Climbing Colorado's Fourteeners

Pikes Peak Routes: Northwest Slopes II
  • Class 2
  • From Crags Campground Trailhead: 11.4 miles, 4,100 feet
  • From Devil's Playground Trailhead: 5.0 miles, 1,200 feet

This alternative to the popular Barr Trail requires far less effort. This is also a good route to use when the Pikes Peak Road is closed for the season. Start at the Crags Campground Trailhead and go east on the Crags Trail for almost 200 yards. It is difficult to see the terrain in the trees, and critical route finding is imminent. If you continue on the Crags Trail, you will end up in the wrong drainage. Look for three metal water tubes with different diameters on the north (left) side of the trail. Go east on the Crags Trail for 100 feet past the tubes. Two converging creeks are only a few feet south of the trail at this point, and the two creeks come from different drainages. You want to proceed into the southern drainage. Leave the comfort of the Crags Trail and go south (right) across the northern creek. Find an old rocky road between the two creeks and follow it east along the northern side of the southern creek. Finding this old road is the key to this route.

Follow the old road east for 1.0 mile. In this mile, the road crosses to the south side of the southern creek, then back to the north side at 10,900 feet under a soaring block of rock to the north. The drainage east of this point opens into a sweeping basin. Follow the now ancient road as it climbs the slope to the east. At 11,200 feet, leave the northeast-angling road and climb east on a strong climber's trail. Switchback twice, angle southeast and climb steeply to the highest trees at 11,800 feet.

The strong trail continues for a few hundred yards into the tundra, then slowly fades but remains discernible. To avoid trampling tundra, try to follow the trail up the lush tundra slope as you angle slightly south (right) to reach the broad, 12,730-foot saddle at the top of the slope. From here, Pikes pops into view and you can see Pikes Peak Road and the upper part of the route.

From the 12,730-foot saddle, walk northeast then east on an old spur road (closed to vehicles) for 0.7 mile to the Devil's Playground Trailhead, which is in a 12,930-foot saddle on Pikes Peak Road. This saddle is east of Point 13,070 on Pikes' long northwest ridge. You could start this route at the Devil's Playground Trailhead, but because of the road restrictions, that is not recommended.

Cross to the east side of Pikes Peak Road and walk south above the road. Walking along the popular road or its shoulder and hitchhiking are illegal. You must walk at least 50 feet from the road; 100 feet is better. Frequent road patrols stop offenders. Stay above the road as you skirt Points 13,190 and 13,250 on their west sides. Then skirt Point 13,363 on its east side; this is a good shortcut that provides brief relief from the road. At 13,400 feet, leave the road and climb talus (Class 2) on Pikes' upper northwest slope to the broad summit.

Extra Credit: From Devil's Playground, climb west to the summit of Point 13,070. This unnamed summit has the distinction of being the highest point in Teller County, and you might as well bag it while you are so close.


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