West Ridge via upper Bear Creek Valley

West Ridge via upper Bear Creek Valley

Page Type: Route
Lat/Lon: 38.80760°N / 104.9472°W
Route Type: Hike/Scramble
Time Required: Most of a day
Difficulty: Class 1 appr., Class 2 w/ easy Class 3 moves on ridge, 3430' Gain, 10+ mile roundtrip


The Ormes Pikes Peak Atlas or other suitable topographic map should be reviewed prior to attempting this hike to limit confusion along the way.

The most reasonable place to begin a climb of Mt. Garfield is from Jones Park or the upper Bear Creek Valley located to the south of the peak. There are four trailheads in the Pikes Peak region from which a reasonable approach to the upper valley would enable a long day summit attempt. The Pikes Peak atlas or another good topographic map and compass should be in your possession if you attempt Mt. Garfield.

Directions to the first three trailheads are given in the “Getting There” section on the main Mt. Garfield page. They all involve passing through North Cheyenne Canon Park on the southwest side of Colorado Springs. Directions to the fourth trailhead in Frosty's Park can be found on the Mt. Rosa page if you are so inclined.

All four of these approaches ironically enough are between 2.5 and 3.0 miles to the beginning of Jones Park. The elevation gains for these approaches are to the beginning of Jones Park at approximately 9,050'. All four of these approaches make excellent days hikes on their own.

Bear Creek Trail #666 and #667 Approach - 1,950' Gain

This trailhead is at approximately 7,100' and is located on the left side of High Drive at the last major switchback below and north of the Mt. Buckhorn / Mays Peak saddle. This approach is relatively easy to follow as it follows Bear Creek Canyon all the way up through Jones Park and into the upper Bear Creek Valley. Near the top of the lower canyon above Josephine Falls you will come to the junction with the Buckhorn Trail #667. The Buckhorn Trail #667 approach is detailed below.

Continue straight up Bear Creek until you come to the junction on your left with Trail #622A from the top of the Seven Bridges Trail #622 over the saddle west of Mt. Kineo. The Seven Bridges Trail #622 approach is detailed below. Once again proceed straight up Bear Creek. Depending on your preferred route up Mt. Garfield you will begin your bushwack up and to the right somewhere between 0.5 miles below and 2 miles above this junction.

Buckhorn Trail #667 Approach - 1,200' Gain

This trailhead is at approximately 7,850' and is located on the left side of High Drive at the saddle between Mt. Buckhorn and Mays Peak. This approach provides the added bonus of a short side trip to the summit of Mt. Buckhorn a named summit on the Ormes Pikes Peak Atlas. The Buckhorn Trail #667 is a scenic hike generally following the ridge between Mt. Buckhorn and Mt. Kineo to the west. To the north is lower Bear Creek Canyon and to the south is North Cheyenne Canon.

Prior to heading up the steep east face of Mt. Kineo, the Buckhorn Trail heads down off the ridge to the northwest to intersect the lower Bear Creek Trail #666 above lower Bear Creek Canyon. Turn left and follow the directions for the Bear Creek Trail approach above.

Seven Bridges Trail #622 Approach - 1,550' Gain

The Gold Camp Road parking lot above Helen Hunt Falls in North Cheyenne Canon City Park is the trailhead for this approach. It is at approximately 7,500'. Hike up Gold Camp Road for about 0.7 mile to access the Seven Bridges Trail #622 to the right just before the sharp switchback where North Cheyenne Creek passes under Gold Camp Road.

The Seven Bridges Trail heads up North Cheyenne Creek past several cascades and small waterfalls. The trail zigzags back and forth from one side of the creek to the other via many small bridges. Around a mile up this trail you will encounter a natural waterslide named Undine Falls.

Above the falls the trail enters a south facing scree slope with little vegetation. Stay to the right at a fork and avoid taking the lower left trail which follows the creek. Once through the scree slope the trail enters the trees for a short while and then enters yet another scree slope. Once past this second scree slope you will notice that North Cheyenne Creek heads to the southwest with a small tributary heading northwest. The Pipeline Trail #668 which parallels North Cheyenne Creek above this area will intersect Trail #662 on the left. Stay to the right to the north side of the small tributary.

Follow this trail until you enter a relatively flat area with a healthy young aspen forest. Once in the aspen forest you will encounter a junction in the trail. Take the right fork Trail #622A up and over the saddle west of Mt. Kineo. This trail starts out from the junction as a fairly eroded double track. If you’re feeling strong, Mt. Kineo a named summit on the Ormes Pikes Peak Atlas is a relatively short Class 2 bushwack up to the east (right) from the saddle.

A healthy young aspen forest is near the top of the Seven Bridges Trail #622. The right turn onto the eroded double track of Trail #622A to head over the saddle west of Mt. Kineo is located in this forest.

You will head north over the saddle west of Mt. Kineo and down towards Bear Creek. You will cross Bear Creek which can be a balancing act on a makeshift fallen tree bridge during high water and immediately intersect the Bear Creek Trail #667. From here follow the directions for the Bear Creek Trail approach above.

Frosty’s Park – Pipeline Trail #668 - 1,250' Loss

The fourth trailhead, Frosty’s Park at approximately 10,300', is not recommended unless you have a high clearance and preferably 4-wheel drive and want to have roughly 1,250' of uphill on the way back from the peak. Directions to Frosty’s Park can be found on the Mt. Rosa page if you are so inclined. The Pipeline Trail #668 leads from Frosty’s Park down to intersect with the top of the Seven Bridges Trail #622. Turn left on the Seven Bridges Trail #622. From here the approach is the same as the Seven Bridges Approach detailed above.

This is a view of Tuckaway Mountain from the upper Bear Creek Valley. Mt. Garfield is located up and to the right of this photo. This valley can be approached from each of the trailheads/approaches detailed above.

Route Description from May 28, 2005 summit

There are many ways to summit this peak from Jones Park or upper Bear Creek Valley and they all involve route finding and bushwacking. The route described here allowed me to successfully summit on May 28, 2005 with nothing more difficult than a few Class 3 moves along the west ridge. At the end of this section is a thumbnail of the topographic map showing the approximate route from Jones Park:

From the junction of Bear Creek Trail #667 and Trail 622A proceed approximately 1.7 miles northwest along Trail #667 into upper Bear Creek Valley at which point Tuckaway Mountain as seen above is quite obvious.

There are two saddles which are apparent on a topographic map located between Tuckaway Mountain and Mt. Garfield. From the point mentioned above, head generally north to the western of the two saddles.

Traverse north around the small unnamed summit located between the two saddles through about a quarter mile of difficult route finding through steep terrain covered with boulders and downfall until you attain the east saddle. This was the only real unpleasant part of this route and having done it, would recommend trying to attain the east saddle directly from Trail #667. Warning: I have not attempted this route and don't know if it is even possible - although I suspect it is. Please let me know if anyone else successfully tries this alternate route.

Once to the second saddle point follow the west ridge of Mt. Garfield to the summit. There are a few minor false summits along the way but nothing to bad. At points the west ridge has fairly steep dropoffs on either side. You are able to traverse around some rather tricky rock pile pinnacles. I managed to tackle a few head on where the traverse seemed no better via some hard Class 2 or easy Class 3 sections with a little exposure. I sat on top of one of these and enjoyed the views for a few moments. Below is a picture of a typical one of these sections. Some of these rocks are surprisingly loose and stability should be tested prior to rockhopping.

One of the rock pile pinnacles along the west ridge of Mt. Garfield. Most of the more difficult moves among these rocks would probably be either hard Class 2 or easy Class 3.

The final thousand feet or so to the summit get a lot easier and with a little searching you will find the summit register. If you have time read through it as it shows this is a rarely visited peak.

While the summit is mostly tree covered, great views can be had from just below the summit. Unfortunately the day I summited weather was moving in foiling an attempt on Mt. Arthur as well. Oh well, maybe another day. The quickly building weather issues resulted in my chosing to head down via the southwest slopes rather than over the more exposed west ridge.

View southwest down towards Trail #667 from the southwest slopes a few hundred feet or so below the summit of Mt. Garfield.

Essential Gear

A good topographic map and compass is essential on this route. A GPS unit would add a nice touch but don't rely solely on it. The last think you want is to run out of battery life off-trail without map and compass or route finding skills.

The Ormes Pikes Peak Atlas lists all of the trail numbers referenced in the above descriptions.

This summit makes for a relatively long day from any of the four trailheads so snacks and plenty of water are a must. Jones Park or the upper Bear Creek Valley would make an excellent base camp for an overnight backpack trip.

Note: Not that I'm encouraging cell phones in the backcountry, but if you are traveling alone, take your cell phone as the summit area has fairly good coverage in the event you get into a "situation".