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Hikes In Colorado: The Mt. Rosa Trail

Summary

  • Name: Mt. Rosa
  • Where: Near Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Distance: 17.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Hard (3,927 ft. elevation gain)
  • More Info: ColoradoSprings.com
GPS Map of the Hike:
Click the link for a 3D Google Earth map of the trail.

Narrative

I used my prior hike to St. Mary’s Falls as not only an opportunity for a nice morning walk, but also as a reconnaissance of the route to the 11,499 ft (3,505 m) Mt. Rosa which is one of the most prominent peaks hovering to the west of Colorado Springs.  The route to Mt. Rosa starts out by following the same route I took to St. Mary’s Falls.  So once again I got an early start for what was going to assuredly be a very long day since the hike to Mt. Rosa was about 17.5 miles round-trip.  I have always been intrigued by Mt. Rosa since it is the summit that US Army explorer Captain Zebulon Pike climbed in 1806 during his failed attempt to summit the much larger mountain that now bares his name, Pikes Peak.  So I was literally going to be following in the steps of Pike which is pretty cool.

Zebulon Pike

I began the hike at “The Hub” parking lot in North Cheyenne Canyon at about 6:30 AM.  As I walked down the closed section of Gold Camp Road I took in some nice views of the mountains in the early morning sunlight:

As I walked around the horseshoe section of the Gold Camp Road trail I passed the intersection to the Seven Bridges Trail and then came up to the collapsed railway tunnel:

Gold Camp Road is an old railway grade that used to run from Colorado Springs to the goldfields of Cripple Creek.  After the railway line closed this became a dirt road to Cripple Creek instead.  However, this section of Gold Camp Road had to be closed due to the collapsed railway tunnel and is now a popular hiking and mountain biking location instead.  At the collapsed railway tunnel the trail climbs up the hill on the left above the railway tunnel.  From here there is an intersection to where hikers can either continue to follow Gold Camp Road or ascend up a beautiful valley towards St. Mary’s Falls.  To get to Mt. Rosa I followed the path towards St. Mary’s Falls.  This valley is extremely beautiful with heavy foliage:

The foliage is due to the small creek that flows through the valley:

At the head of the valley the 9,782 ft (2,982 meter) Stove Mountain came into view:

At the base of Stove Mountain is where St. Mary’s Falls are located.  As I continued up the trail I walked by the very bottom of the falls and then proceeded to begin a steep climb up a hillside:

As I walked up the steep hillside I noticed that the early morning clouds around Cheyenne Mountain were quite scenic as they bounced around the mountain:

The trail then came to an intersection where one trail takes hikers to St. Mary’s Falls while the other direction leads to Mt. Rosa:

The hike up to this sign was pretty easy but I knew due to the elevation gain to reach the summit of Mt. Rosa that the hiking was about to become much more difficult.  From the intersection the trail continued a steep ascent up the hillside:

As I continued up the hillside I was rewarded with plenty of outstanding views of Stove Mountain:

Eventually th trail leveled out and I found myself following a path that was running parallel to Stove Mountain.  It was interesting to see that the pointy summit of Stove Mountain was actually quite deceptive as most of the mountain was just a steep rounded hill:

The trail followed a small creek that flowed from the mountains down towards St. Mary’s Falls.  This portion of the walk was quite pleasant as I passed through the forested valley:

This portion of the walk also gave me my first views of Mt. Rosa in the distance:

I next came to a fence line that was constructed to keep the motorbike riders from accessing the lower section of the trail.  As I passed through the fence I found trails running off in various directions:

I followed the trail that headed towards Mt. Rosa:

I then came to this large clearing on top of a hill that has obviously long been used as a place for motorbike riders to test out their bikes at:

I walked to the top of the hill and took this picture looking towards Colorado Springs:

As I looked behind me towards the summit of Mt. Rosa I noticed that I had made a mistake in regards to the trail that I took:

Looking at my map the trail I should have took would have ascended up the right side of the mountain and not end up in front of the mountain.  I was a bit pissed off at myself for not looking at my map more closely at the fence line because I had to now turn around and walk back down the trail.  The walk back to the fence line added about a mile and a half to my walk and took close to an hour to cover.  At the fence line I walked around trying to spot the correct trail to take to the summit of Mt. Rosa.  I noticed somebody had piled some rocks at this trail and it headed in the general direction I should be going:

Just a little ways up the trail I noticed this trail marker which confirmed I was going to the right way:

The forest service really needs to consider putting this trail marker at a more obvious location at the fence line because I am sure I am probably not the only person to make a wrong turn here.  Anyway this portion of the hike was quite tough as the trail made a steep ascent up the side of Mt. Rosa:

