FIND WIDE OPEN SPACES ON PIKES PEAK’S NORTH SLOPE
It has been a long winter and an even longer spring here in the Pikes Peak region — Coloradans are definitely not indoor pets. If you have been craving fresh air, exercise and the great outdoors, you’re not alone. Everyone in Colorado Springs seems to be clamoring to the trails and treasured outdoor spaces that make living at in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains a true privilege. However, with those areas becoming incredibly overcrowded, you might be hoping for a new place to play that offers a bit more room. Believe it or not, that dream destination exists and it’s still pretty close to home. The North Slope Recreation Area sits on the north slope of Pikes Peak (aptly named, right?) and it truly is a paradise for almost every type of physical outdoor recreation. For a small per-person fee, you can access a truly lovely Colorado gem with room to breathe.
Float and Fish the Day Away at North Slope’s Three Reservoirs
You may not be able to swim at North Slope Recreation Area’s three reservoirs, but that won’t limit any of your fun. The giant bodies of water are part of Colorado Springs’ drinking water collection system, so it makes sense not to have people or pets splashing around. You’re going to drink that water once you’re off the mountain, so remember that if you feel tempted. However, that doesn’t mean you are unable to enjoy the giant reservoirs. You can canoe, kayak and fish off of any vessel that can be transported on the roof of your car and carried to the shores of North Catamount, South Catamount and Crystal Reservoirs — nothing gas-powered, no boats on trailers. The best part of the small craft rule is that you can drift all day long relative quiet without being dumped over by wakes made from larger boats. The worst part is that you won’t be able to blame a bad fishing day on speedboats — you’re gonna have to own that tragedy yourself.
Hopefully, you won’t even have to sheepishly explain your empty bucket. The reservoirs are cold water and known for having “and abundance of brook, brown, cutbow, cutthroat, lake and rainbow trout” according to the pikespeakcolorado.com. North Catamount is known for fly fishing and only allows flies and lures. Crystal and South Catamount do allow bait, but no minnows. All three are excellent fishing holes that can certainly please any fisherman. You can take home four trout in your daily bag, and two of those can be lake trout, which means you could spend a nice day casting your heart out and go home and cook a quintessentially Colorado dinner (broil it, you won’t be sorry). Bring a license for everyone 16 and older. Younger kids can fish and take home their own bag, too!
Hit the Trails by Mountain Bike
The North Slope Recreation Area is also home to about 12 miles of mountain biking trails that include gravel roads, single track and a few logging roads. You can make an ascent of 1,280 feet with an average grade of 4 percent — but it can hit 21 percent. MTB Project ranks it as an intermediate trail with about 85 percent singletrack. Most reviewers rave about the shade which is always appreciated when your grinding up and down hills at 9,000 feet. Maybe you can even out that weird tan-line from your sleeves if you get a bit of time out of the sun. It goes without saying that the views are also spectacular with a portion of the trail running between North and South Catamount Reservoirs. Be a good steward of the trails and be kind to hikers and walkers, as this area is under survey with the chance of opening future trails in the area, something every cyclist always wants. Oh, and wear a helmet, of course! When you’re done, you can chill out and relax at one of the numerous picnic spots, many of which allow grilling (pending fire conditions).
Hike Around America’s Mountain
There are a number of trails to hike at the North Slope Recreation Area and you can link to other areas of Pikes Peak from the trailheads next to the reservoirs. If you want to keep it low-key, you can just stroll around the water and check out the scenery, but stay within a reasonable proximity to your car. If you want to take on more challenging hikes, the area does have options. Catamount Trail, for example, is a moderate hike with a 9-mile out-and-back journey that runs along the reservoir and has options to connect to other trails like Limber Pine, Blue River and Mule Deer Trails. There is also a visible, but unmarked, trail known as Vayhinger Trail that will lead you to Elder Fehn Trail. If you decide to venture that way, make sure you have navigation so you don’t get lost. Bring lots of water for these longer hikes and wear proper shoes and clothing. Make sure any pets you bring are suited to longer hikes, too. Getting airlifted to the hospital for dehydration and exposure or carrying an 80-pound Labrador for 10 miles (or both) is no one’s favorite way to end a day of hiking.
The Nitty-Gritty Details (Rules to Follow)
No place is kept as beautiful as the North Slope without some rules to keep it protected. Most are common sense but it helps to know before you go to be a good visitor. The first think you need to know is that you need a parking pass to park in several areas (this prevents overcrowding). You can obtain one for free at pikespeakcolorado.com. Crystal Reservoir does allow parking without a reservation but with the popularity of the region, why not save the trouble and reserve one ahead of time? Here are a few other basic rules from the pikespeakcolorado.com website as well:
- Hunting or the possession of firearms for any purpose is not permitted.
- No alcoholic beverages.
- No smoking except in designated areas.
- Pets must be on a leash at all times. Pets are not allowed in the water.
- Activities such as swimming, wading, sail boating, windsurfing, camping, and horseback riding are prohibited.
- Protect the wildlife in the area. Do not feed, chase, capture or harm the native wildlife.
- Fireworks are not allowed.
- Open fires are prohibited. Only charcoal briquettes, liquid fuel or propane with shut-offs are allowed in or on permanently mounted grills. Please do not use portable grills in back of vehicles or at the shoreline. Place on picnic tables or permanently mounted grills.
- Motor vehicles are restricted to designated roads and parking lots. Parking along roadways is not allowed.
- Parking or fishing from the dams is prohibited.
- Drone Use Prohibited.
Pretty basic, right? In closing, be sure to have fun! The North Slope Recreation Area is a great space to enjoy everything Colorado has to offer: pristine waters, beautiful scenery, hiking trails for all experience levels, mountain biking trails, plentiful fishing and, most important of all, space!