Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Front Range Ridge Run

The day after the climb of
Mt. Buckhorn was sunny and warm. What’s more, against my expectations, I was not needed for much in the way of domestic chores, so I decided to take a good long run and explore some new territory. The very first ridge of the Front Range above Gold Camp Road, north of the mouth of North Cheyenne Cañon, had interested me for some time. I wondered how easy (or hard) it would be to run more or less along the ridge crest between the Cañon and the point where Gold Camp Road curves west to intersect the Bear Creek Cañon road and the north end of High Drive. There are several major ridge points in that distance, and I wanted to find out how accessible they were.
I got onto the road near tunnel #1, and ran back (east) to the entrance to the cañon. There took a rough trail, which I knew from limited previous explorations existed, up the slope and onto the ridge crest. After positioning myself on the southernmost ridge point above Inspiration Point, I set off to the north.
I found, as I had hoped, that there was indeed a clear trail running close to the crest. It had clearly been carved more by wheels than by feet, so I could only hope that either 1) the wheels were mostly bicycle wheels (I had my doubts), or 2) I just wouldn’t encounter too many noisy dirt bikes.
Initially, the trail stays mostly just on the west side of the ridge, bypassing numerous small high points, most of which are rocky. They can by easily climbed on foot, but are obviously not the first choice for siting a trail. As it turned out, I didn’t see any dirt bikes that day. I did, however, encounter a small group of hikers, with dogs, who had stopped near one of the high points, within only a few minutes. Later I would encounter a lone cyclist.
As I went along, I stopped momentarily to record the locations and elevations of what appeared to be the major ridge points with my GPS unit. Some of that data is included in the table.

Pt. no.



My elevation

Topo elevation*


38º 47’ 43.2”

104º 52’ 35.3”




38º 47’ 53.7”

104º 52’ 48.0”



38º 48’ 02.2”

104º 52’ 50.9”



38º 48’ 02.6”

104º 52’ 47.3”




38º 48’ 08.0”

104º 52’ 56.4”



38º 48’ 25.2”

104º 53’ 00.2”



38º 48’ 25.3”

104º 53’ 08.1”



38º 48’ 25.3”

104º 53’ 11.3”




38º 48’ 34.4”

104º 53’ 19.3”




38º 48’ 48.6”

104º 53’ 29.1”



*as near as I can read on the USGS topo quad map.

As this was a new vantage point, I also took a few pictures, many of which show previously seen and photographed landmarks (such as
Mays Peak) from a new perspective. The photo album is located at:

Shortly after passing what seemed to be the highest point, I found that the main trail--the bike trail--turned distinctly to the west and began to descend away from the ridge. Apparently it connects to
High Drive, somewhere near the Buckhorn/Mays saddle. I was prepared to do true bushwhacking at that point, but I quickly discovered a less prominent, but still clear, hiking trail continuing north along the ridge crest, so I happily followed it. This section entailed the greatest single drop in elevation that I had encountered to that point. After passing by and through some large rock outcroppings, the trail rose again, but it was clear that the height of the ridge points was now going down; I had to be nearing Bear Creek Cañon.
Indeed, I soon found myself past the last
high point, and looking rather steeply down on the intersection at the end of High Drive. The parking lot at the Section 16 trailhead on Gold Camp Road was also clearly visible just beyond. This is where I decided to turn around. It had taken me just under two hours to get there.
Going back, I decided to hit all the little ridge points which the trail, and I, had avoided on the outbound leg. Near one of the first ones, I found two more hikers enjoying their lunch. I stopped to chat with them briefly (They had a topo map!) about the route they had taken up onto the ridge, and other trails in the area. They seemed to be quite familiar with it.
Continuing on, I discovered a small ridge point which, the GPS unit told me, was actually a little higher than the one I had taken for the highest on my way out. I marked it and took a picture of myself standing on the highest rock. Somewhere near here, I got a good view of what I believed (and still believe!) was
Mt. Buckhorn, so I photographed that, too. It’s a hard summit to see and identify from any distance, hidden on nearly all sides by similar, or higher, peaks.
I also took a side trip of a few minutes out onto the spur east of the crest which holds Point 7,514, where I had been a couple of times before, coming up from the road. Now I have a better idea of the overall shape of that spur.
In what seemed like to time at all, I was back at the southern end of the ridge, overlooking Inspiration Point. In fact, it had taken me longer to get back than to go out, owing to all my little detours to explore.
Even though this is hardly wilderness, I was still pleased to find a new, basically quiet and scenic place to run and hike, just a stone’s throw from the city and the more crowded park.
Since Sunday was beautiful, too, I decided to put in a little mileage that day, too. I didn’t explore any new territory. I just ran the full length of the Columbine Trail (just over eight miles), but on the way back, I stopped my chronometer and took a side trip to climb the Cutler promontory. I wanted to do some real rock climbing to test out my recovering left shoulder. Some moves still cause little stabs of pain if I move too fast, but it’s not debilitating. The stiffness and weakness are gone, and I made the climb just fine.

For the first time, I encountered no less than three other parties of people on this little climb. One duo had hauled all the necessary stuff for a modest picnic—including a charcoal grill!—up to the ridge. Then, as I approached the base of the actual promontory, I met a couple just coming off it with their ropes. They had done the technical climb up the other side (north or east) from the creek bed, and were going down the easy way. So I couldn’t resist taking a couple of pictures on this part of the trip; they’re included in the photo album.


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