Eventually the trail came to the top of a broad mesa that was mostly composed of grass and few small pine trees:

It was very windy up here and I was glad for any trees along this section of the trail to block the wind even if it was just momentarily:

Up here on this high mesa I did have some nice views of the 12,367 foot Almagre Mountain:

Here is a closer look at the mountain where the Jeep trail to its summit is visible:

This is another one of the local mountains I plan to climb up some day and from the mesa it still looked like a pretty far walk.  As I continued across the mesa I came to a trail intersection that was thankfully this time very well marked:

At the Trail 672 sign there is another Forest Service sign that shows the path to the summit of Mt. Rosa:

This trail was pretty rough and it showed that this trail doesn’t get a whole lot of foot traffic:

Considering that I saw absolutely no one the entire day I think it is safe to say that the summit of Mt. Rosa is not one that is frequently climbed.  After the trail finished crossing the mesa I then entered back into a thick forest.  This portion of the trail was also very steep and I had to frequently navigate around patches of snow even though it was nearly summer time:

This last section of the hike was quite steep but I knew the summit was very near:

As I got closer to the summit and the trees began to part, I had some outstanding views of the area:

It was during this portion of the hike that I had to climb over some trees that had fallen over the trail and slipped and cracked by big toe nail on my left foot.  That really hurt and if it had happened earlier in my hike I would have turned around and went back to my truck.  However, I was just a few feet from the summit as the rock outcropping on the summit of Mt. Rosa came into view:

The 11,499 ft (3,505 m) summit of Mt. Rosa is basically just a pile of rocks with a few bushes:

However, the views from the summit are absolutely incredible and some of the best available in the region.  For example here is a view towards the southwest of Penrose-Rosemont Reservoir that is managed by Colorado Springs Utilities since it provides drinking water for the city:

There is no public access road to the reservoir, but fishing is authorized on the lake but visitors have to hike in to fish.  Looking past the reservoir I could see the hills near the old gold camp of Cripple Creek that are backdropped by the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains:

Here is a closer look at those mountains:

Looking towards the east Cheyenne Mountain that looks so imposing from Colorado Springs, looked like a little hill from the summit of Mt. Rosa:

Looking straight down from the summit I could see the clearing for motorbike riders that I was on before:

Additionally the back side of Stove Mountain can be seen from the summit of Mt. Rosa on the left of the below photograph:

Way down below I could see the city and one of its most notable landmarks the Broadmoor Hotel:

Looking to the south I could see Gold Camp Road down below as well as the rock ridgeline that leads to Mt. Vigil:

The plains further south of the mountains that leads to Pueblo were also easily visible.  Here is a closer look at Gold Camp Road where the pond and meadow I had stopped at to take pictures of Mt. Rosa during my drive on that road were visible:

The view looking towards the north was dominated by the 14,115 foot (4,302 meter) Pikes Peak:

Here is a closer look at the snowy summit of Pikes Peak that had received its snow cap just the day before due to a late May storm:

The very next day most of the snow melted off of the summit of the mountain again.  After spending about an hour on the summit of Mt. Rosa I then proceeded to begin the long walk back down the mountain:

As I crossed back across the mesa the wind had gotten much worse and I was quite cold until I entered back into the tree line to descend down back to the fence line:

From the fence line I crossed the pleasant valley again that ended with views of Stove Mountain:

As I descended the mountain towards St. Mary’s Falls I had some spectacular views of North Cheyenne Canyon:

As I continued down the trail I also had some great views of Mt. Cutler:

By the time I got back to the lower Gold Camp Road by big toe that I had cracked the cracked toe nail on was really aching.  The loop walk back to the “The Hub” parking lot felt like a long one due to my aching toe:

Eventually I arrived back at the parking lot and took one last look back towards the mountains before heading back to my truck:

At my truck I took off my boots to check out my cracked toe nail.  It was now bleeding so I put some antiseptic on it follow by a band-aid.  It ended up taking three weeks for my toe nail to heal.

Conclusion

The hike to the summit of Mt. Rosa is a long one of about 17.5 miles and even longer if you make a wrong turn like I did.  The hike can be done in a day if you are in shape.  For those that don’t want to push themselves too hard by doing this mountain in one day, I did see a pleasant camp site along the creek above St. Mary’s Falls for those who want to make this a multi-day hike.  There is also another route up Mt. Rosa via Frosty’s Park that is much shorter 3.5 mile walk for those who want to make the drive up Gold Camp Road and access the mountain that way.  What is important is that people hike up to the summit of Mt. Rosa because the views are hard to beat and well worth the effort to get there.  For me it was even worth cracking my toe nail to get to the summit of this scenic mountain.

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