text and photography by Ryan Stikeleather
Bookended by steep sections, the majority of this hike is along a narrow meadow. A perfect hike for the whole family with highlights of forests, mountain views, rock formations, the list goes on-and-on.
Just The Facts
Trail: The Crags #664
Elevation Gain: 830 ft
Distance: 5.1 mi. (out-and-back)
Trail Use: Hiking, XC Skiing, Snowshoeing, Horseback Riding
Trail Condition: Maintained, and clearly marked
Bring Your Dog: Yes (but must be on a leash)
Access: All year long
Trail Info: www.fs.usda.gov
Entrance fee: Free!
Popular for a Reason
If you live near Divide, CO (and Colorado Springs too) you’ve probably heard of The Crags, and for good reason. The Crags is an easy to get to, family-friendly, hike with some pretty stunning views. You know you’re at a popular spot when the trailhead has a large parking lot, and they still have to put up signs telling you where you can and can’t park.
The Crags trail starts off with a bridge crossing over Fourmile Creek, and begins gaining elevation soon after. While the gain is consistent, it isn’t too difficult, and only lasts for about a half mile. There is still a lot of bark beetle damage around the start of this hike. All these downed trees actually led to the Pikes Peak Ranger District closing access for several months.
The trail guides you around large, lichen covered boulders, and through a thick forest of spruce trees. The wide path does have some roots, and rock to navigate, but since it isn’t super steep it shouldn’t be much of a problem.
Soon you’ll find the only junction on this trail which is for Devil’s Playground trail #664A. Stay to the left, and continue on to the Crags.
The next mile and a half is easy going. You’ll pass through a meadow with stunning views of various rock formations, all the while sticking close to Fourmile Creek. There are so many opportunities for bird-watching, and just taking in all the scenery, that you’ll have to force yourself to keep going. You won’t be disappointed, so keep pushing on.
There are lots of grassy spots, along with several groves of aspen. It’s open and sunny, and very relaxing. Any season of the year is a great time to be on this trail, and it’s just as busy in the winter months too. Snowshoeing and XC skiing are common ways to experience this area.
Eventually you’ll enter into another spruce forest much like the beginning. The elevation gains quickly once again, as you make your way closer to the top. The trail is a little harder to find in some spots, mostly from the heavy coverage from fallen pine needles, but it is there…so don’t worry.
The terrain is a bit loose once you’ve made it to the rocky top. Take your time, and watch your footing, you’ll soon be rewarded for all this effort.
One of the highlights for reaching the top will be the bristlecone pines. One of the oldest know bristlecone pines, in Colorado, is near the town of Craig. It’s believed to be over 2400 years old. So, even if these guys are half that age...they’re pretty old.
If you’ve brought some snacks, watch your backpack. Camp robbers (gray jay), and Least chipmunks (the little guys) are eager, and not shy, to take any opportunity to rummage through whatever you’ve got with you. As always, don’t feed them. I know it’s hard not too, but it’s harmful, and does more damage than you’d think.
Along with the fantastic craggy, granite formations, you’ll have great views to the west of the Sawatch Range (near Buena Vista), and the Catamount reservoirs to the east. Have a seat, relax, and breath deeply...you’ve earned it.