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On Walkabout On: The Catamount Trail, Colorado

Basic Information

  •  Name: Catamount Trail
  • Where: Green Mountain Falls, Colorado
  • Distance: 7.31 miles
  • Time: 3-5 hours roundtrip
  • Difficulty: Medium (1,539 ft elevation gain)
  • More Info: CoSpringsTrails.com
The GPS map of the trail below was made using my iPhone.  The green arrow represents the start of the hike and the red the end.  The green pointer represents the highpoint of the hike.  Note that the iPhone app’s distances and elevation are not as accurate as a GPS, but close:

Click here for a 3D flyover video of the trail

Narrative

Another hike I completed recently from the book The Best Colorado Springs Hikes (Colorado Mountain Club Pack Guides) was the Catamount Trail.  This trail is a nice hike from Ute Pass to a couple of reservoirs located as the base of Pikes Peak just outside of Colorado Springs.  The maximum elevation of the hike was just above 9,000 feet with only about 1,500 feet of elevation gain which made this a less strenuous hike compared to some of the higher mountains I climbed earlier this summer.  I would find out though that this hike still provides a pretty good work out as well as great scenery.  The hike begins in the small village of Green Mountain Falls located just off of Highway 24 that runs through Ute Pass:


View Larger Map

There are plenty of signs on Highway 24 that point out the exit to Green Mountain Falls.  The village has a small downtown area that features this nice little pond with a gazebo in the middle of it:

Drive through downtown until you see this large church:

I recommend parking across the street from the church and then crossing the street to walk up Hondo Avenue.  This street is a dirt road that runs up the side of the mountains that hikers have to follow to reach the trailhead to the Catamount Trail:

Hikers have to begin their hike here in the downtown area because there is no parking allowed on the side Hondo Avenue presumably because of the traffic issues it was causing local residents.  Hondo Avenue is quite a steep street and I can only imagine the difficulty some of these residents must have in the winter on this road when it ices up:

Like I usually do I got an early start for this hike by arriving in Green Mountain Falls at around 6:30 Am.  As I walked up Hondo Ave. I got a nice view of the sun rising over the Rampart Range on the other side of the town:

I also got to see some deer that were foraging in the front yard of one of the home owners:

Some of the homes along the road were quite huge with some reaching up to 4 stories tall in height:

Then there was a few other homes that more or less looked like humble summer cabins for their owners:

Eventually the road ended at this gate where there was plenty of signs warning people they cannot park here and thus the reason for the long walk up the road:

There was also plenty of signs posted along the road also warning people from parking or trespassing on their property, unless they were of the four-legged kind:

From the gate I followed the path past the waterworks structure and over this bridge to the Catamount Falls:

The Catamount Falls is a small waterfall made from a creek that flows down the side of the mountain and into town:

The falls also represented the official start point of the Catamount Trail:

For those that don’t know the word Catamount is another term used to describe a mountain lion.  Mountain lions are commonly found in the Rocky Mountains to include the Pikes Peak region.  However, since they mostly come out at night to hunt they are usually not seen by people.  Out of all the years I have lived in Colorado and hiked various trails in the American West I have only seen a mountain lion one time in the wild about 15 years ago from my car.  Despite the seclusion the mountain lions like to keep I still carry a knife with me as part of my standard hiking kit just in case I run into an aggressive mountain lion.  However, I always like to point out also that I am actually more concerned about running into a dangerous person than I am a mountain lion which is just another reason I carry my knife with me.

Pictures of mountain lions at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs.

Anyway from the Catamount Falls the trail up the side of the mountains is quite steep and rugged:

The trail initially follows the creek up the side of the mountains:

The trail eventually breaks away from the creek as it switchbacks up the mountain side:

I gained altitude pretty quickly and actually broke out into a pretty good sweat which meant I was getting some good exercise from this hike.  I took a few minutes to take a break at lookout on the trail that provides some nice views of Green Mountain Falls down below:

After a few minutes taking in the view I then continued my hike up the Catamount Trail to the top of the mountain:

At the top of the ridgeline there was this sign posted warning hikers of the steep trail that I had just climbed up:

From the ridgeline I then descended a short distance into what is known as the Garden of Eden.  It was easy to understand how this little valley got its name because it was filled with lush vegetation due to the small creek that the flows through the valley:

