Barneys Dome watches high over Ute Pass, an impossible-to-miss sight driving west from Colorado Springs. The rock formation appears like a throne. And indeed, anyone up for the hearty adventure is granted a seat with awe-inspiring views. But the dome is hardly ventured, and that might be for the best. Some route-finding skills are required, as well as some considerable fitness.
From Cascade, head up Park Street to the Heizer trailhead. Heizer has a lot of similarities with Barr Trail, from the constant elevation gain, to the summer wildflowers, to the mountain vistas. The difference is the popularity. You just might find yourself alone at the rocky overlook before 2 miles - a good place to catch your breath and take in the scenery.
The trail's switchbacks climb higher into the forest of pine and aspen. Eventually, you'll descend to a grassy valley, where Pikes Peak's east face shows off in the distance. At about 3.4 miles, come to a 'T' at French Creek. Continue left at the sign pointing to Hurricane Canyon, and be advised: Embarking farther to that extremely rugged, unmarked canyon is not recommended.
You'll stop in the wide-open meadow. See the hillside harshly rising to the left. Barneys Dome awaits at the top, but there's no defined way to reach it. On this visit, we spotted cairns directing one route and had to clutch roots to keep our footing in the loose soil. We maneuvered through stone slots marking the great rock outcrop. Along with America's Mountain, many of the region's other signature peaks join the panorama, including Mount Rosa, Camerons Cone and Almagre Mountain.
Trip log: 9.2 miles round trip (out and back), 2,460-foot elevation gain, 9,020 feet max
Difficulty: Difficult to extreme
Getting there: Off U.S. 24, turn at the light for the Pikes Peak Highway and make a quick turn onto Emporia Avenue, following into Cascade. Park on the side of the road by the park and walk up Park Street to the trailhead.
FYI: Hiking and biking on Heizer Trail, though riding impossible on final stretch to Barneys Dome. Dogs on leash. Trail could be icy in winter. Know backcountry safety.
SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE