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South slope of Pikes Peak peers over hills at the north end of Boehmer Reservoir, the third in the chain of lakes, on July 11 at the South Slope Recreation Area.

This could be the summer to experience a new side of Pikes Peak. 

South Slope Recreation Area permits are set to go on sale this week, two weeks ahead of the scheduled June 4 kickoff to the season. 

That's later than the target opening of Memorial Day weekend. Snow and ice on the remote chain of lakes was still clearing, said Jack Glavan, manager of Pikes Peak-America's Mountain, the city of Colorado Springs enterprise operating the area. 

Hiking Pikes Peak via Barr Trail just got nearly a mile longer

As has been the case in South Slope's five previous summers of public access, permits will be $20 per vehicle, with an eight-person limit per permit. 

Last year, operators cut the area's four days of access to three: Thursday, Friday and Saturday. That was in a stated attempt to offset costs.

While slightly more permits were sold last summer — 681 compared with 601 in 2018 — officials still see South Slope as underused. Visitation has decreased since the highly anticipated opening in 2015, after a century closed under tight utility protection. 

New Cog Railway taking shape on Pikes Peak

On a typical day, it's fairly rare to see anyone on the 4 1/2-mile trail to the uppermost Boehmer Reservoir, a wide, emerald pool framed by alpine forests and Pikes Peak's rugged reaches. 

Rather than hikers and cyclists, rangers at South Slope's gate have become more accustomed to greeting anglers. While McReynolds Reservoir's levels are low and fish scarce, the latest forecast from Colorado Parks and Wildlife suggests cutthroat are teeming again in Mason Reservoir. 

Pikes Peak Highway plans to run shuttles to the summit with visitors' safety in mind

As always, visitors will want to plan ahead and hope against bad weather — refunds are given in that case. From Colorado Springs, it might take some 90 minutes to drive to the area, off a bumpy stretch of Gold Camp Road outside Victor. 

The gate opens at 7:30 a.m. and closes at 3 p.m. South Slope typically closes near the end of September. 

For more information and registration, go to coloradosprings.gov/southslope.

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