With a name like Mount Big Chief, how can a mountain hiker not want to climb this mountain? Apparently, plenty of people take a pass on Big Chief. An unranked peak with no trail to its true highpoint, which is well-guarded by turret-like rock structure, it seems few bother to summit this peak. What a shame.
Art Deco Pinnacle near Mount Big Chief 06 Jun 09
Historically, Mount Big Chief once had a maintained hiking trail originating in the Frosty’s Park drainage ascending it s eastern slopes to the northern summit. Remnants of this old trail exist today, rock barrier walls holding the trail surface up against the ravages of time. The faint old footpath winds its way from the north, corkscrewing its way up to the northern summit. While this lower northern summit is easier to attain than the eastern high point, it is shrouded in thin trees and offers somewhat obscure views.
Looking southward toward the highpoint, even a stout-hearted hiker may wonder: Is that going to be a 5th-class climb? Can I gain the summit without protection? Fear not. Careful routefinding and bull-headed diligence will encourage the mountain to yield its southwestern weakness, a blocky ramp structure providing an easy scramble to the wide-open summit.
And, my, what a summit this is. To the north, Pikes Peak and Almagre Mountain South dominate the skyline. To the northeast is the lovely Mount Rosa. Views to the south take in nearby neighbor peaks, as well as Greenhorn Mountain and East Spanish Peak & West Spanish Peak in the distance. Looking southwest the magical Sangre de Cristo march along toward New Mexico. The southern Sawatch fills in the distant views to the west. All of this is taken in from a windy, bare-rock, subtly thrilling summit turret.
Colorado Rank: Unranked Prominence: 244 Mountain Range: Front Range
Mount Big Chief sits southwest of Colorado Springs in Teller County, not far from the convergence of El Paso, Teller and Fremont counties. The peak is largely hidden from view from most points in Colorado Springs.
Mount Big Chief Area Map
Mount Big Chief rises like a shining beacon to the north of Old Stage Road, a wash-boarded dirt thoroughfare running between western Colorado Springs and the mining & gambling town of Cripple Creek. All sorts of vehicles will be seen on this road, including low-clearance sedans, though this is not recommended. In dry conditions, high clearance will suffice. In snow or mud, 4x4 is required. This area is served by Randy’s High Country Towing, regionally famous for extracting the vehicles of folks who got in over their heads on Pikes Peak area backroads.
Be forewarned that Old Stage Road is bedeviled by irresponsible, speeding, out of control drivers. Combine this behavior with narrow, wash-boarded dirt roads and deep chugholes and your worst objective hazard of the day becomes other drivers and their vehicles. Drive defensively on this road!
Jeep crossing a seasonal pond with Mount Big Chief in the background 06 Jun 09
Rosemont Reservoir from Mount Big Chief 06 Jun 09
Stimpy at the Summit of Mount Big Chief 06 Jun 09
There is very little red tape in this part of the Pike National Forest. In fact, some sectors of this area can feel downright lawless Wild West at times.
* Do not litter and dispose properly of human waste.
* Shoot only in designated target ranges and point your firearm away from other recreationalists.
* You get the point...
Distant Sangre de Cristos, Mount Big Chief 06 Jun 09
Mount Rosa from Mount Big Chief Summit 06 Jun 09
Rustic car camping and backcountry camping can be throughout the surrounding Pike National Forest. Be forewarned that the proximity of this area to the urban I-25 corridor means that crowding can be an issue, especially in the summer, and that unsavory characters are known to frequent this area. Be prepared for heavy ATV use, large crowds, drunkenness and casual firearms usage.
While the Old Stage area provides for all of the rustic camping you could hope for, I honestly suggest not spending the night in the area for the sake of peace and quiet, and even for your safety. Old Stage Road serves as a conduit for the urban masses to explore Pike National Forest. While this sounds like a good idea, the reality is messy (garbage, spent shells, beer bottles, auto parts and busted clay pigeons) and sometimes grim. In October 2008 the body of 19 year old, mentally disabled Judi Lawrence was discovered near Old Stage Road; she had been raped and murdered.
Do yourself a favor and stay in town, visiting Mount Big Chief as a day excursion.
Flowers on the Western Slopes of Mount Big Chief 06 Jun 09
Hotels, Cabins & B&Bs
Old Colorado City
Nearby Old Colorado City has an assortment of lodging options, old and new, for all budgets. Restaurants, bakeries and shops are within strolling distance from many lodging facilities.
Manitou Springs lies at the foot of Ute Pass. This colorful, eclectic town offers a wide range of lodging options including old-style motor cottages and cabins, retro family-run motels, charming B&Bs and modern chain hotels. Shopping and dining are within walking distance of most Manitou lodging. Visit the a href=http://www.manitousprings.org/Default.aspx >Manitou Springs Visitors Website for more information on lodging in the area.
The hotel options in Colorado Springs are virtually limitless. If you are the 5-star luxury type, be sure to check out The Broadmoor, which is extremely convenient to the eastern terminus of Old Stage Road.
Weather & Seasons
The northern summit approach promises deep snow and the blocky summit climb could make Mount Big Chief a surprising challenge in the winter. Summer months bring heavy Jeep & ATV traffic to the dirt roads running up the drainages on both sides of Mount Big Chief and Old Stage Road is crawling with teens blaring obnoxious music, drunks shooting into thin air and tourists nervous about damaging their rental car on the potholes and ruts. Spring access to the summit would depend on the year’s snowpack; a heavy snowpack would mean deep drifts of soft, late-season snow lodged in the trees. Fall may well be the best season to attempt Mount Big Chief, and the golden aspen glowing on the lower reaches of the mountain would be sure to delight.