Distance: 4.25 miles Elevation Gain: 1,880 feet gain YDS Rating: Class 3
This loop route takes advantage of existing 4x4 roads and faint paths for the ascent, while cutting mileage by bushwacking down the steep western slopes of Mount Big Chief.
The trailhead for the Gould Creek Road route is at the junction of Gold Camp Road and FS 370C (Gould Creek Road).
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 six miles, passing the Rosemont Reservoir SWA and the turnoff to Frosty Park.
A Colorado Gazetteer or Trails Illustrated Map #137 (Pikes Peak, Canon City) will help pintpoint the turnoff for Gould Creek Road (FS 370 C).
Gould Creek Road (FS 370 C)
The Gould Creek road should be attempted by vehicle only by skilled drivers with a rugged ATV or dirt bike or an off-road customized Jeep or similar short-wheel-base utility vehicle. This “road” is very steep and rugged, full of axel-busting craters and large, sharp, oil pan ripping boulders. The only stock/factory vehicle I have seen on this road was a Jeep Grand Cherokee…left abandoned by its owners after the road became too much for truck and driver. A member of a volunteer cleanup crew with a local 4x4 club informed us the Jeep had been abandoned due to a busted radiator hose and that members of the 4x4 club would assist with towing out the vehicle should the owner return. He said he hoped the owners returned soon, telling stories of vehicles abandoned in this area because the owners got in over their heads…only to return to find their vehicle stripped of all parts (right down to the seats and quarter panels) with the remaining automotive carcass shot up by a variety of weapons.
I am not even sure the legendary Randy’s Towing could pull a vehicle out of this mess. Bottom line: Just hike this road unless your expert off-road skills and highly customized equipment enable you to do otherwise.
Gould Creek Loop, Mount Big Chief
Begin heading northeast along FS 370C (Gould Creek Road). It won’t be long before you will realize the wisdom of leaving your stock 4x4 at the junction with Gold Camp Road.
After about a half mile, you will enter a broad meadow popular with 4x4 campers. Enjoy the views of the “art deco” rock outcrops!
At roughly one mile, FS 370C leaves the streambed and begins ascending steeply uphill.
The rugged dirt road again rejoins the stream and begins curving first north and then north-northwest.
Approaching the wooded saddle of Mount Big Chief and Almagre Mountain South,you will reach the junction with FS 379.
Briefly follow FS 379 to the east and begin scanning the woods to your right (east-southeast) for an unmarked path that follows the arm of Mount Big Chief (before FS 379 curves to the north).
Follow a sometimes defined, sometimes very faint route for over a mile toward the historical (lower) summit of Mount Big Chief.
You may find whispers of the historical trail cork-screwing up the northern (lower) summit of Mount Big Chief. Top out here (11,209 ft.) and enjoy the views through the trees, sizing up the next leg of your journey.
Descend the northern summit, curving first south, then southwest toward the rocky, true summit. Dropping off the northern summit toward the saddle between the two highpoints is a maddening exercise in boulder-hopping, bushwacking and crawling over dead fall, all on an ankle-grinding slope.
From the saddle just to the north of the true summit, the ascent to the southern highpoint is a lung burner, topping out in a fun scramble. Approaching the higher southern summit first from the north, wrap around to the southwest to expose a rampy weakness in the summit turret.
With patience, the final ascent can be kept to grippy 3rd class boulders with limited to no exposure, mixed with easy 2nd class scrambling.
Scamper all the way up to the rounded summit boulder and take in the stunning views.
To return to your vehicle, descend the summit turret to the wooded saddle northeast of the summit (between the true summit and a hump just to the south of the historical summit). Head west through timber down a thigh-burning, steep slope to rejoin FS 370C. Follow FS 370C southwest back to where you parked.
Trail map (Trails Illustrated #137: Pikes Peak and Canon City would meet most needs)
Sturdy hiking boots
Snowshoes or skis after a heavy snowfall
Water and snacks
A camera to save memories of the high country views