The Crags
excerpts from the book
Incredible Backcountry Trails 
by David Day

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Incredible Backcountry Trails
  • access info for 120 trailheads
  • 90 colorful trail maps
  • 305 full color photographs
  • loads of hiking tips
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    Distance: 4.0 miles (round trip)

    Walking time:  2 1/2 hours

    : 720 ft. gain/loss
       The Crags Trailhead (start): 10,080 ft
       The Crags viewpoint: 10,800 ft.

    Trail: Generally well marked and easy to follow

    Season: Summer through mid-fall. The higher parts of the trail are generally covered with snow from late November through late June.

    Vicinity: Near Colorado Springs

    The CragsThe Crags


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    Many mysteries still surround the formation of the Rocky Mountains, but one of the most intriguing puzzles concerns the formation of Pikes Peak on the southern tip of the Front Range. Pikes Peak was created some 60 million years ago when a large deposit Pikes Peak Granite was pushed up from deep within the earth. The puzzling thing is that after the rock reached the earth’s surface it seemed to expand and flow outward, eventually covering many square miles of much younger sedimentary rock. This wouldn’t seem unreasonable if the rock had been in liquid or plastic form, but in this case the material was far from liquid. It was solid Precambrian granite that had cooled and crystallized a billion years before it was pushed to the surface. It is difficult to imagine solid granite being squeezed out of the earth like toothpaste from a tube and then flowing horizontally like cold molasses across the earth’s surface. But that appears to be exactly what happened.

    Granite is an igneous rock that can only form under extreme temperatures and pressures, so it was definitely not in a liquid or plastic state when the extrusion took place. The Pikes Peak Granite, however, is so badly fractured and jointed that it must have been subjected to enormous forces while it was being pushed to the surface. The beautiful, pinkish boulders that surround the peak often look like they have been pushed through a meat chopper.

    Granite is normally a hard, smooth material that stands up well to the forces of erosion, but on Pikes Peak the stubby interlocking crystals of quartz, feldspar, hornblende and mica are filled with hairline cracks. Because of the fractured texture of the stone it is highly vulnerable to the forces of erosion, and over the years the rocky outcroppings that surround the peak have eroded into a weird gallery of unlikely shapes. To a large extent it is the spires and pinnacles of Pikes Peak Granite surrounding the trail that make this short walk so delightful.

    From the Crags Campground the trail proceeds eastward through a narrow valley that is alternately filled with Engelmann spruce, quaking aspen, and open meadows. The valley is surprising pretty, especially in the grassy areas where there are nice views of the granite pinnacles on the south side of the small canyon.

    After 10 minutes the trail comes to a junction where a smaller spur branches off to cross Fourmile Creek on the right. Bear left at this point, walking straight up the valley. The trail continues for the next mile at an almost level grade, then begins climbing up into the trees near the head of the creek. At this point the trail is much less distinct but still relatively easy to follow. Finally, after an elevation gain of 500 feet from the trailhead, the trail seems almost to disappear altogether.

    Don’t stop at the apparent end of the trail, but continue climbing straight ahead for another 300 yards. After an additional 200 feet of elevation gain you will come to the end of a high promontory where there are great views of the Pikes Peak Granite formations as well as the Catamount Reservoirs 2.5 miles to the north. As an added bonus, there is also a small grove of bristlecone pine trees at the top of the promontory. There is no way to know how old these particular trees are, but bristlecone pines have been known to live over 4,000 years-longer than any other higher organism on earth They always seem to grow on windswept ridges where little else can survive.


    The book includes more text, more photographs, and trail maps.

    If you are interested in a supplemental map of the The Crags
    we recommend:
    Pikes Peak  (Trails Illustrated, map #137)

    Click here for DISCOUNTED MAP ORDERS

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