The last time we spotlighted the Crags in our Happy Trails series, we hailed it as “a quintessential hike of the Pikes Peak region.” Let us revise that statement. This is the quintessential hike.
It showcases the best of these foothills: dense forests, open meadows, running water, imposing granite, wildflower colors of the summer and aspen gold of the fall. The trail ends with a magnificent panorama. Yes, we find no better candidate for the “classic” designation in this series.
You’ll want to get to the trailhead early; the parking lot fills fast, especially on weekends, when summit seekers start here and split for Devil’s Playground. You’ll find that split less than a mile in, after the uphill warmup. The Crags trail continues left, leaving the woods for a sun-splashed meadow with house-sized boulders.
Pinnacles loom ahead, rising over evergreen slopes. Here amid the grasses and shrubbery, dogs delight in a sizable pond. Ahead, vacationers stop for photos with a massive, Hershey Kiss-shaped rock.
They get a taste of rugged Colorado when the thin trail gets lost in a harsh slope of rock and roots. Directional logs mark the way. As long as you’re going straight up, you can’t go wrong.
You come to a scenic ridge, where the trail veers left for the namesake crags. They swell from the ground, continuing upward to startling beauty: sweeping valleys spotted with shimmering reservoirs, the rocky and rolling Pikes Peak Massif and, on a clear day, other 14,000-foot caps of the Sangre de Cristos and Collegiate Peaks.
Trip log: 5.43 miles round trip (out and back), 888-foot total elevation gain, 10,824 feet max
Getting there: Heading west on U.S. 24, turn left at the stoplight in Divide for Colorado 67 south. After passing Mueller State Park, look left for the post pointing to the Crags. At the Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp, continue on Forest Road 383 toward the parking lot.
FYI: High-clearance vehicles recommended for the rough road. Be cautious in muddy conditions. Typically after the first snow, a gate blocks the road. Dogs on leash. Camping only at developed Crags Campground.
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