Fresh Perspective: Hiking Almagre Mountain
text and photography by Ryan Stikeleather
Mountain Top Adventure
The mountain views from Colorado Springs will almost always center around Pikes Peak, but just to the south sits another peak; Almagre Mountain. Almagre Mountain is over 12,000’ and offers fantastic views, and a chance to go on a 4x4 adventure.
Just The Facts
Trail: Forest Service Road 379A (No Official Trail)
Elevation Gain: 1811 ft
Distance: 8.4 mi. (out-and-back)
Trail Use: Hiking, 4WD Off-road
Trail Condition: Not an official trail
Bring Your Dog: No
Access: Weather permitting, and if you can drive there
Trail Map: https://trails.colorado.gov/@break_trail
Entrance fee: Free!
Directions: (Maps App Link) From Colorado Springs take Lake west towards the Broadmoor. At the traffic, in front of the Broadmoor, turn right. Turn left at the next traffic circle onto Park Ave—Park Ave. turns into El Pomar Rd. At the next intersection, continue on to Penrose Blvd. At the next stop sign, turn left on Old Stage Rd. Old Stage Rd will eventually become a dirt road. About 11 miles later, turn onto FR 379. You’ll need a 4WD vehicle once you leave Old Stage Rd. It’s about another 2.5 miles to the parking spot.
This hike is a little bit different. Well, at least how I get to the hike. Getting to Almagre Mountain isn’t impossible, but it will require a 4x4 truck. Some will argue that you can get there in a car, but I wouldn’t want to do it, and I wouldn’t recommend that you even try.
Old Stage Road isn’t going to be a big problem for most cars. Old Stage Road is a dirt road, and like all dirt roads, they will rough depending on when it was last graded.
You shouldn’t have too much trouble until you get to FR 379 or FR 379A. These Forest Service Roads are not really maintained; there will be lots of rocks, ruts, and washed out sections. If you’re not a fan of driving on washboard roads…you probably won’t like Old Stage Road. You’ve been warned.
I took my truck up FR 379, and parked in a flat area (map), and hiked the rest of the way. The hike from here is up to you. The road will be the most obvious, and the most predictable. It will also be the longest, at around 3 miles.
Man The Gate
The unofficial trail to Almagre Mountain starts at a locked gate. After the gate, the road continues to the left, and will take you to the top of South Almagre, also known as Mt. Baldy. There are several microwave repeater antennas on South Almagre if you’d like to go check them out.
Keep to the right, and head towards the old stone dam. I haven’t been able to dig up much information on this dam, but it was originally constructed—sometime in the late 1890s, or early 1900s—to form Stratton Reservoir. From what I have found, there was an issue with the construction of the spillway, and it was never used to supply water to Colorado Springs.
The water that flows from here becomes North Cheyenne Creek, which eventually spills into Helen Hunt Falls. The creek continues to down until it eventually connects to Fountain Creek. Fountain Creek flows south through Colorado Spring into the town of Fountain. It then continues south towards Pueblo; where is joins the Arkansas River. From a small creek, to a mighty river.
To the Top
Crossing over the dam, the trail to Almagre it more defined, and easy to follow. The surface is loose, granite rock; almost like walking on a sandy beach...if the beach were made of granite pebbles instead of tiny grains of sand.
The elevation gain, at this point, isn’t too bad, and it’s only about 1 mile to the top of Almagre...but the views are why you’re here. Every direction you look will be another spectacular scene. I took a lot of panorama photographs trying to capture as much of the views as possible, but it’s always more impressive in person.
Almagre is distinctive than you might think. Not only is it the second tallest peak in the Colorado Springs area (12,382’), it’s also the only other peak above tree line. But it doesn’t feel like you’re hike above the trees.
You’ll have unobstructed views of Colorado Springs, to the east, and amazing views of Pikes Peak, to the north. If fact, you’ll easily be able to see the construction of the new Pikes Peak Summit Complex.
Just like South Almagre Mountain, there is a microwave repeater installed on the summit. It looks to be a new one too. Maybe there are some HAM radio operators out there who might know?
This Hike is Good for…
Beginners will have no trouble with the trail past the gate. So, if you can get yourself to the gate you should be fine. However, you’ll need a 4WD vehicle to get close enough to make this a manageable day hike. Obviously, the more miles you have to trek along the road, the more difficult the overall hike will be.
Not to scare anyone away from adventuring in the great outdoors, but I do want you to be aware of your surroundings. While hiking along the road, I tracks from a mountain lion. I’m no tracker, but I’d say they had been made sometime that morning.
It’s very important to remember that when out in the wilds (even relatively close to a major city) we are in their natural habitat. Mountain lions are native to Colorado, and are an important part of keeping a balance in the ecosystem. Even though I didn’t see the mountain lion, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t still there.
If you should happen to see a mountain lion, what do you do? Follow these guidelines from the National Park Service:
If you see a mountain lion:
Stay calm. Hold your ground or back away slowly. Face the lion and stand upright.
Do not approach a lion. Never approach a mountain lion, especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
Do not run from a lion. Running may stimulate a mountain lion's instinct to chase. Instead, stand and face the animal. Make eye contact. If you have small children with you, pick them up if possible so they don't panic and run. Although it may be awkward, pick them up without bending over or turning away from the mountain lion.
Do not crouch down or bend over. Biologists surmise mountain lions don't recognize standing humans as prey. On the other hand, a person squatting or bending over looks a lot like a four-legged prey animal. If you're in mountain lion habitat, avoid squatting, crouching or bending over, even when picking up children.
If the mountain lion moves in your direction or acts aggressively:
Do all you can to appear intimidating.
Attempt to appear larger by raising your arms and opening your jacket if you are wearing one. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly in a loud voice.
If looking bigger doesn't scare the mountain lion off, start throwing stones, branches, or whatever you can reach in its direction without crouching or turning your back. Don't throw things at it just yet. There is no need to unnecessarily injure the mountain lion. With that said, your safety is of the utmost importance and the National Park Service won't necessarily prosecute you for harassment of wildlife if something you throw at an aggressive mountain lion does make contact. During the initial stages of a mountain lion encounter, the idea is to convince the mountain lion that you are not prey and that you may be a danger to it.
If the mountain lion continues to move in your direction:
Start throwing things AT it. Again, your safety is more important than the mountain lion's.
If the mountain lion attacks you:
Fight back! Others have fought back successfully with sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools, and their bare hands. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal.
You can also learn more about mountain lions here.
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