To start off 2019, I made an excellent decision to hike to the top of Cheyenne Mountain via the Dixon Trail located within Cheyenne Mountain State Park in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It was quite a physically demanding 17 plus mile hike that lived up to all the warnings that are posted about it. For being the very beginning of January, the weather was quite warm and for about 90 percent of this hike I didn’t even need to wear a winter coat as it was at least 60 degrees. With that in mind, it pretty much took me over seven hours to complete this hike but I was up to the challenge and was determined to complete it before sunset and to capture some remarkable photos throughout the day.
At the beginning of the trail, you’re encouraged to sign in on a clipboard to let the park staff know what trail or trails that you plan on hiking in the event of an emergency. After briefly filling in that information, I then proceeded onto the Sundance Trail to begin my journey. After only maybe ten or fifteen minutes into the hike, I encountered a huge white tail deer that I definitely did not expect to see up close that morning. It was so close to me I could have reached out and touched. Additionally, I was even close enough to count all ten of the points it had on its antlers. Shortly after that, I came upon two more deer laying down amongst some trees.
After stumbling upon several more deer, I turned onto the Talon Trail. This particular part had a decent amount of ice and snow packed on it. However, most of the snow was in the areas that were shaded and had a significant amount of tree coverage. A little bit later, I took a short side trail to find an overlook area that allows you to get a good glimpse of Cheyenne Mountain more up close.
Upon completing portions of the Talon and North Talon Trails, I came to the junction of the Dixon Trail on a small hill. Although it definitely did not seem like it, I had already hiked 3.3 miles at this point. A big warning sign is posted at the very beginning of this trail warning you about what to expect and to be prepared for the conditions of the trail. Take this stuff seriously because you do not want to be without an adequate supply of water and food because this hike is extremely demanding. Always watch the sky for possible changes in the weather too.
Something that I really liked about the Dixon Trail was that it was well marked and easy to follow. The trail is marked in half mile increments in both directions to let you know how much further that you have to go. The first several miles are primarily switchbacks that were snow covered with several areas that were somewhat rocky. At this point, really notice that you are starting to go up in elevation. Once you reach the 2.5 mile mark of the trail, you will come to a huge turnaround area designed for bikes and people riding horses to turnaround. You will notice yet another warning sign that alerts you to the steepness of the remaining two miles of the Dixon Trail before you finish your ascent and continue onto the Mountain Loop Trail.
Continuing on, the trail does get much steeper as previously mentioned by the warning sign. However, this did not seem to phase me at all because the scenery just kept getting more amazing with every step. With it being a clear morning, I could see the large snow capped peaks to the southwest that looked absolutely breathtaking. I was so amazed by the scenery that I simply had to stop and have lunch for about twenty minutes and just take it all in. It’s really difficult to capture just how beautiful places are because sometimes pictures just simply are not enough. You have to be there to experience it all firsthand to truly understand. After lunch, I continued up the trail and started to run into some much deeper snow as well as some wreckage from a small plane crash that happened quite some time ago.
After a short time, I reached the end of the Dixon Trail. However, I ultimately made the decision to keep going and add on the Mountain Loop Trail because I wanted to see just how deep the snow was at the top of Cheyenne Mountain. And I was not at all disappointed! With no footprints to follow, I pretty much relied on looking for the little trail markers and flags used to mark the trails at the top. I did fall several times due to it being both very slippery and also muddy in certain areas. Before long, I found myself going through snow drifts and areas that had knee high snow. Despite the conditions of the trail, the views of both the surrounding mountains and Colorado Springs down below really made me glad that I completed this long hike.
As the day progressed, it started to get cloudy and so I started to descend back towards the trailhead. When all was said and done, I made it back probably about fifteen minutes before it started to get dark. Overall, I’m very glad that I took advantage of the warm weather for January to get out and hike this trail.
Other Important Information
The cost for a day pass to enter the park is $8 and is valid until noon the following day. You might hear artillery fire on this hike as Fort Carson is located right across the street from the park entrance. On the Mountain Loop Trail, you will also notice various no trespassing signs due to the fact that the land nearby is owned by the United States Government. You can find more interesting information about the Cheyenne Mountain Complex by clicking here.