Helen Hunt Falls


RT Length: 1 mile
Elevation Gain: 492’

We’d intended on hiking Mays Peak after hiking 8130 but the parking lot was full at 9am. We circled the lot 4 times before heading down the hill and getting the last spot at the Helen Hunt Falls Trailhead. I backed in, and used my driver side mirror to park, not realizing there was a several foot difference between the drivers side and passenger side before a large drop off. Let’s just say I caught it just in time and floored it before falling over the side…


Helen Hunt Falls is a really easy hike off North Cheyenne Canyon and I’ve done this hike several times. No route description is necessary, as the trail is class 1 and easy to follow. Because of that, I’m just going to post some pictures from along the trail…






And my topo


Now, on to the next trailhead (I hope we get a spot… this Coronavirus thing is causing North Cheyenne Canyon to be full of vehicles before 9am every morning, and it’s a Saturday…). Everyone’s been great at social distancing, but it’s more crowded than I’ve ever seen it, even on a weekend in the summer.



RT Length: 4.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1742’

It was COLD when we woke up this morning, but thankfully, the heater did it’s job.


However, unlike yesterday when I woke up and got up with my alarm, today I decided I needed another hour of sleep. So we didn’t make it to the trailhead until much later than we’d wanted (we got the last spot in the parking lot).



The trail was well marked and easy to follow. Every time there was an option (junction) we turned left, following the mountain and heading up.



We even encountered some nuns. At first I thought they were hikers dressed as the grim reaper (hey, it’s been going on with this whole Coronavirus thing). They told us to have a blessed day.




You hit a kind of saddle after 1.6 miles. Here’s a basic overview of the rest of the route


The tricky part is knowing when to veer off trail. After hiking for 2.1 miles along this trail you turn right and bushwhack northeast up the mountain, or use one of the several of available game trails. All are equally steep. We took a different one up and back so we’d have a couple of good gpx routes.


At the top you’ll come to a boulder, and yes, this boulder is the highpoint.


There’s a class 4 chimney you need to climb to get to the top (towards the left… the boulder on the right isn’t the summit).


Some people might consider this class 3, but to anyone under 6 feet I can assure you, it’s class 4 and requires commitment.



There was a summit register at the top with tons of cool stuff inside.



We headed back down a slightly different way to the main trail


And easily followed it back to the section 16 trailhead


Note: the elevation gain was constant and more difficult than anticipated, especially for such a short hike. Here’s my topo of the route:


Now, on to the next trailhead!

Cheyenne Mountain – 9565, The Horns – 9212 & Sugarloaf Mountain – 9633


RT Length: 10.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 4712’

Time: 6 hours 15 min

Partner: Steffen


With the weather iffy in the high country I decided to tackle one of my 2020 goals early: climb 3 El Paso County Highpoints.  Steffen is training to hike 14ers this year so I invited him to go along.  Before heading out I used Caltopo to make a route of the drive in, not being sure just how Old Stage Road would look this time of year.  It ended up being almost completely clear of snow.  I parked near the stables.


Cheyenne Mountain 9565’:

Just to clarify, we summited the highpoint of Cheyenne Mountain. There have been articles written and news posts stating the Dixon Trail goes to the top of Cheyenne Mountain:  It doesn’t.  The Dixon Trail goes through Cheyenne Mountain State Park and up the side of the east side of the Cheyenne Mountain range near the communication towers, but it doesn’t summit anything, and in fact if you were to go off trail and scramble to the top of Robbers Roost you’d still be over 100 feet shy and about a mile of bushwhacking away from the true summit of Cheyenne Mountain.  Here’s topo proof:  On the left is the true summit of Cheyenne Mountain, and on the right is where the Dixon Trail takes you.


In any event, at 6:30am it was 14 degrees outside when we donned our gear (microspikes) and headed east over a snow bank and up the mountainside, dipping about 200 feet before starting the ascent.



