The Pike National Forest is in central Colorado and is comprised of 1,110,097 acres. There are 56 developed campgrounds of which 40 meet the selection criteria.
The Pike National Forest, located in the heart of Colorado, is probably the most well-known and popular National Forest in the state. Convenient to both Denver and Colorado Springs, the Pike National Forest offers a variety of recreation opportunities to its many visitors. Trophy trout streams, abundant and varied wildlife, seven Fourteeners (mountains with peaks above 14,000 feet), many miles of trails, and lots of developed campgrounds are just a few of the attractions.
The most famous of the Forest's Fourteeners is Pikes Peak. The Peak represents a beacon, an inspiration, and a challenge. Pioneers crossing the Great Plains in the 1800s used Pikes Peak, which was visible 75 miles to the east, as a landmark and beacon. From atop the Peak, Katherine Lee Bates was inspired by the vista of "purple mountain majesties and amber waves of grain" to compose "America the Beautiful." Today, both a roadway and cog railroad bring visitors to Pike's lofty heights. Every year this road is closed briefly for various types of races to commemorate adventurers who challenge the power of Pikes Peak. A trail out of The Crags campground, on the mountain's western side, offer hikers a challenge only between themselves and the mountain.
The pleasant mountain town of Woodland Park, Colorado is something of a hub to a number of areas in the Pike National Forest with its varied recreational activities. To the east is the Rampart Reservoir Area with two campgrounds, Meadow Ridge and Thunder Ridge, nestled on hillsides surrounding a 400-acre lake. Numerous hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding trails provide visitors with a closer look at the Forest. North of Woodland Park is the Manitou Park's fishing pond and the South Platte River corridor's sections of renowned trout streams. Campgrounds in these areas range from very basic to pleasantly comfortable. And to the northeast, is Rampart Range Motorized Recreation Area where ATV and dirt bike enthusiasts can challenge their skills or enjoy the freedom provided by their equipment. For those who enjoy the challenges of mountain biking, the Buffalo Creek Mountain Bike Area is the place. Both these areas offer developed campgrounds with very basic facilities.
The Pike National Forest also has developed campgrounds for those who might be passing through the area. Easy in and out access, locations far enough away from the major highway to negate traffic noise, and basic amenities, such as drinking water, clean vault toilets and pleasant surroundings, can lead to a little longer than a one-night stay. Colorado and South Meadows campgrounds, in the Manitou Park area, are adjacent to State Route 67. They feature a nearby RV waste station and the Centennial Trail. This wheelchair friendly Trail is open to foot, bicycle, and roller blade traffic. Kelsey, also off State Route 67, is a delightful, and relatively undiscovered campground in a stand of mature mixed conifers.
Northeast of Fairplay, on U.S. Route 295, is Kenosha Pass campground. Very popular in the fall for its aspen trees, Kenosha Pass campground features not only a trail head for the Colorado Trail but an interpretive area. The interpretive area includes a wheelchair friendly trail on the old Denver, South Park and Pacific Railway tracks and a wildlife viewing area.
The Fairplay-Alma area of the Pike National Forest boasts four 14,000-foot peaks; Democrat, Lincoln, Bross and Sherman. Trails on these mountains are considered "not difficult" but challenging. Each of the mountains can be climbed in one day and offer picturesque views from their lofty heights.
Besides the attraction of these Fourteeners, the Fairplay-Alma area offers three outstanding auto-adventure trails. An auto- adventure trail combines the beauty of the Forest with the area's history and natural features. The Horseshoe/Fourmile auto- adventure trail follows the route of the Denver, South Park and Hilltop Railroad up Fourmile Creek into the era of lode mining in South Park. This 11.5 mile tour begins at the junction of Highway 285 and Fourmile Road and ends at the remains of the Last Chance, Hilltop and Dauntless Mines. Two outstanding features of this tour are the perfectly carved horseshoe glacial cirque and a grove of ancient, as in 1,500-year old, Limber pine. The second auto-adventure trail is Weston Pass named for Algernon S. Weston and Philo M. Weston who, in the 1860s, lived along this route. The 16-mile tour roughly follows the old toll road into Leadville. The last auto-adventure trail is the Boreas Pass tour. Before 1859 this route was little more than a trail used by pack trains. Within twenty years the town of Como was established for the people required to build and maintain a railroad over Boreas Pass to Breckenridge and across Kensoha Pass to Denver. The old Como Roundhouse, the Peabody Spur, a short section of narrow-gauge track, and the Boreas Pass Section House are all reminders of the begone era when puffer-belly engines climbed the steep and treacherous mountains of Colorado. (In the Fall of each year, the Forest Service commemorates the area's history Boreas Pass Day. Contact the South Park Ranger District for more information.)
Most of the recreational opportunities in the Pike National Forest are found well above 5,000 feet. For many visitors, even from the Denver area, the increase in altitude can produce some problems. A shortness of breath, headache, slight nausea, or unusual tiredness are all symptoms of altitude illness. Visitors are reminded to take it easy, reduce their intake of alcohol, caffeine, and salty foods and drink lots of water. If the symptoms do not lessen or became worse, seek medical assistance.
From the towering beacon called Pikes Peak to the splendor of a cascading snow-fed creek, from the quiet passage of a doe or a noisy flock of Canadian geese, from summer's wildflowers to the golden glow of fall aspen, Pike National Forest pleases the eye and nourishes the adventurer in all of us. Come and enjoy.
1920 Valley Dr.
Pueblo, Colorado 81008
RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES
601 South Weber
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80903
320 Hwy. 285
Fairplay, Colorado 80440
19316 Goddard Ranch Rd.
Morrison, Colorado 80465