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On Walkabout On: Mueller State Park’s Cheesman Ranch Trail

Basic Information

  • Name: Cheesman Ranch Trail
  • Where: Mueller State Park, Colorado
  • Distance: 8.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Medium (525 feet of elevation gain)
  • More Info: Mueller State Park website

GPS Map of the Trail:

Narrative

On a recent weekend I decided to try and snowshoe another featured hike in The Best Colorado Springs Hikes (Colorado Mountain Club Pack Guides) book that I am steadily completing all the recommended trails in.  The one I decided to try out was the Cheesman Ranch Trail located at Mueller State Park just to the west of Colorado Springs.


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I previously went snowshoeing here along the Outlook Ridge Trail which was much shorter than the Cheesman Ranch Trail I planned to snowshoe this time:

The Cheesman Ranch Trail is approximately 8.5 miles depending on where the hike is started from.  Since it was winter I had to begin the hike where the park service stops plowing the road.  From there I parked my vehicle and began walking on the unplowed road towards the trailhead:

This section of the park has a number of picnic and camping sites that are very well placed along the main road:

I was impressed by how large each picnic and camping spot was at the park.  This section of the park also has a few cabins and even this large visitor center for people visiting the park during the summer time:

I will definitely have to bring my family sometime up here during the summer to go camping because the facilities are so outstanding.  Eventually I reached the end of the road and found the trailhead for the Cheesman Ranch Trail.  The trails at Mueller State Park are well marked with a numbering system and thus a map is needed to interpret the numbers.  For example the Cheesman Ranch Trail is #17:

The Cheesman Ranch trail begins by exiting the trees and crossing a large grassy meadow:

Mueller State Park used to be owned by W.E. Mueller who used half of his 5,121 acre property for cattle grazing and left the other half as natural habitat.  So this big wide open meadow area would have been where cattle grazed on his property.  Over time though trees are slowly beginning to grow again in the meadow areas.  Mueller sold his property to the Nature Conservancy in 1978 who since then have worked with the state government to have it become the wonderful Colorado State Park we see today.

Anyway the trail heads east across the meadow where the view was dominated by the western slopes of Pikes Peak:

You can read more about Pikes Peak at the below link:

Outside of the trees there was very little snow to snowshoe on, but once I reentered the trees the amount of snow quickly increased.  However in the areas with thick aspen forests the snow level was still only about 6 inches deep because the aspens had no leaves to provide shade over the trail like the pine trees provide:

On the eastern section of the loop, the trail actually runs parallel to Highway 67 so it is actually a bit noisy and houses located along the highway are visible:

I could actually here a guy talking to his kids in his backyard across the highway from the trail.  It must be pretty cool to live literally next door to a huge state park like this?  Something else the trail was running parallel to was the old railway bed for the Midland Terminal Railway:

During the Gold Rush years of nearby Cripple Creek, the Midland was constructed from Colorado Springs via Ute Pass to Cripple Creek to regularly transport passengers and goods to the goldfields from 1893-1931.  The eastern section of the loop trail remained exposed until the trail began to head west back towards the treeline:

At the treeline there was an old cabin that could be seen:

The cabin was actually quite large and I wondered if this was used as a barn?

The cabin did have an excellent view of Pikes Peak though:

From the cabin I descended down a hill through the trees and noticed what appeared to be mountain lion footprints in the snow:

Whenever I go hiking I always carry a knife with me just in case I have a run in with a mountain lion.  Fortunately it has never happened and hopefully it stays that way.  Anyway I eventually came out of the trees and the old Cheesman Ranch came into view in front of me:

I looked on the Internet for information on the history of Cheesman Ranch, but I could not find anything.  All I can tell you about the Cheesman Ranch that it is one of the 10 ranch properties that Mueller bought over the decades as he expanded his own ranch land.  If anyone knows anything about who the Cheesman family was please leave a comment.  Anyway here is a closer look at the ranch’s barn:

The state park service has done a good job with maintaining the barn so park visitors can appreciate how people ranched in the high country decades ago.  Here is also a closer look at the house:

It is pretty amazing how small the houses were a hundred years ago especially when a large family probably lived in it.  Considering how the homes were depended on a fireplace for heat the smaller structures were definitely easier to keep warm in such a cold climate.  After spending a few minutes pondering what the lives of the people who lived in this ranch were like, I then began to continue west on the trail where I went up a small hill that had a nice view of the ranch:

Eventually the trail began to head south and back towards the trees:

Once I entered the trees this became the most difficult portion of the hike.  For most of the hike I had slowly descended down hill from the trailhead.  This is the portion of the hike that is all uphill and regains over 500 feet of altitude:

Since the trail was heavily forested with pine trees this section of the trail had by far the most snow.  It is also here where I saw the only other people on the trail which were two different couples snowshoeing in the opposite direction and another couple that were skiing down the hill.  By the time I got up to the top of the hill I was actually pretty tired and sat down on a dead log in order to rest a bit and take in the views of Pikes Peak:

I sat on that log for about 20 minutes resting and eating lunch and then began the short walk back to the trailhead.  Along this section of the hike I had plenty of views to enjoy of the always impressive Pikes Peak:

Once I got back to my truck I was rewarded with one final view of the beautiful Sangre De Cristo Mountain Range that rises to the south of Mueller State Park:

Conclusion

Once again I had another great visit to Mueller State Park.  The Cheesman Ranch Trail was the longest hike I completed in the park as well as the longest snowshoe route I have done to date.  For people looking to do just one long hike in the park I recommend this trail because it has points where you can take in views of the surrounding area, especially of Pikes Peak while also allowing visitors to experience the surrounding forest, and even get a taste of the park’s historical past.

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