This out-and-back route serves up fine high-country views so darn close to Colorado Springs. Cruising along the undulating ridgeline running from FS 376A to the summit of Sheep Mountain, the visitor is treated to knock-out views of the south side of Pikes Peak. You can even watch the Cog Railway Trail ascend the slopes and see the sunlight glint from the windshields of private vehicles on the Pikes Peak Highway!
Though short in distance, this route is almost perfectly trail-less (a social “smudge” of a route, part elk and part human caused, is visible for only a short while nearing the high saddle toward the southeastern end of the mountain) and forces you to either surmount or side-step a couple of good-sized humps before descending into a willow valley for your final big ascent. Despite its proximity to the Colorado Springs metropolitan area, the very popular Pikes Peak (at 14,114 feet / 4302 meters, this summit can be reached by road, rail or boot) and the mining community of Cripple Creek, this route lends a rather wild feel. Enjoy it!
Roundtrip Distance: 5 miles from 4x4 parking on FS 376A at saddle; 8 miles from junction of FS 376 / FS 376A
NET Elevation Gain: 1,010 from upper 4x4 parking; 1,600 from junction of FS 376 / FS 376A. Cumulative gain is higher along this undulating ridge!
YDS Class: 2+
Time Allowance: A few hours (longer without 4x4)
The lower, 4x2/summer trailhead is at the junction of FS 376 and FS 376A. The drive from behind the Broadmoor (southwest of Colorado Springs) is on graded dirt roads and suitable for passenger cars.
• Exit 138 west from Highway I-25 on Lake Avenue/Circle Drive. Soon you will be looking at the front of the Broadmoor Hotel.
• Follow signs to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, leading you to the right around the hotel until you get to the Old Stage Road.
• Take Old Stage Road (FDR 368) into the mountains/uphill for 6.5 miles from this point where it runs into to Gold Camp Road (FDR 370).
• Follow Gold Camp Road to the west for roughly ten miles, passing the Rosemont Reservoir SWA, the turnoff to Frosty Park and FS 370C (Gould Creek Road).
• Turn right/north on FS 376.
• Continue on FS 376 northbound for about 3.2 miles. 4x2s and vehicles without sufficient clearance should park at the junction of FS 376 and rustic FS 376A.
Outside of snow season, if your vehicle is a solid 4x4 and has descent clearance, continue roughly 1.5 miles up FS 376A to the saddle at 11,387 feet (38.76956 | -105.0294) southeast of Sheep Mountain. Visit the main Mountain/Rock page for Sheep Mountain for more images of conditions on this moderate Jeep road.
After ascending FS 376A to the saddle (38.76956 | -105.0294) southeast of Sheep Mountain…
• Head northwest out of the saddle, along an old wooden fence line, hiking through rocks, grass, shrubs and trees up and an initial subpoint of Pt. 11750. As is often the case, side-stepping this hump yields only minor benefit as the footing is more forgiving up and over the ridgeline.
• Drop a bit then contour over and around the grassy Pt. 11750, covered in giant boulders and snags of an old ghost forest. We stuck to the “left hand” (southwest) side of this outcrop primarily.
• From here, the rest of the route is both beautiful and daunting! What you see before you, beyond the valley full of willow and spruce, is the southeastern-most sub-summit of Sheep Mountain – you still have a way to go!
• Descend Pt. 11750 and begin wallowing through willows. Pick the route of least resistance toward the base of a gentle couloir. Keep an eye out for collections of elk bones in this area!
• Begin to re-ascend on the other side of the valley. Keen eyes will pick out a meandering footpath, gouged probably by some combination of elk hooves and human boots.
• Ascend this path up the gentle gulley. As you climb, you’ll leave behind the shrubs and enter tundra where the path becomes a messy erosion track.
• Climb up toward the left-hand side of the top of the sub-saddle, working around an outcrop (to climber’s left or right, your choice). You are now on the northeast side of the first false summit.
• Continue working northwest across the long and broad summit plateau around and over the second false summit. Finally, the summit is in sight!
• Continue across tundra to a rock outcrop with several metal rods sticking out. This is the summit of Sheep Mountain!
• Relish in the views before retracing your steps back to the saddle where you left FS 376A.
• Trail map (Trails Illustrated #137 (Pikes Peak, Cañon City) would meet most needs)
• Compass (and GPS, if so desired)
• Comfortable hiking boots or shoes
• Snowshoes or skis after a heavy snowfall
• Water and snacks
• A camera to save memories of the high country views
• First aid kit
• Other standard backcountry essentials