The Montaña Del Sol is probably not a name you’ve heard of, but maybe you’ve heard of this peak’s official name: Pikes Peak. This 14,115ft peak towers over Colorado’s Front Range, dwarfing the other mountains around it. The few people who choose to ride their mountain bikes up and down the peak usually do it as an out and back up and down Barr Trail, the main trail leading up the mountain. This route is for those who want more adventure, a longer day out, and a unique experience.
I plotted this route on Garmin Connect, cross-checking it with Trailforks and Google Maps when required. The route mainly passes through Pike National Forest, and is a large loop starting and ending in the same place.
Starting from Red Rock Canyon’s East Parking Lot at: 544-598 S 31st St, Colorado Springs, CO 80904, the route then takes a pretty direct path through Red Rock Canyon Open Space till you reach Gold Camp Road. Instead of climbing this famous road, however, the route turns you onto High Drive, a steep, gravel road well known in the area. After this, things start to get more wild. Turning off of High Drive, you then head up Trail #666, a steep, and in some cases loose trail until you reach the well known intersection with Buckhorn Trail, Captain Jacks, and Jones Park. This is a good chance to grab a break, because you’ll be climbing for 2,000ft before you get to go downhill at all.
You then turn right onto Jones Park Trail and start climbing. Be prepared for loose granite spree, rock ledges, and also riders descending. Finally you’ll reach the top of Jones Park Trail and you get an all too short descent before you start climbing again. At this point you’re on Lake Moraine Trail and you may see more riders coming down after being shuttled partway up Pikes Peak to the popular Elk Park ride. You’ll also cross the famous cog railway which climbs to the summit of Pikes Peak. Soon enough you’ll reach Barr Trail, and hiking traffic will become much heavier. This shouldn’t matter too much since you’ll be going quite slow for the next 5 or so miles, as the trail climbs ~4,000ft in this period. Be prepared for hike-a-bike, especially as you get near the top of the peak. If somehow you’re plucky enough to have reached the top, then reward yourself with a donut at the visitor center on top of Pikes Peak. You’ve done the vast majority of the climbing at this point, and things should be starting to look up at this point. This is also a good chance to fill up your bottles and packs, or even have someone meet you to resupply.
Once you start descending it’s a quick drop down Devil’s Playground trail, and solid 4,000ft of descending before you climb again. Once you reach the bottom of this trail, you’ll ride some gravel roads and short stretches of trail to reach the Catamount Reservoirs. You then ride some rolling trails ’round the reservoirs till you reach a section where you’ll have to ride dirt road for little while. Both of these sections are flatter in their elevation profile, but definitely still downhill. You’ll then reach Mt. Esther trail, which traverses the backside of the ridge that Cascade and Chipita Park are nestled against. At the end of this trail you’ll cross the Pikes Peak Highway and start the longest section of climbing left in the day.
This climb isn’t particularly brutal, it’s only about 1,000ft and part of it is on a Forest Service road. You will end up on Manitou Reservoir trail (Also labelled as #638) and you’ll follow that till you reach Barr Trail once again. At this point you can relax a bit. You’ll go down Barr Trail and the only have a few hundred feet of climbing left over rolling terrain back to your starting place. But keep your wits about you, Barr Trail is rated double-black diamond for a reason. Once you reach the bottom of Barr Trail at the famous Manitou Incline, it’s time to hit up Intemann Trail back to Red Rock Canyon Open Space. Once you reach there, you can either follow the route, or choose a different route down back to the start.
Once you finish, you can head into to town to clean up and refuel.
In total, the estimated mileage for this route is 64.7mi with 11,852ft of ascent. If you want to conquer this route, bring plenty of food and water, as well as lights should you end up in the dark. Since this route does reach 14,000ft, this route is only really rideable from around July-Mid/late September. In order to have the most daylight, try to do the route in July, maybe as a Fourth of July trip? Expect a long day out, and keep that in mind as you plan your ride.