Along the trail there was also some huge Ponderosa Pine trees that were quite impressive to see:

The trail then passed through a section of the valley that was dominated by unusual rock formations called  hoodoo columns:

Something else the valley had was plenty of colorful wildflowers:

I next came to the section of the Catamount Trail that passes very close to the creek which meant that the vegetation became very thick along the path:

Due to the rain that had fallen the night prior this vegetation was covered in moisture which left my hiking pants soaking wet and looking like I peed all over myself:

Fortunately I always wear moisture wicking fabric when I hike and once out of the thick vegetation my pants dried out pretty quickly.  The Catamount Trail finally came to the end of the valley where more rocks and thick trees awaited me:

The trail entered into these trees and crossed over the creek using this makeshift bridge:

After crossing the bridge the trail then proceeded to gain in altitude once again as it climbed higher up the mountains following the creek that was flowing down its side:

Eventually I reached the top of the mountain and the trail leveled out as it joined up with this dirt road that leads to the South Catamount Reservoir:

At this point there was no trail to follow and I had to walk on the side of the road.  The road to the North and South Catamount Reservoirs is accessed from the Pikes Peak Highway and is quite busy with vehicle traffic that was zooming by me from time to time.  Something that really annoys me is when people blow by me on a dirt road when hiking knowing full well that they will be kicking up dust right in my face which is what a few people did.  Whenever I am driving on a dirt road I always slow down when passing pedestrians just so I will not kick up dust on them.  I wish everyone would be considerate enough to do this.

Anyway while walking up the dirt road this large rock formation I found to be quite impressive:

Eventually I then saw the dam for the South Catamount Reservoir in front me where I noticed that the creek that I had been following up the mountains from Green Mountain Falls originates from this reservoir:

I followed the road up to the top of the reservoir where I had a nice view of the 14,115 ft Pikes Peak despite the chilly overcast conditions I was experiencing the day I hiked up the Catamount Trail:

The South Catamount Reservoir is one of three reservoirs in this area at the base of Pikes Peak that provides drinking water for Colorado Springs:

The first reservoir is Crystal Reservoir which can be seen from the Pikes Peak Highway while the other two, North and South Catamount Reservoir are accessed from the highway by taking the dirt road I walked along to the reservoirs.  These reservoirs are also popular for fishing which was quite evident by the number of fishermen I saw along the side of the lakes.  From the South Catamount Reservoir I followed the trail that leads through this grove of aspen trees to the North Catamount Reservoir:

The trail eventually ended at the North Catamount Reservoir:

From here the trail once again became part of a dirt road that crosses the dam to the far side of the reservoir where I had some more nice views of Pikes Peak looming over the lake:

After spending some time at the lake I then turned around and proceeded back down the trail.  Walking down hill from the reservoirs caused me to make great time and soon enough I was back in the Garden of Eden checking out the beautiful wildflowers and rock hoodoos:

The clouds were parting in some parts of the sky which provided me with some nice blue skies to backdrop my photographs of the hoodoos with:

I then exited out of the Garden of Eden and was heading down the slopes of the mountains towards Green Mountain Falls.  I made sure to take a side trail to a lookout that provided a nice view of Ute Pass and Green Mountain Falls down below:

I also noticed from the lookout that the section of the Rampart Range across from Green Mountain Falls was largely left unscathed from the June 2012 wildfire that heavily burned sections of the range further to south near Colorado Springs:

As I began to descend down the mountains I had to be careful to watch my footing because the loose rock was a bit slippery to walk down:

Soon enough the trail was following the creek once again this time back down the mountain:

I then reached the bottom of the Catamount Trail where the small Catamount Falls is located:

Conclusion

From there I walked back to the gate and proceeded to then walk back to my truck parked at the bottom of Hondo Avenue.  In total I walked just over 7 miles and gained over 1,500 feet in altitude which provided me with a pretty good workout and not to mention some great views of Ute Pass, Pikes Peak, and the two reservoirs.  The hike took me just over 4 hours to complete round-trip going at an average pace.  This hike should be able to completed by most people and the only people I would not recommend it to are people with any joint problems because of the steepness of the trail and the slippery rocks that plague some sections of the hike.  Besides that everyone else should be able to complete the hike with some effort and hopefully have as good a time as I did exploring another great trail in the Pikes Peak region.

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