This hike was entirely below treeline with no distinct trail so we just aimed for the ridge and ascended the mountain on its west side. The ground had many dry spots but we tried to stick to the snow as much as possible so we’d see our footprints upon our return.


About three quarters of the way up the mountain we started running into cairns and surveyors tape, which was a nice surprise (until they stopped). We also found some bear scat that looked to be from last fall.  This seemed a good area to find a bear.

Once on the ridge we came across some mountain lion tracks that looked to be a few days old.  This area also seemed like a good place for a mountain lion to den, with a lot of large rocks and boulders to hide in.  We followed the ridge left (north) to the summit.


Once at the summit we found a summit marker! This was cool because it was totally unexpected.


Our summit views included Colorado Springs, Almagre with Pikes Peak, and The Spanish Peaks


Summit Picture


There was about 6 inches of snow on the ground towards the top so we followed our tracks back down the ridge


Cheyenne Mountain wasn’t our only goal for today, and after looking at a topo map we didn’t want to re-ascend the hill that led back to the parking area. We decided to traverse the north side of the mountain instead. There was more snow on the north side and we were frequently knee deep in powder


But after just a few minutes we came across the MacNeill trail, and check it out: it had tracks!

The Horns 9212’:

This was awesome! We just followed the class 1 trail as it curved northeast around the mountainside


It can be tempting at times to veer off trail, so be sure to stick to the side of the mountain. There were downed trees everywhere.  There is also a lot of up and down, meaning you’ll gain elevation on the way out as well.


We came across an old water pump and frozen waterfall/stream


There were broken pipes littering the trail from here just about up to the summit, as well as varying depths of snow. We kept our microspikes on.


We made it to the top of the ridge and now lost elevation as the trail continued on the east side of the mountain and then snaked back to the west side. Here’s where the tracks ended, but luckily the trail was still easy to follow.  There was more snow on the east side.


The trail snaked back around to the left (west side) and into an area filled with boulders. There was one spot that was tricky to pass due to the snow, but with the help of microspikes and trekking poles it wasn’t too bad. I didn’t touch the pipe.


We continued on the trail as it once again curved east around the mountainside


And came across a trail sign


We followed the trail towards what looked most likely to be the summit on top of a rocky area



We came across cabins, which I wasn’t prepared for. There wasn’t a camp on my topo map (Pikes Peak Atlas).  It didn’t look like anyone was at camp today so we continued on towards the highest point, which seemed to be up these stairs


At the top of the stairs was a large boulder and what looked to be a fire tower.


We climbed the boulder carefully (class 3) and looked around. It seemed this was the summit, so we took a few pictures.  There was a puddle of ice over what we assumed was the summit marker (if there was one?)



As we looked around it was unclear if we were at the true summit or if the rock about 15 meet away but near the cabin was the true summit, so we downclimbed and walked up the stairs of the fire tower. This was referred to as “The Horns” so it made sense there were two rocks.


The points looked to be about even, with the one on the north maybe just a little higher? It was here we noticed the security cameras.  There were many and although we weren’t doing anything wrong we decided to leave.  From the tower we could tell this place was bigger than we’d thought (later we realized this is “Cloud Camp” owned by the Broadmoor).


Time to head back down. The boulders here really look fun to climb/rappel.


We hiked along the MacNeill trail for a little ways and suddenly came across a small wooden gate in the middle of the trail. Why hadn’t we seen this before?  We walked around a bit and realized the gate had a sign that said “Trail Closed”


Whoops! Due to the switchbacks and amount of snow we’d never even seen the sign!  Check this out:  this is the way we hiked in, and the red circle is where the sign is located


As you can see, from the trail going to the summit the gate closure isn’t obvious, but on the way back down or from a different angle you can see it perfectly. In fact, you run into it.


I’m not sure about the legalities here, but it seems they don’t want the public highpointing on their property. They need to work on the placement of their signage if this is the case.  This was the only sign we saw.

We continued to head back down and got a good glimpse of the fire tower (a fire tower wasn’t on my topo either?)


There was also a good view of our way in/back out


And of Pikes Peak (etc). I had fun naming all of the summits from here…


On the way back we decided to follow the footprints on the trail instead of our tracks back the way we’d come (if we could avoid it we didn’t want to re-ascend the hill). This ended up being a great idea and in no time at all we could see Old Stage Road and my truck. This trail ended just where we’d began, it just went more north than east (the way we’d begun)


We made it to my truck at around 12:30pm, but our day wasn’t over yet.

Sugarloaf Mountain 9633’:

Without taking off our gear we drove further along Old Stage Road and parked directly at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain.


It looked like a quick hike to the top of this El Paso County Highpoint, so we headed off into the trees, starting at the surveyors tape tied around a pine.


If there was a trail here it was covered in snow, so we just trekked south, straight up the hillside. This area was steeper, covered in more snow, and more heavily treed than the other mountains had been today. Downed trees made the trek ‘fun’


When we were about 30 yards from the summit we came across a trail, which started from the opposite side of the mountain (south) and worked north. We hadn’t taken this established trail because I believed it started on Private Property (but couldn’t be sure).  In any event, I didn’t want to push my luck.


We came across a rocky area and a wiki-up


And quickly found ourselves at the summit. It had totally been worth adding the extra peak: In total it only added about a mile to the day.


There wasn’t a summit marker or registry, but we were sure we were at the summit.



We once again followed our tracks back down, Steffen aspen tipping along the way


We made it back down to my truck at 1:20pm, making this a 10.5 mile hike with 4712’ of elevation gain in just over 6 hours.


Seventh Summit of Pikes Peak


This was a last minute trip.
It wasn’t until about 10pm the night before I realized hiking the 26
miles up and down Pikes Peak would even be a possibility.  When I discovered I had some time in my
schedule I immediately went online to check the weather forecast.  As usual, each forecast was different, but
they all agreed there would be storms and possibly snow in the afternoon.  One even predicted thunderstorms starting at
10am, but most stated there would be “fall like weather”.

I’ve missed several opportunities to hike the mountain this
summer because I listened to weather forecasts that turned out to be false, or
materialized later in the afternoon than forecasted (meaning I’d have already
hiked and been home before the storms started).

I asked Rebecca her opinion and she said yes I should go!  She also said she’d look for me if I didn’t
come back tomorrow night.  And by ‘look
for me’ she meant drive to the trailhead and yell.  So I packed up my gear, prepped coffee just
in case, and decided to “decide” in the morning.

My alarm went off at 2am and I looked out my front window to
evaluate Pikes Peak and my chances for a successful hike.  I couldn’t see the light from the summit
house, or, more importantly, Pikes Peak at all; It was covered in low lying

So I went outside.  It
felt warm (low 60s).  I went back and
forth in my head on whether or not to attempt the hike for about 5 minutes
(seriously, which is a long time for someone who usually makes quick
decisions).  In the end I decided to
go:  I could always turn back if the
weather got difficult, and I’ve never regretted taking a hike when I didn’t
feel like hiking.  I made sure I had my
ski gloves and set out on my way with the rest of the gear I’d packed the night

I didn’t get to the trailhead until after 3am.  There were only 2 cars in the parking
lot.   The dashboard of the car read 63
degrees outside.  I figured the cars
belonged to backpackers at Barr Camp, paid my $10 parking fee, and started
hiking at 3:12am.  


I usually check the time as we hit different landmarks/mile
markers, but never actually write them down.
I’ve got a pretty good idea of how long each segment should take, but this
time I wanted to keep close track of my progress.  

I love hiking Pikes Peak.
I’m super appreciative of hiking buddies and I’m glad to hike with
anyone who’d like to hike with me (quick caveat:  they must be in good health, have no heart or
lung problems, and WANT to hike the peak), but I find when I hike with others
we take a lot of unnecessary and sometimes lengthy breaks.  These breaks are probably necessary for them,
but I’ve always wondered how quickly I could hike the peak if I only stopped
when I was tired.  So this time I was
keeping a trail log on my phone.

I started hiking to the sound of crickets.  The first three miles of the hike are the
most difficult and require you to ‘power’ through them.  The redeeming factor to this stretch of the
trail are the city lights.  You can see
Manitou and Colorado Springs glowing in the distance.  I’ve tried dozens of times to get a good
picture, but have come to the realization the only way to enjoy the view is to
actually be there.  


Strangely I wasn’t able to see the summit house light.  It’s a very bright light I can usually see
from my house, and I’ve always seen while hiking the peak in the morning.  I’d thought I’d have been able to see it
through the clouds, but I couldn’t.  I
hit MM1 at 3:31am, MM2 at 3:53am, and MM3 at 4:14am.  I’d hiked the first 3 miles in 61 minutes and
had taken several stops for pictures (none of which came out really well).  That’s great time!  These are the hardest miles of the hike, so I
consider hiking 3mph basically climbing up stairs a win!

At this point I began noticing the sound of crickets had
silenced.  In fact, I couldn’t hear any
bugs or the sound of the creek I knew I was paralleling.  I made a mental memo of it and kept hiking.  

Side note:
headlamps are NOT useful when you hear a noise in the woods.  Your head automatically turns towards the
sound, but you have to swivel it side to side to look for creatures (or beady
eyes).  A flashlight is much better
suited for this purpose.  

Around MM4 I saw a large reflective rectangle in the
distance and was intrigued.  I wasn’t sure
exactly what it was until I was right upon it, when I realized it was a sign
noting miles to the top.  This is not a
permanent fixture, and was probably put there for the race this past weekend.  I saw them every mile to the top, and
seriously hope the person responsible for putting them there ensures they are
properly disposed of.


MM4 came at 4:36am, MM5 at 4:57am, and MM6 at 5:21am.  Even though the trail was evening out and
getting easier to hike I was gradually hiking a bit slower.  Totally ok, but funny to note.  

All along the hike I kept waiting for the sun to rise and for
it to get lighter outside but it just wasn’t happening.  I thought to myself I was glad I’d hiked this
trail many times before.  It’s a very well-marked
trail, but in the dark with just a headlamp it’s easy to lose the trail when you
come upon a bare section not lined with some sort of foliage.  I kept thinking “I could see how someone
could get lost here, and here, and here”.
I was also noting the lack of animal noises.  Usually I hear a lot of rustling and chirping
from birds, run into spider or caterpillar webs, and hear small creatures
scurrying in the dark.  I saw two rabbits
quietly sitting on the trail before me at different points, but that was
all.  No other sounds.  

Well, I did hear a bear once, or what I thought was a
bear.  It startled me in the quiet.  I didn’t stop, but kept on hiking.  You see, I was actually really, really scared
to be hiking out there by myself.  I wasn’t
afraid of anyone attacking me:  there
were only two cars in the parking lot, and honestly, anyone who’d made it this
far out didn’t have the intention of hurting someone at 5 in the morning.  They’d be sleeping.  No one was crazy enough to be hiking in the
dark (ha-ha) so it wasn’t likely someone was ‘lying in wait’ for someone like
me to hike along.  

No, I wasn’t worried about another human being, or even a
bear, but possibly a Mountain Lion.  I
kept noting how unusually quiet it was, and figured I’d be able to hear just
about anything except a predator (meaning a Mountain Lion, as those would be
the only predators in this part of the forest).
I mentally prepared myself to use my hiking stick to defend myself and ‘go
for the eyes’ if attacked.  

