Up, down, up, down. That’s the theme of the Elder-Fehn Trail at Catamount Ranch, a Teller County open space. It won’t appeal to traditionalists preferring a steady uphill that ends at some overlook. And that’s fine by the frequenters of this protected paradise. They’d prefer to have the trails and unique glimpses of Pikes Peak to themselves.
That’s not the case, though. Hiding at the end of Edlowe Road, the open space is no secret among hikers who have multiple loop options and a visit to North Catamount Reservoir at their disposal, as well as mountain bikers who catch some desired downhill and flowy singletrack through a pine-scented forest. On our recent Sunday visit, we found the parking lot almost full before 9 a.m. Still, we enjoyed moments of solitude on Elder-Fehn while other trails split the crowds.
Near the vault toilet, you’ll see the trail sign pointing into the woods. Start up, stopping short of the gate, through which runs another trail. About 10 yards before the gate, see Elder-Fehn continuing to the right.
It stays flat, leading to the first open views of America’s Mountain scraping the sky above the trees. Then the trail descends.
You’ll come down to a meadow where families stop for photos: Golden groves mixed with the mighty, distant peak make for an ideal background. You can expect the well-made trail throughout the trip. Downed timber lines the path. And the sign in this meadow is just one of several along the way, marking this area as an important place for preservation. Catamount Ranch is part of a wildlife migration corridor stretching to Pikes Peak’s north slope.
The vistas are constant, the mountain and its couloirs and outcrops seen through the trees. You might catch a glinting windshield from cars driving the highway through Devil’s Playground.
Elder-Fehn continues straight, but the Vayhinger Trail stretches down, spilling to the Ring the Peak Trail that skirts North Catamount Reservoir. After close to 3 miles on Elder-Fehn, tack on another mile by touring a loop at the open space’s highest elevations near 10,000 feet.
Trip log: 6.6 miles round trip (“lollipop”), 9,964 feet max
Getting there: Going west on U.S. 24 through Woodland Park, before reaching Divide, see the left turn for Ed Lowe Road (also County Road 28). The pavement ends at the open space’s dirt parking lot. Find a spot on the road if the lot is full.
FYI: Hiking and mountain biking. Dogs not allowed on some of the trail.
SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE