Hike Bob: The Saga of a Lost Trail, Catamount Falls Trail Opens | Food & Culture

An epic view along Trail 756

When I meet people for the first time and they ask me what am i doing, i tell them i get paid to hike. I go on a hike, then I write a column about it. And I really like looking for a new trail, or a little-known, little-known trail to share. Last year I tried to find one that I, and in fact many others, saw on a map or walked past but never discovered.

Forest Service Trail #756 climbs the narrow Limbaugh Canyon just west of Mount Herman near Monument. According to various maps and the state’s COTREX app, it branches off from FS Trail 715 just over a mile from Mt. Herman Road. Trail 715 is a popular trail with cyclists and hikers, beginning near the Forest Service Monument Fire Center, crossing Mt. Herman Road, and continuing until it ends on the south side of Chautauqua Mountain. I’ve hiked the 715 many times and although I was aware of the 756 on the maps, I had never seen the trail. Last year I walked the 715 several times with the specific goal of finding the 756. I was always able to verify that I was in the location indicated on the maps, but there was no sign of the path. I headed for where I thought the trail would be, creating GPS tracks that looked like they were made by a drunken spider – but to no avail.

After these attempts I contacted the US Forest Service Pikes Peak Ranger District and told them I couldn’t find the trail – either the maps were wrong or time and nature had erased it.

Enter Tom Mowle of the Colorado Mountain Club‘s Pikes Peak group. As he recounts, he was talking with Pikes Peak Ranger District staff about another trail and was asked if he knew anything about the 756, due to my report. Although Mowle had never heard of the trail, he did some research and realized he had been on the west end of it in the past. He consulted a book published in 2000 by Zoltan Malocsay, a hiking and trail legend in the Pikes Peak area, and at that time Malocsay noted that he couldn’t find that trail either. I have Malocsay 1980 Pikes Peak Area Trails Hiking Guideand this track is not mentioned at all in the book.

rock formation

One of the many stunning rock formations on trail 756

Long – and interesting – story shortened, Mowle was able to find the trail by approaching it from the west, instead of the east like I did. He found that the 1.5 miles to the east were mostly overgrown or strewn with dead trees and were almost invisible. Last fall, Mowle and other CMC members returned to the trail, cutting off part of the dead fall and pruning vegetation that obscured the path. Mowle says the track needs a lot more work, though.

I went back to the track a few days ago approaching 715 again. If it wasn’t for some flags where 756 meets 715 you still wouldn’t be able to find it, but the intersection is pretty much exactly where the maps published and COTREX says it should be. In short, the views on the trail are breathtaking, with huge rock formations on both sides of the narrow canyon that Monument Creek runs through. I hiked several miles about 0.4 miles past a point where the trail descends next to the creek and a massive beaver dam that backed it up. Due to the late hour, I wasn’t able to go all the way to the end of the trail and back, but Mowle tells me I’ve seen his most scenic part. It’s unclear what will happen next, but Mowle hopes the Forest Service will approve a stewardship project for CMC.

Hammer of Thors

It’s hard to tell from this image, but this rock formation is several stories high. I call it “Thor’s Hammer”.

Things you need to know: Although trail 715 is easy to navigate and moderately difficult, trail 756, especially the first 1.5 miles or so west of 715, is very difficult. Much of it is deep soft dirt on a steep slope. The trail is narrow and can be difficult to follow (look for the markings). In some places, you will have to climb steep slopes, often on soft ground, or go over or under large rocks. The narrow trail, along with the steep side incline, will give your knees and ankles a hard time as you will rarely walk on flat, level ground. If these are your weak points, you might want to follow this trail, at least until it gets further improvements. My hike was just under 6 miles round trip.

Trail 715-756

GPS track of my hike. The trailhead is at the lower right corner of this trail.

To succeed: From exit 161 on I-25, head west on the freeway. 105 and continue west on Second Street through town until it ends at Mitchell Avenue. Turn left, then turn right onto Mt Herman Road. Take Mt. Herman Road 8.1 miles to the trailhead on the right. The 715 trailhead is about 1000 feet past the Mount Herman trailhead. Mt. Herman Road turns into dirt at Red Rocks Road and it can be very washable. Yet it is passable by all but the lowest vehicles. Take your time or you’ll loosen some bolts on your car or your bladder.

The very popular Catamount Falls Trail in the town of Green Mountain Falls, which had been closed since last August due to a real estate dispute, is now set to reopen. When attempts to find a solution to the encroachment failed, the Green Mountain Falls Historical Foundation stepped in and purchased the property, allowing the trail to reopen in “early spring 2022”. This is a great example of a public-private partnership to preserve a historic hiking trail. You can read the details in the press release below.

Press release regarding the reopening of the Catamount Falls Trail

The El Paso County Parks Department is in the process of updating its system-wide blueprint and is seeking feedback during its public comment period. You can read the draft 2022 Master Plan and submit your comments on the EPC Park Plan website. This is your chance to influence the direction of the county park system.

Be wise. Do good things. Leave no traces.

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