This month I have been itching to get in a tough hike to break in my body for the upcoming summer time 14er season. A hike that has been on my local bucket list for some time was to summit the 12,367 foot Almagre Mountain that borders Colorado Springs. Almagre is the 2nd most prominent mountain visible from the city. The most prominent mountain is of course the 14,115 foot Pikes Peak that dominates for miles in all directions. Almagre sits just to the south of Pikes Peak and is the only other mountain in the Colorado Springs region that breaks tree line and is snowcapped for most of the year like Pikes Peak is.
Despite Almagre’s prominence this mountain is no where near as hiked as its neighbor Pikes Peak. Pikes Peak has many trails, a cog railway, and even a highway that brings tens of thousands of people to the summit of the mountain each year. You can read about my prior hike up Pikes Peak at the below link:
Almagre is best accessed by people with a four wheel drive vehicle that can travel the rough roads up the mountain. For people with really rugged four wheel drive vehicles it is possible to drive all the way up to the locked gate near the summit. As readers will see this is very depended on weather and rock slide conditions at the time of trying to drive up this dangerous road. This fact further limits the amount of people who try to access the mountain with four wheel drive vehicles. For those with just two wheel drive vehicles very long hikes are needed to summit the mountain which deters many from hiking up Almagre. So for anyone looking to hike up a mountain above tree line and not have to deal with any crowds, Almagre should fit the bill for you.
I have an all wheel drive Ford Escape Hybrid and decided to hike up Almagre Mountain from the Frosty Park campground. This campground is reached by taking FR379 which is a four wheel drive road that branches off of Gold Camp Road at the Penrose-Rosemont Reservoir:
My Escape is not the most rugged off road vehicle, but I figured the road would be in good enough shape to where I would have no issues getting to Frosty Park. I estimated that the road couldn’t be any worse than the Stephen Gulch Road I drove up to get to the Grays Peak trailhead last year which is about as bad a road I am willing to take my truck on. My plan was to begin the hike at 6AM in the morning so when I drove up Old Stage Road that climbs up Cheyenne Mountain and intersects with Gold Camp Road, it was very dark out. Here is a view of Colorado Springs at night from this road:
As I drove down Old Stage Road I noticed that the various pull outs along the road are popular places for people to park and party on weekends. I actually almost hit one person dressed in black walking apparently drunk along the side of the road. Later further down the road I was flagged down by his friends who were looking for him and I told them where to find him. After that excitement I reached the Penrose-Rosemont Reservoir and began to look for the intersection to FS379. I found that the turn off is well sign posted and was easy to spot even in the dim early morning light:
However, after a short drive down the road I decided to turn around and go park back near the reservoir because of how rough the road was to include a creek crossing:
I did not want needlessly beat up my truck when I could just easily walk the extra distance to Frosty’s Park. So I began my hike from the reservoir and reached Frosty Park in under an hour:
After walking to Frosty Park I determined that my Escape actually could have made up here with little issues because the roughest part of the road is right towards the beginning where I turned around. After the creek crossing the road wasn’t all that bad. At Frosty Park there is a large meadow there with lots of signs telling people to stay out and the campground itself is located within the tree line:
I only saw a couple of tents pitched at the campground so not a whole lot of people there when I hiked in. Just up from the campground there is also a major trail intersection where people can access Frosty Park via North Cheyenne Canyon which is a popular hiking location that borders Colorado Springs:
At this intersection I checked my Garmin Fenix GPS watch to see how far I had gone and how much time I lost by not starting my hike here at Frosty Park:
So basically I added nearly 4 miles and about an hour and a half to my hike round-trip by starting at the reservoir. It did not seem like a big deal at the time, but I definitely felt the extra miles later walking back with pretty sores calf muscles from my hike up the mountain. From Frosty Park the road begins to gain elevation and I could now see the lower slopes of Almagre Mountain in front of me:
Along the way there is a large clearing that provides some nice views of the surrounding mountains as well as Colorado Springs:
Here is a view of Mt. Rosa from the clearing:
Mt. Rosa is one of my favorite hikes in the region which I highly recommend that people check out as well. You can read more about Mt. Rosa at the below link:
I had never noticed this cone shaped mountain before but it looked pretty cool when viewed from the south:
From the clearing the road really begins to climb up the mountain and gets much rougher with snow and ice covering parts of it:
The road sometimes has other little roads or trails not depicted on my map that branch off from it:
The important thing to remember is to just stay on FS379. I eventually came to a beautiful clearing with a small pond in the middle of it called Deer Park:
At Deer Park my GPS told me that I had traveled 4.19 miles for 1 hour and 39 minutes. It also told me that I had hiked above 11,000 feet:
Deer Park is where FS379 intersects with a four wheel drive road that follows Gould Creek:
The Gould Creek Road leads back to Gold Camp Road, so I took a right here and continued to follow FS379 towards the high mountains ahead of me:
After a short walk FS379 than comes to a critical intersection with FS379a. To reach the summit of Almagre Mountain this is where I had to make a right at:
The turn off to FS379a is 4.72 miles into the hike and took me nearly two hours to reach:
This part of the road is extremely rough and filled with a lot of snow and ice:
Once the road exits the tree line it becomes quite dangerous because of the steep drop offs, increasing ice, and falling rocks:
However, since I did exit the tree line I did have my first expansive views of the region. For example here is Mt. Rosa again where Frosty Park can be seen down below it:
From this viewpoint this is the first time I had noticed how eroded the northern slopes of Mt. Rosa are. For those that do not know, the mountains around Colorado Springs are composed primarily of Pikes Peak Granite which is a pinkish colored rock. When it erodes it becomes almost like sand and can be difficult to hike in. The above picture shows that the northern slope of Mt. Rosa has become primarily this sand like rock.
Here is a panorama picture from the road looking towards Colorado Springs:
From the road the reason why Alamgre Mountain got its name is quite apparent. The pinkish color of the Pikes Peak Granite caused early Spanish explorers to give the mountain its name which is Spanish for “red dirt”.
Just below Mt. Rosa is Frosty Park:
I also had a great view looking down into North Cheyenne Canyon as well:
As I continued up the road the snowcapped expanse of Almagre Mountain loomed in front of me:
As I continued to gain in altitude the road became increasingly covered with snow and ice:
Eventually I reached the gate that was locked that provides vehicle access to Almagre Mountain in the summer time:
Here is the view looking back towards Colorado Springs from the gate:
If you look closely at the above photograph you will see a trail coming out the of the tree line. I would later run into some trail runners that had used this trail to access the mountain from North Cheyenne Canyon. I had heard about this trail before, but it was not depicted on my map. Now I know the trail does exist and is an alternate way to hike up to Almagre.
Here is a closer look at Colorado Springs:
After I walked around the gate I entered into a winter wonderland in the basin that is located in the middle of the mountain:
In the basin there is a survival shelter for people who want to camp up here:
In the middle of the basin is Stratton Reservoir which is one of the many lakes that is used for Colorado Springs water supply. This lake is also the source of Cheyenne Creek that flows over Helen Hunt Falls in North Cheyenne Canyon:
It took me almost three hours to reach the reservoir and I traveled 6.7 miles to get there:
My watch also estimated the elevation at the reservoir to be 11,801 feet high:
The only people up on the mountain that day that I saw was a trail running club of about 10 people that had run in from North Cheyenne Canyon. I spoke with them for a little while and they then began to jog up towards the summit of Almagre Mountain to the north. Almagre has two major summits and I decided to hike up its southern summit first before heading to the northern one.