, as long as they respond immediately to voice commands.