Old Stage Road

Have you been on the Old Stage Road?   Of course you have, because you are interested in exploring!   It is the only link to the Gold Camp Road and then on to the Cripple Creek mining district from Colorado Springs.   Two tunnels collapsed in the 1980’s blocking the lower portion of the Gold Camp Road, but more on that in a bit.

The route began as a simple trail called the Cheyenne Mountain Trail traveling to the west flank of Pikes Peak. The trail grew into a lumber road before gold was discovered in Cripple Creek.   The Short Line railroad was built through the same valleys that the Old Stage Road used for the most part.

This road was a toll road in the late 1800’s.   Before all of the beautiful Broadmoor area homes were built, the toll booth was quite close to where the Broadmoor now stands, at the intersection of Penrose Blvd and Alta Vista Lane. I can assume that you have driven the Old Stage Road many times because it is used by locals more than the tourists, but I’m willing to bet I can show you several points of interest along the way.  The Old Stage Road is also know as Forest Service Road 368 (FS 368).

This Old Stage Road is best as a driving exploration.  Hiking and biking are discouraged due to the steep grade and the traffic you may encounter on this dirt road.  If you are hiking or biking to the Gold Camp Road, start at the dirt parking lot above Helen Hunt Falls. The old railroad bed is the gate on the left side of the parking lot.

The start of the Old Stage Road is accessed from Penrose Boulevard at the four-way stop sign below the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.   When you reach the switch back where the paved road turns to dirt, set your odometer to zero.

0.2  Water Line on wooden aqueduct –  At the parking area on your left, look up beyond the power lines to see an old wooden aqueduct carrying an iron water supply pipeline. This piece of 1926 pipe is still in use, but most of this water line was replaced in 1934. You can still spot remnants along the way.

0.8  Sunrise Trail – The Sunrise Trail is a historic trail that leads to the lesser summit of Cheyenne Mountain.  This trail was also known as the Daugherty Trail. A private property boundary stops the casual hiker before any notable destination is reached.   If you encounter a dirt road, you have gone too far.

1.3  Theatre in the Mountains – Find where the road makes a large U-turn to the right inside of a valley.  There are two truck size boulders next to a small active stream.  Back in simpler days there were performances held on summer weekends at this switchback.  The performers would use the road as their stage with the valley behind as the backdrop.   The audience would sit on the hillside to your left.   There is an active stream that runs under the road that has washed the road out many times, so the configuration has changed somewhat but the existing large boulders were noted in historical writings.   Stop, get out of your car and get the feel of what that experience would have been  like.

1.7 Zip Lines – The spectacular zip lines of the Broadmoor’s Seven Falls start behind this gate.   You may not access them from here, but must purchase tickets and take the shuttle across the street from the Golden Bee.  At the end of your zip line adventure your party will be shuttled from Seven Falls back to your start as part of the ticket.

2.2 The Wade Place– On your left you will see a stone wall with stone steps next to the road.   Above these steps were a cluster of buildings know as Wade’s Half Way House.  Not anywhere near half way, by the way.  Around the next bend you can see a fireplace and foundation plus a couple of restored buildings, now a private residence.    As an explorer of local history, this place will interest you in a couple of ways.   Helen Hunt Jackson mentioned this in her writings stating that she was impressed by the building that is still standing and by the large boulder to its right.    Another interesting note is that Mr. Wade was Fred Barr‘s grandfather.   On very early maps of the area, this location is actually marked as Wade.

4.9 Old Stage Riding Stables – Previously known as the Broadmoor Riding Stables, there is no ties to the Broadmoor hotel.   They are open to the public for horseback riding and have some terrific mountain trails.

4.9 McNeill Trail – This trail leads to the location of the Cheyenne Mountain Lodge, now the home to The Broadmoor’s Cloud Camp.  Charles McNeill was partner of Spencer Penrose. The unmarked start of this trail is to the left behind the Stage Stop sign.  The first three miles are on public land and may be explored, but plan on being stopped by a Private Property sign for an anticlimactic ending and turnaround quite close to the summit.   Although this easy trail goes to the top of the mountain, the Old Stage Road has already done most of the climbing for you, thus providing a gradual grade for this 6 mile round trip hike.  Before it ends you will encounter an overlook with a view to the west.  This is the top of Fischer Canyon.  Below you will see the Fort Carson area and beyond.  At the base of the canyon is a flood retention pond that is very near to the top of the old Broadmoor Ski facility. Look up and left to see Broadmoor’s Cloud Camp.   Your dead-end will be about 1/4 mile beyond this overlook.  For me, the highlight is the old gas-powered water pump left over from the 1920’s that supplied water to the original Cheyenne Lodge.   About 100′ directly above the pump is a decrepit pond supplied by a natural spring.  The McNeill Trail follows this pipeline for the rest of the hike. If you encounter structures on the trail, you have gone too far.

The author celebrating the end of the Swisher Trail
Celebrating  the top of the Swisher Trail

Branching off of the McNeill trail is the Swisher Trail that leads to a large meadow near the transmitter towers on the summit. To locate the unmarked Swisher Trail from the McNeill Trail, retrace your steps a couple of minutes from the old water pump. On the downhill side of the trail, you will spot a flat point of land. On the uphill side you will find the cairns that mark the steep Swisher Trail.  A grueling ascent (that seems much longer than it is) will lead to an open grassy meadow that should not be on the top of a mountain.  It is an odd but beautiful sight.  According to a knowledgeable source, this unusual grass is an Asian species of seed brought by Mr. Swisher for his grazing stock.

Again, although you are very close, you cannot reach the towers located on private property, but the unique meadow is your reward for the work of the climb.

4.9 Transmitter Way (FS 369) is the road to the left of the Broadmoor Stables.  Have you wondered how they get to the transmission towers that you see on top of Cheyenne Mountain?   This is it!  You may drive the first public mile before reaching a gate. I have been told that this is public land but you may not drive beyond this gate. The new Dixon Trail reaches the summit near the antenna farm from the eastern face of the mountain starting in the Cheyenne Mountain State Park.

5.4 Emerald Valley Ranch (FS 371) – Forest Service Road 371 leads to Broadmoor’s Emerald Valley Ranch and to the hiking trail up Grayback Peak.   Explore this road 1.5 miles to the dead-end, but watch for horses on the road.

Grayback Peak – The unmarked parking lot (on the left) for the unmarked trailhead is only 2/10 of a mile on FS 371.  You just found a spot that others would drive by!  A little over a mile long, this climb is worth it for the view.  Easy at first, a bit of a scramble near the top.  You can look directly down upon Emerald Valley Ranch and across the valley.

6.1 Gold Camp Road  FS 370 and the end of the Old Stage Road.  We have finally reached the Gold Camp Road.  This is an old railroad bed and you will appreciate how near-level it is after ascending the winding Old Stage Road.  Following the road to the left will take you to St. Peter’s Dome and Cripple Creek.   Visit the Gold Camp Road page of this website for exploration opportunities along the way.   But we must explore here first!  Turn right at this intersection of FS370 at the top of Old Stage Road.   Just a few hundred fee on this lesser road will dead end at the caved in tunnel that closed the lower portion of the railroad.  For the more energetic explorer, 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 to the intersection approximately 7 miles just above Helen Hunt Falls.  A simple 2% grade going down makes for a more challenging 7 mile ascent back to your starting place.  Your reward for this exploration is the little used road bed still in great shape.   About a mile in you will reach an intact train tunnel on your walk.   In the valley just beyond is the Mt. Rosa Cascade.   Stop at the wide pull-out just before you enter the tunnel for a full view of the waterfall.  Depending on snow melt, this is quite seasonal and a real reward if you time it right. The tall slender waterfall runs best in the spring and early summer. This is a beauty that can’t be seen from too many places  but you get the honors.

If you don’t plan on continuing on to Cripple Creek, it would still add to your adventure to drive a short 8/10 of a mile to St. Peters Dome overlook before you turn around.  You will appreciate a one of a kind view of the city from this parking area.  Down the narrow dirt road on the right of the overlook’s parking lot is another collapsed train tunnel.   You will also find easily accessible diggings for fluorite, a purple mineral.