So I scanned my headlamp left and right as I hiked, looking
for eyes in the shadows.  When I heard
the growl I was seriously scared.  It
made me jump a bit, but I didn’t see anything.
I thought it had to be a bear, as it was a rather loud noise and a
Mountain Lion would have just attacked from behind. It happened again and you’ll
probably never believe me, but I realized it was my stomach!  Honestly!
I didn’t feel hungry at all (my core was aching right about now), and in
fact I couldn’t actually feel my stomach.
The second time I heard the growl my tummy moved at the same time, and I
audibly noted the hilarity of the situation and sighed in relief. I kept

Usually by MM3 or MM4 it’s fully light outside, but I passed MM6
and Barr Camp at 5:23am to an eerie darkness.
Apparently there aren’t any lights at Barr Camp, something I’d never had
the opportunity to notice until now.  Through
my headlamp I saw the railings and porch swing by the river indicating the entrance
to the camp, but opted not to stop because it just felt wrong.  The fog around the campsite added to my
unease.  Everyone was obviously still
sleeping, and I felt like an intruder.  

Just after reaching Barr Camp a very light snow began
falling.  I could see it through my
headlamp.  It was more of a light mist of
snow, but snow just the same.  I reached
the yellow ‘summit sign’ that lets you choose between the Bottomless Pit and
Pikes Peak at 5:46am, and it wasn’t until 6:01am when I was able to turn off my

A realization hit me:
I had just hiked for 9 miles. In the dark.  

Through the forest.

By myself.  Scared.
There was no moon to guide me, as it was lost in the cloud cover
above.  I’d survived one of the scariest
things I’ve ever done, and was seriously proud of myself for sticking to it and
continuing to hike in the dark!  Rock on
sister!  Let’s do this!

I reached the A-Frame at 6:22am and took my first ‘rest’ of
the hike.  Kind of.  You see, I call my kids to wake them up in
the mornings for school between 6:20 and 6:25am, so now seemed like the perfect
time.  Yes, I had cell service (I have it
at just about every point on the trail, even at the summit, although I can’t
usually post to facebook or Instagram while on the trail).  I called Emily, wished her a wonderful day,
and took a look around.  The tarp was
pulled closed over the A-frame, and when I peeked through the gap in the
curtains I thought I saw a jacket hanging from the window, so I quietly turned
around and started hiking again.

There were a couple of squirrels chattering, so I took a
video (I say chipmunk in the video, but knew they were squirrels:  It wasn’t worth a second video).

Before reaching the trail I saw two bucks!  They stood there and let me get a picture.


It was then I realized the squirrels weren’t chattering at
me, but at the deer:

I’d turned off my headlamp about 20 minutes ago, but it was
now that the sun actually began to rise. There is no way to describe or take a
photo of the sunrise from Barr Trail to do it justice, but here are a few


It was about now the snow began falling harder, the wind
began to pick up and the temperature began to drop.  I was now hiking into the clouds.  


I switched my cotton gloves for my ski gloves and trekked
on.  I reached the ‘2 miles to the summit’
sign at 7:05am, and the Cirque (about a mile from the summit) at 7:32am.  I was above treeline, and still hiking at
about 2 mph!  That’s entirely amazing, as
it often times takes an hour to go a mile on this part of the trek.


I was now hiking in snow, and saw prints I’d never seen
before.  They were really small rodent
footprints, bigger than a mouse but much smaller than a marmot.  Then I saw one!  I’d never seen one before, but I was pretty
sure this was a Pika and the owner of the paw prints.   I
tried to get my camera out for a picture, but by this time my fingers were
frozen and I wasn’t quick enough:  The
Pika ran away before I could get a picture of him, so I took a picture of his


I kept the camera in my hand, and kept looking for another
Pika for a ‘Pika-ture’ (yes, I actually said this out loud).

That last mile was grueling only because it was so cold and
the wind whipped the ice and snow into my face.
It wasn’t bad enough to take refuge or turn around, but it was seriously
annoying.  I saw this cairn about 50 feet
from the summit and thought it looked cool.
I still had the camera in my hand so I snapped a quick photo.


I reached the summit of Pikes Peak at 8:05am.  It had taken me 5 hours and 7 minutes to
reach the top!  That was absolutely
amazing!  I was hiking at an average
speed of over 2.5mph: UPHILL!  I knew
from reading Backpacker Magazine the
average hiking speed of any trek usually sits around 2mph, so I considered this
a serious win!


