Cheyenne Mountain State Park

RMFI is working with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to build a new 3.6 mile trail circuit at the top of Cheyenne Mountain State Park and to assist with the construction of the trail that will connect the mountaintop circuit with the established park trail system below. Once completed, these initiatives will provide public access to the top of the mountain and unparalleled views of the Front Range.
Volunteers work through the mist to construct portions of the new Dixon Trail.

BACKGROUND

The Top of the Mountain Trail (TOM) area is located in Cheyenne Mountain State Park (CMSP) and consists of approximately 1,021 acres acquired in 2009 through a partnership with the City of Colorado Springs and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. According to the 2013 Park Management Plan, development of a trail on TOM was considered a high priority for a number of reasons. Not only would this trail provide more strenuous physical challenges than are currently available in the park, but it would also provide access to the park’s unique higher elevation ecosystems and unparalleled views of the Front Range.

Wildscapes Planning and Design, LLC, under contract with Cheyenne Mountain State Park, completed a comprehensive Trail Development and Construction Plan for the design and construction of TOM in 2013. The planned trail system encompasses approximately 3.6 miles (19,216 feet) of trail through ‘extremely rugged’ environment characterized by densely forested north facing slopes and ‘steep shoulders and ridges’. Soils within TOM consist of rock outcrop-Coldcreek-Tolman complex with slopes between 9% and 90%. Typical overstory vegetation includes Rocky Mountain juniper, ponderosa pine, other conifer species, and mountain mahogany with an understory composed primarily of mountain muhly, big bluestem, side-oats grama, and western wheatgrass.

At Wildscapes’ recommendation, the Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) was contacted by state park staff in July 2013 to complete the construction of the TOM Trail. RMFI was chosen because of its decades-long experience completing highly technical trail projects in difficult backcountry terrain. In 2015, RMFI completed the new trail circuit and will focus its efforts in 2017 to constructing the connection with the Dixon Trail. It is anticipated the new trail circuit will open to the public in 2018.

Construction of the TOM trail comprised 3 different segments. Trail Segment A is 4,355 feet long and was aligned to provide direct access to the Robbers Roost overlook, one of the main goals of the TOM trail system. The trail follows an existing social trail with some reroutes to minimize erosion potential by avoiding steep grades. Overall, the trail gradient is moderate except for a short section where the trail ascends a steep slope out of the Robbers Roost Valley toward the overlook. 

Segment B is approximately 11,402 feet in length, crossing near the Antenna Farm, down the ridge, and back into the Robbers Roost Valley where it reconnects with Segment A. This segment contains multiple areas where a skilled saw crew was required to clear deadfall and hazard trees from the trail corridor. Technical trail construction and rockwork (rock stairways, switchbacks, and retaining walls) was required in this segment to ensure a properly designed and safe trail.

Segment C is 3,460 feet and was added to provide a more challenging component to the TOM trail system. The trail follows the ridgeline from the Robbers Roost Overlook, gaining elevation moderately and offering scenic views of the Front Range along the majority of its route. Technical rockwork (rock steps and cairns) and deadfall/hazard tree removal were required during work in Segment C.

WORK OBJECTIVES

RMFI's primary objective on this project was to construct the new 3.6 mile Top of the Mountain Trail circuit at the top of Cheyenne Mountain State Park. This objective was completed in 2015. Work will now focus on the connection with the Dixon Trail. 

2018 WORK FOCUS

  • Complete construction of the new Dixon Trail south as it connects from the new RMFI-constructed Top of the Mountain Trail.

PROJECT PARTNERS AND FUNDERS

  • Colorado Parks and Wildlife
  • Friends of Cheyenne Mountain State Park
  • Mile High Youth Corps
  • Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado