Just a few miles northwest of Cañon City, the landscape rumples into a series of ridges, rumples, canyons and broad, lower mountains. Studded by rock outcrops, with desert scrub and oak at lower reaches and Ponderosa Pine and some Douglas Fir at the highest elevations, the area is pleasantly aesthetic but not particularly striking. Thompson Mountain holds a treat for the persistent, however. Its rocky, bare summit caps a mellow hike with an easy scramble and crazy views of the high country from Pikes Peak clear across southern Colorado to the Sangre de Cristos.
This is definitely a little peak that lives big and provides a surprise finish for a lot of bang for the buck!
Rank: 3120st highest peak in Colorado
Prominence: 480 feet
USGS Quad: Gribble Mountain
Planning Map: Trails Illustrated #137 Pikes Peak | Cañon City
Surrounded by roads on three sides, Thompson Mountain is easy to get to by vehicle. This peak can be readily accessed from two primary trailheads off of CR 69. Driving directions are from Cañon City, heading westbound on US Hwy 50.
South Trailhead – Wilson Creek Trail | BLM #5827
• Continue westbound on US Hwy 50 ½ mile past the entrance for Skyline Drive.
• Turn right (north) on CR 69.
• Follow CR 69 for 15.1 miles to a dirt road leading to TH #5827.
• Park at the road junction in the winter / deep snow, or continue by vehicle a short distance to the trailhead proper.
CR 69 turns to ungraded dirt about midway between US Hwy 50 and CR 11. Even at its roughest, the road as passable in a solid all-wheel drive vehicle with descent clearance, though 4x4 would be very nice to have. Four wheel drive is absolutely necessary in wet conditions, unless you enjoy getting stuck in wet read dirt. The road in most spots is relatively smooth, but narrow, and it gets quite steep in spots.
• Continue westbound on US Hwy 50 to CO 9.
• Turn right (north) on CO 9 to CR 11 (High Park Road).
• Turn right on CR 11.
• Travel a few miles keeping an eye out for CR 69.
• Turn right (south) on CR 69 and travel southbound for about 1 mile (roughly mile marker 17.5 on CR 69) to a dirt road leading into BLM land. The road is not well-marked and rather inconspicuous.
• Travel less than a mile (conditions permitted) to the gate and the trailhead, marked by a kiosk.
This trailhead can be reached almost entirely on pavement. Only the short distance from CR 69 to the trailhead proper is unpaved. A driver cold always pull off and park immediately after leaving CR 69 if a combination of conditions and vehicle made continuing on by vehicle imprudent.
I will post a route from the northern trailhead as soon as I can.
• The entirety of the Thompson Mountain trail system is publically accessible, sitting either on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land or open Colorado State land. In the state land parcel, travel is permitted only on foot or on horseback.
• Ranchers run cattle on this land through leases. Please do not harass livestock or allow your dog to do so and leave any ranching equipment (tanks, pumps, corrals, etc.) alone.
• This trail system is popular with equestrians, so please observe proper trail etiquette should they be encountered.
Most folks visiting this mountain will do so as a day trip. Here are camping options for those her prefer to spend the night.
Both trailheads have limited, first-come, first-served space for rustic, dry camping. Haul out what you hauled in.
• Red Canyon Park
According to the Trails Illustrated map of the area, camping is available in this Cañon City park located north of Cañon City via Rt 9 (which becomes Shelf Road).
• Shelf Road Recreation Area
The Bureau of Land Management operates two campgrounds in the Shelf Road Recreation Area about 12 miles north of Cañon City. The Bank (13 sites) and Sand Gulch (16 sites) each have tent pads, picnic tables, fire grates and a vault toilet.
• Oak Creek
The National Forest Service operates a free, year-round campground about 16 miles south of Cañon City via County Road 143 (Oak Creek Grade Road). There are 16 sites, but no water is available (haul your own).
Weather & Seasons
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|The mountains around Cañon City are typically warmer and dryer than other mountains of higher elevation in Colorado. Summers in this area can be painfully – or even dangerously – hot, and very dusty, though Thompson Mountain is higher and cooler than in town. If visiting Thomson Mountain in the summer, you may wish to opt for an early morning sunrise hike or a late evening sunset hike. Fall would be a pleasant time to visit Thomson Mountain, with moderate temperatures and dry roads making for easy access. It is tempting to visit this area in Winter and Spring when access to the high country is limited by deep drifts blocking roads and high avalanche danger, but reaching the southern trailhead could be a muddy, and possibly impassible, endeavor.|
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