The Catamount Trail and Reservoirs
and the Garden of Eden
On a hot summer day The Catamount Trail by the town of Green Mountain Falls may be a good choice with the waterfalls and shade. We were comfortable during a good workout up the trail on a sunny mid-August afternoon in 2009. However, when we went on a warm day in late May of 2010, we didn't feel relief from the heat until we were over half way to South Catamount Reservoir. The numerous steep switchbacks climbing up the north face of Pikes Peak remind me of the first section of
by Manitou Springs.
Directions: From I-25 in Colorado Springs take exit 141 and go west on Hwy 24. After the town of Cascade look for the Green Mt. Falls sign on the left. Take Ute Pass Ave. on the left (south) and head for the center of town. You can park by the small lake or across from Hondo Ave. (below).
Difficulty: Moderate. 6 miles round trip from downtown to reservoirs. Elevation gain is around 1,700 ft. From Catamount Falls (1 mile from downtown), the trail is rather rocky and steep until the Garden of Eden where it levels out through a field then climbs gradually along a river. Just before the reservoirs is one more climb up a dirt road to 9229' elevation.
I really wish hikers could park by the gate at the top of Hondo Ave., saving us from trudging up the steep 8/10 of a mile to the trailhead through a wooded neighborhood. Below is the intersection of Hondo Ave. and Ute Pass Ave. and the parking across the street.
You gain at least 300 ft. just going up Hondo Ave.
Arriving at the gate, then continuing up a hill to the falls.
From where we parked it is a mile to Catamount Falls. A wide bridge crosses over it, providing a good view of the water.
The upper falls (lower left). At the trailhead is a sign showing the blue dots lead to the right up The Catamount Trail. If you go to the left the yellow dots lead to Crystal Falls. If you simply want to see Crystal Falls without the hike, park by the lake in town and go up Hotel St., then left on Park Ave. and right on Boulder for a 1 mile round trip.
The trail starts out steep and rocky, but not really difficult. The path follows the water for a short way, then a series of switchbacks take you up the mountainside.
The trees hide most of the views along the switchbacks, but you can catch glimpses of the surrounding foothills.
Wildflowers peeked out from the undergrowth here and there along the trail.
On our first trip we noticed our time was running short since we had to get home to prepare for dinner guests. I REALLY wanted to see The Garden of Eden because of the wildflowers hikers had spoken highly of. So I darted up the rest of the mountainside, wondering where my newfound strength came from. I guess I'm a nut about wildflowers.
The blue dots on the trees came in handy when we reached the top because the path disappeared among the array of flat rocks. On our second trip we had time to check out the overlooks marked by a sign pointing hikers to the left. You don't have to go far to see the sweeping pass and the town of Green Mountain Falls (third photo below).
From the top it's not far to The Garden of Eden. The path gently slopes downward toward a stream bordered by large rocks and fields dotted with wildflowers. There had been a lot of rain during the summer of 2009, encouraging many blooms. However, we had missed the peak in July.
I got excited as I approached the wide field, but was disappointed that I wasn't inundated with color like I had been when hiking north of Colorado Springs at
a few weeks earlier. I guess The Garden of Eden was a good wildflower display for the area. At least my curiosity had been satisfied and we turned around. The reservoirs were only perhaps less than a mile farther.
On our second trip we continued on through an aspen forest and followed the river again where I enjoyed looking at the huge boulders. This was my favorite section besides the view at the reservoir. The path was easy except for having to climb over some fallen trees. The trunk Greg is saddling below was covered with sharp stubby spots where branches broke off. I didn't have the skill or height to maneuver around them, so I wriggled on my back beneath the tree.
Then we approached a gate and a dirt road. Take a right up the road to South Catamount Reservoir. Even this section had some beauty.
Here is a shot of the map of the North and South Reservoirs. From Catamount trail you would approach the reservoirs from a dirt road that branches off the Peak's toll road (just to the right of "You Are Here" on the map below where there is a hairpin turn in the road).
Below are the impressive views of Pikes Peak from the reservoirs. There are nice paths around the perimeters and many spots along the water where you can sit and relax. I was so glad we had made it all the way to our destination. The hike was definitely a workout. We saw only about 25 people along the path, so there were many opportunities to soak in the peaceful nature around us.
Below is a fishing pier. You can catch lake, brook, rainbow and cutthroat trout. A sign notes the fishing regulations. There's no camping there and, unfortunately, no swimming since the reservoirs are for Colorado Springs drinking water. A small section of sandy beach looked inviting. The views around the reservoirs are definitely worth the trek up Catamount trail if you're seeking a tranquil journey through nature and don't want to pay the fee to drive up Pikes Peak.