You will find a map pinpointing these locations and an extended version of this web page in Chapter 7 of our book: Easy Hikes to the Hidden Past – Pikes Peak Region Edition. Available at local book shops and on online at Amazon.com.

Map from the book “Easy Hikes to the Hidden Past-Pikes Peak Region Edition”
Old Stage Road by T. Duren Jones
Old Stage Photo by T. Duren Jones

29 thoughts on “Old Stage Road

  1. Hi, just a heads-up — the stables are actually named “Old Stage Riding Stables”. You might have a typo in your informative article…

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  2. Well done. I want to add that hikers can use the antenna road, it’s on Pike Natl Forest Land. We just can’t drive on it. In the 80s the US Cycling Team used it for training. The top 5 acres are private— that’s all, the rest is ours.

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  3. Rocky, Nice work! I found your site by googling Daugherty Sunrise trail. Do you know the origin of the name “Daugherty”? By the way the pipeline at mile 0.2 is still in use. It carries water from the Penrose-Rosemont Reservoir to the Broadmoor area. That particular piece of the pipe dates from 1926. Most of the rest of the 1926 pipeline was removed and replaced in 1934 when the reservoir was built. I am very interested in the history of Cheyenne Mountain and South Cheyenne Canon. If you would like to talk about Pikes Peak history send me an email.

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  4. Thank you, Eric! That means a lot coming from you. I have made the correction to the pipeline.
    We are fortunate to live in such a beautiful area with so much history and hiking within easy reach.

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  5. Hi Rocky,
    My name is Steve Cambridge. I own Wade’s place on Old Stage Road. I am researching your reference to Helen Hunt visiting the cabin on the property. It will be helpful to me as I am trying to find the closest age approximation of the cabin. I read her 1882 Atlantic Monthly article but could not find the reference to the cabin and large boulder that you mentioned in your excellent Old Stage Road article. Could her reference to the cabin be in another publication or article? Thanks in advance for your help and reply.
    If you would prefer to discuss by phone, please let me know.
    Steve

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  6. Hi, Steve. Thanks for reaching out. How wonderful to own this beautiful piece of local history. In the 1983 book Old Stage Road by William Conte, he states that “The halfway house at Wade’s place included twelve buildings, only two of which remain. One has been converted to a beautifully refurbished private home and is situated immediately behind a gigantic boulder which Helen Hunt Jackson referred to in her writing about Wade’s place.” That is the only reference that I can locate. After reading this again, he may have been referring to the house, not the boulder. I wish I had more! Rocky

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  7. Hi Rocky,
    Thanks for your reply and sharing the quote from Conte’s book. I will continue to search for where Helen Hunt wrote about her visit. She passed away in 1885 so obviously it was prior that year.
    Thanks again Rocky!
    Steve

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  8. Nice article. I hiked through the tunnel at intersection of OS and GC,(when you still could), and followed the rail bed for a bit. It is above GC on the East side. Have you ever done that? If so, do you have any comments? Also, I found log foundations just off GC. not too far from the intersection. Very hard to find. There’s a barely discernible road that beers to the ruin, then back again, above GC. I THINK I may have photographed the corner of a foundation in this google earth shot:
    (Well, this site wont let me copy photos. Send me an address and I’ll get them to you, if interested) Am interested in the exact location of the Wade place, if you could provide. Thanks. Dan

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  9. I am also interested in the Wade location . My family lived up in Twilight Canyon from 1950 to 1980’s, and this year we are writing a memoir, of sorts, about the trails, cabins and mines we once visited. Wade comes up in a variety of settings, I would love to hear from anyone with more information on the subject. Diane Mulberger Olsen

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  10. Diane,
    My name is Eric Swab, I have done a lot of research on Joel Wade and his property. As you probably know he was Fred Barr’s grandfather. I am also researching the general topic of South Cheyenne Canon and Cheyenne Mountain. Perhaps Rocky can put us in touch with one another.

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  11. Diane,
    I’m a little slow. Just noticed you maiden name. I have done a little research on Henry Charles Mulberger. Jane Surner showed me through your family home. Found the Geiger Counter embedded in the masonry fascinating.

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  12. HI, Rob. You can not camp on the first few miles of Old Stage Road. Once you cross the boundary into Pike National Forest, dispersed camping is permitted, following National Forest Service guidelines.

