The Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek District Railway, know as The Short Line, brought the ore from Cripple Creek down to the mills west of Colorado Springs. The mills were located in this area due to the availability of a nearby coal supply. Apparently it was cheaper to bring the ore from 9,000 feet to our 6,000 feet than to haul the coal up to Cripple Creek.
This standard gauge railway was converted to an auto toll road in the 1920’s, called the Corley Mountain Highway. (Fun side note: The Will Rogers Shrine still has a directional plaque from 1939 that says Corley Highway.) Later it was to become a free scenic road called the Gold Camp Road. Due to two tunnel collapses, a 7 mile portion is closed to traffic, but open to hiking and mountain biking. The tunnel in this photo is located in that closed section.
You can still drive from Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek on the remaining open portion of the Gold Camp Road. The closed section can be bypassed by taking the seven mile long Old Stage Road that starts near the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. See the Old Stage Road post on this website for details. The total trip is a 35 mile dirt road that can be a bit bumpy but you don’t need a four-wheel drive in good weather. It is advised that you return to Colorado Springs by the way of paved highway 67 via Divide and Woodland Park.
Enough history. Let’s Explore! Drive Old Stage Road to get to the Gold Camp Road. Where the Old Stage Road intersects with Gold Camp Road, look to your right for a closed tunnel and access to the blocked portion of the road that is still accessible by foot. Just around the bend you will run into the caved in tunnel that closed the lower portion of the railroad. You will find easily accessible outcroppings of fluorite, a purple mineral. To the right of the tunnel is a roadbed that was built to go around the tunnel. At this gate, you can walk or bike downhill to the intersection approximately 7 miles just above Helen Hunt Falls. A simple 2% grade makes for a bit of a challenging ascent back to your starting place. Your reward for this exploration is a little used road still in great shape. About a mile into your exploration you will reach an intact train tunnel. In the valley just beyond is the Mt. Rosa Cascade. Stop at the wide pull-out just before the tunnel for a full view. This is a beauty that can’t be seen by the general public but you get the honors. The tall slender waterfall is most spectacular with the melting snow in spring and can be dry other times of the year.
Some of the best exploration in this area is the two miles of closed railroad bed. Not to be confused with the 7 mile stretch to Helen Hunt Falls that was closed in 1989, these switchbacks haven’t been used in nearly a century. The current road now covers 1/4 mile to travel the two miles of winding rail that was abandoned in this area. In one section, you actually drive in the opposite direction of the original bed on one of these rail switchbacks. Confusing, I know. Check a map or Google Earth to see the original route. Just before the Bear Trap Ranch, you can see a piece of this closed roadbed on your left.
After exploring the closed off portion and the caved in tunnel, reset your odometer.
0.0 The intersection of Old Stage Road and Gold Camp Road. (You will notice the transition from steep road to almost level roadbed.)
0.9 St Peter’s Dome overlook and trail. A short simple hike, but mostly, a surprising view of the city from here! This area was the sight of a sawmill but no remnants can be seen. To the right of the parking lot is more blocked off railroad bed to explore.
2.7 Double Horseshoe Curves – You will find the Old Stage Road crossing your roadbed several times as railroad bed you are now driving on winds while the stagecoach road went straight through. On the upper curve the pond on your left was a water supply for the steam engines. At the start of the switchbacks there is a foundation for the water tank on the switchback below.
“Y” turnaround. Road 381 takes off to your right. To the left of the turnoff to road 381, you can explore the “Y” configuration of the old turn around spot for helper engines. (Picture the Y path you would make to back up your car to turn around in a confined area. ) For you 4-wheelers, this challenging road can take you to the face but not the top of Mt. Rosa!
4.4 The Summit Nothing much to see here, but it meant a lot to the steam railroaders of the day!
4.6 Rosemont Reservoir – Near here, one of the filled in trellises has the Old Stage Road running underneath, now two dead ends, as it ran underneath the wooden bridge that is now covered by fill.
5.7 Cement Foundations of the town of Rosemont are on your right, but a bit hidden. Road 379 is a dead-end 4×4 road, but a good place to get off of the Gold Camp Road.
13.1 Road 376 to your right leads to the reservoirs on the south face of Pikes Peak. Explore this road until you get to the locked gate. Some 4×4 roads lead to some interesting exploration in this area. There are also some ponds visible from a historic fish hatchery.
13.1 Clyde Campground
14.0 Cathedral Park – One of the most scenic spots on the line. These tall rock outcroppings were originally called Hooded Monks.
At the junction with a paved road, turn left to visit the town of Victor. Before you enter the town of Victor, visit the Eagle Mine Overlook (on your right) to view the very active large open-pit mine. It is free and the guard shack will gladly give you information. Nice interpretive trails and signs to explore nearby. In Victor you will find some very interesting buildings, small businesses and a lot to explore. You can take a tour of this large mine in the summer time, with reservations made ahead of time through the Lowell Thomas Museum in Victor. Drop a few bucks in the casinos then pass through Cripple Creek to a quick highway 67 back to Colorado Springs.
Explore! Isn’t this more fun than just slot machines?
3 thoughts on “The Gold Camp Road”
The CS&CCD was a standard gauge railroad, not narrow gauge.
You are absolutely correct. Thanks for pointing that out, Bob!