I reached the summit at the exact same time a cog pulled
up.  Several workers jumped out of the
cog as it stopped, dressed in working overalls, shovels in their hands.  They quickly began clearing the walkway.  


The men were exceedingly nice, and asked about my hike up
and if I’d seen any animals?  We
discussed what I’d seen and the animals they’d seen on their way up (mainly
deer as well).  I (sadly) noticed the
Summit House was closed, so I asked one of the men shoveling when it would
open.  He didn’t know.  “Maybe in half an hour, maybe not at all
today because of the snow”.  

Great.  I was quickly turning
into a popsicle and decided to just head back down immediately.  This ended up being a very wise choice.

I waved goodbye to the men shoveling, and as soon as I began
hiking back down they jumped back into the cog and were on their way back down
themselves.   It was cold.
I mean VERY COLD.  The wind didn’t
help.  I was guessing it was about 20
degrees before wind chill.  Hiking kept
me warm; stopping froze my sweat and my muscles.  

About 50 yards into the descent I saw another Pika, and
luckily still had my camera in my hand.
Here’s what they look like: Bigger than a mouse, but smaller than a


I didn’t see any hikers until I was just about at the
A-frame, and surmised by the color of the jacket the man was wearing he was the
one who’d spent the night.  I tried to
warn him of the rapidly deteriorating conditions after treeline, but he didn’t
seem to think I was serious.  When I
reached the A-frame again the tarp was pulled back and no one was inside, so I
was pretty sure he was in fact the overnight occupant.

Between the A-frame and Barr Camp I saw about 10 other
hikers and stopped to talk with them all.
They all wanted to know about the conditions ahead, as they couldn’t see
the mountain from that point of the trail.
Once again I told them it was snowing, cold, the wind was howling, and
it just kept getting worse.  I advised
them all to head back, but every single one of them “had a ticket back down on
the train” and needed to be there to catch a ride back down.  I told them all the summit house might not
open, so if they were relying on it for warmth/shelter be advised it might not
be there.  The cog might also not be
operating.  They continued their hike
anyway, one of them in shorts and a t-shirt.
He told me it was a “good thing he’d brought a jacket”.  I did a face palm and told myself I’d warned
them.  I honestly don’t believe any of
them made it up to the top.  It did
indeed get much worse as the day kept on, and they were at least 4 hours behind
my summit when I saw them (they had 4 hours at best until they reached the
summit).  When I told my kids this after
arriving home they said it was probably because I don’t look like a “hiker” and
that I make hiking look easy.  I’m
guessing they probably thought if I could do it so could they.  Hmmmm…. I digress.  

I was back at Barr Camp at 10:28am and saw my last set of
hikers:  6 women in their early 60s, very
fit, with a LOT of makeup on (maybe it was permanent?).  They seemed to listen to me, and while they
continued ahead, verbally made a pact to turn around if at any time one of them
didn’t feel safe.  They also regretted
not beginning their hike at 4am like they’d originally intended.  High five to them for keeping their options

I was back at my car at 12:18pm.  I’d hiked 26 miles in 9 hours 6 minutes, and
felt absolutely amazing!  I didn’t take
any breaks besides 3 minutes to call my kids and what was probably 3 minutes at
the summit, and it was at this point I realized I hadn’t eaten anything all day
either.  I’d brought a lot of snacks, but
hadn’t opened any of them.  All I’d had
to eat today had been the coffee I’d sipped on the way to the trail.  Now I was starving, and ready to eat.  But first I needed to head to work for a few
hours, pick up Thomas from school, search for a gyroscope, pick up Emily from

Trail Log:


3:31am MM1

3:53am MM2

4:14am MM3

4:36am MM 4

4:57am MM5

5:21am MM6

5:23am Barr Camp

5:46am Summit sign/ Bottomless Pit

6:22am A-Frame

7:05am 2 Miles to go

7:32am Cirque (1 mile to go)

8:05am Summit

10:28am Barr Camp

Trailhead at 12:18pm