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  13. I kind of wish I’d seen your description before I decided to ride Old Stage to Gold Camp by gravel bike. It took me two attempts, but I made it up Sunday. That’s surely one of the most difficult bike rides around, The last few miles are so ridiculously steep that it’s hard to maintain traction. But the ride down Gold Camp all the way back to CoSprings is a blast. Thank you for providing all the history and good descriptions. I’m really glad to have done it–once.

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  14. The ride up Old Stage Road is bad enough in a car, I can’t imagine dodging the Jeep traffic on a bike, and too steep to be fun! You are right, the ride down the closed portion of Gold Camp Road is a treat. A gradual 4% grade and no traffic! I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

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  15. I did read your blog and photo and I like your car photo on the road. this is the best blog for me because I also love road hiking and one thing is to thank you to share your experience with me.
    google

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  16. Thank you for writing, Micky. You are right, just like you, I love hiking, even if it is along a road in the neighborhood. Just getting outside feels good, doesn’t it?
    Have you tried stopping for a moment to look for something new on your favorite route? Try this for fun: Find a spot on your hike to stop and quietly observe. Take a deep breath and look for something new. How about the biggest tree, or how many wires are on the power line? Listen for sounds like rustling leaves, or an airplane in the distance.
    Keep hiking, Micky, and have fun out there! Rocky

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  17. Regarding “Theatre in the Mountains”. Any idea what year this would have been happening besides “simpler days”?
    Thanks

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  18. Reply to Dave Colmus:
    According to William R Conte in The Old Cripple Creek Stage Road (1984), Henry Rudesill (1873-1953) performed in this horseshoe location on warm moonlit nights. Prefering Shakespear, he was also a musician. I am not sure of the exact years, but he sold his Old Stage Road property in 1927. Rocky

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  19. @Rocky S. – Would you have the name of those two books mentioning that property? I have toured that property and am greatly interested.

    – Logan S

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  20. Logan, the two books that you are asking about are “Our New Road – Bits of Travel at Home” (1878) by Helen Hunt Jackson and
    “The Old Cripple Creek Stage Road” (1984) by William R. Conte.
    In addition, the Old Stage Road blog was the basis for an expanded chapter in our book “Easy Hikes to the Hidden Past” (2020) by Shockley and Jones.

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  21. Thanks Rocky!

    These are the two that mention the property that Diane mentions? Sorry for the extra clarification.

    Your blog is fascinating and I appreciate you taking the time to write these things down virtually. I’ll be a regular reader!

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  22. Some of the information on “Wades” came from these two books, although it was only mentioned briefly in both. Other bits of information on Old Stage Road came from individuals that I have encountered. I am glad that you are enjoying 6100feet.com !

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  23. The Old Stage Road is very rideable on an EBike. I’m 75 and ride it often as I live just off the OSR and an EBike enthusiast. My best time to the Gold Camp Road from the start of the dirt is 47 minutes. Few cars pass me on weekday mornings when I prefer to ride. Nobody passes me on the downhill as I can ride faster than cars since I can dodge most of the holes they must hit with their 4 wheels.

    I want to clear up the danger that was referred to above. about riding a bike on the OSR. Hayman Hill is 1 mile long, which starts at the PNF signs and ends at the stables. The worst is above the Emerald Valley turn off, as you go the final mile to the Gold Camp road. From there on to Rosemont and beyond, it’s like kissing your sister, as the Colorado Springs & Cripple Creek District Railroad never exceeded 4% in grade. In the afternoons we do encounter crazy drivers racing around on the weekends. This winter there were at least a dozen cars towed out, and most repeated the same accident as to location. This is our 51st year up here and we love it dearly.

    Please call Broadmoor Security if you see any vandals on Party Rock, which is the most beautiful monolith on the lower part of the Old Stage. The graffiti started in the 70s when Vodka Valley was devoured by homes in upper Skyway and they moved to menace our neighborhood.

    Jack Chandler, with occasional help from me, painted it over many times and also Sheep’s Head Rock (about 2 miles from the pavement start).
    I have never seen it this bad up there. Graffiti is also found at 9,000’ on the OSR. It makes me crazy.

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