Catamount – Thomas – Kirkpatrick - Crystal Trails Loop
Catamount – Thomas – Kirkpatrick - Crystal Trails Loop
Green Mountain Falls, Colorado is described as a statutory town eleven miles west of Colorado Springs off of Highway 24. It’s a cool place, literally, because the sun shines here only in the early morning. It’s surrounded on three sides by Pikes National Forest, shadowed by the sharply rising foot hills of Pikes Peak. The average temperature is 10 degrees less than Colorado Springs just a few miles to the east. So, that’s cool.
Statutory sounds like, and is, a legal thing. The State of Colorado has defined how towns and cities will be governed and are protected under the state constitution. I was curious enough to read about it, but it’s not worth another keystroke for this article.
What is worth talking about are all the great trails that explore the surrounding foothills. Let’s go on a (mostly) loop trail I recently enjoyed.
See the map below. I started at a gravel parking lot next to the creek at the intersection of Hondo and Ute Pass Avenues, connected four trails and a few short road walks, and then ended up back at the parking lot.
One side note: Please respect the town’s enforced rules on parking. As much as road walking is disliked by hikers, hikers parking on private property is equally disliked by the locals. Make a friend, be civil, follow the rules.
From the parking lot hike up Hondo Avenue. It’s about a 500 foot gain to reach the end of the road. Along the way it is common to catch a glimpse of mule deer grazing or to hear the greeting of a Steller’s Jay.
From the end of the road, continue through the gate to a small bridge over Catamount Creek where the trail begins to climb. Note the sign that instructs blue markers for the Catamount Trail and yellow markers for the Thomas Trail to Crystal Falls. (note, this picture was taken on one of my winter hikes here)
It is only a short distance on the Catamount Trail before the Thomas Trail splits to the left and over Catamount Creek. There are several opportunities to enjoy the rush of cascading mountain fresh waters. The creeks are definitely one of the highlights of hiking these foothills.
The Thomas Trail slowly descents to meet up with Crystal Creek. A plaque along the way gives a little insight to the trail origins. The trail was first created by Harold Felton and Lester Griswald in the 1940’s. But the 45-acre land mass for the trail was a gift to the town by C.Y. Thomas to be used as an open space. Volunteers restored the trail between 1987-1990 and is now maintained by the Green Mountain Falls Trails Committee. (this website has noted the parking areas for hikers)
Crystal Falls or (historically) Cable Falls is another pleasant stop, the next noteworthy attraction. Just before the falls are markers that indicate several different options. On the way back we will follow the trail to Boulder Street.
For now, continue a little further up the hill until reaching the creek crossing at Cable Falls. A sign on the east bank of the creek tells the history of how the falls was named after Ransom Reek Cable, the person who brought the first railroad to Colorado Springs.
After this crossing, for a short distance, follow Kirkpatrick Trail (green), then exit to the right onto Crystal Trail (blue).
At the beginning, the trail is a well-marked moderate incline. There are many switchbacks. In some places the trail is not strongly distinguishable.
A group of Lucy’s Warblers joined me, darting across the trail, chirping and keeping perfect company.
As the trail begins to top, the rock formations and the creek compete for attention.
The terrain begins to change from steep and rugged to slow, willow-filled meadows surrounded by these craggy granite formations.
Seemingly the trail ends at a service road. The path forward is not very clear from here. The pictures below illustrate the way. Take a left at the road, then after a short distance, turn off the road to the right where it looks like some construction has blocked the path.
The target destination is Crystal Reservoir, just a few hundred yards away. There are several ways of getting to the same place. You could follow the road (longest path), you could make your own way (there are some steep loose granite obstacles), or you could follow the path I’ve laid out (shortest and least troublesome).
After getting around the construction you will see the way forward. Follow what looks like an old path in a gully. A spillway will eventually be on the right just before reaching the guardrails of Pikes Peak Highway. Cross the highway to reach the rest/recreation area for the reservoir. You’ve essentially arrived at the termination point of this Crystal Trail. From here, I found a path that circles the reservoir and rested on a rock to enjoy a snack with a spectacular view of Pikes Peak.
The return trip is to follow the same Crystal Trail back to the trail markers below Cable Falls. Instead of taking Thomas Trail, follow the Boulder Street sign. Below the sign but before reaching Boulder Street is a very nice falls that shoots over the through some boulders. One could also enjoy the falls from a small walk bridge that crosses the creek.
The Boulder Street trailhead is marked with a Thomas Trail sign.
Follow Boulder Street, turn left onto Park Avenue, and turn left onto Ute Pass Avenue. Enjoy the attractive and cozy mountain homes along the way. Say hi to the locals and strike up a conversation about how much you enjoyed your day and appreciate their trail system. Then just past the pond and shops will be where we parked at the beginning of our day.
This is a very cool loop trail near a very cool town along some nice cool creeks. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Stats (I didn’t have my GPS to take good measurements – these are all approximate)
Mileage: ~7 miles
Elevation Gain: ~2000 feet
Keywords: catamount, colorado, crystal, falls, green mountain falls, hiking, mountains, reservoir, thomas, trail
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