Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gog and Magog Hike - Manitou Springs, CO

Of course this hike exists in Manitou Springs, proverbial home of witches and Satan enthusiasts in Colorado. Google "Gog and Magog" and up pops website after website abound with satanic intonations. Wikipedia has a pretty comprehensive article about the history of the names and how they have been used in various religious cultures throughout the centuries. I have no idea who named the rock formation that gives the trail its name, but the bottom line is this: bring a goat and some gold to the top to add to the existing pile and you'll be fine.

The hike is in the same valley as the Incline, at the end of Ruxton Road. Similar to the Incline, this hike is steep. It gains about 1500 feet in 3 miles, using plenty of switchbacks and even some boulder scrambling. I would not rank this trail as difficult as the Ute Trail in Aspen, but it definitely gets the heart rate up and is a good alternative if the Incline is too crowded.

The problem with this trail is that it is difficult to follow in places. I get the feeling when climbing it that its creation was the result of people bushwacking through it rather than any conscious efforts at trail creation. It is definitely worn down from heavy use, and once you find it the navigating is not that difficult, but there are parts where the trail appears to split. My suggestion is this: when the trail looks like it is going in two different directions, always take the one that heads uphill and you should be fine.

You quickly leave the trailhead behind as the first section of the trail gains elevation quickly through a series of switchbacks. This section does not last long - the switchbacks become more spaced apart as the trail winds up the hills. For the most part, the trees shelter much of the view, until you reach the higher sections of the hike where numerous rock outcroppings provide some spectacular views of the Manitou Springs Valley and downtown Colorado Springs. The trail will eventually appear to dead end into a large formation of rocks. This is where your boulder scrambling skills kick in - just climb over them and the trail will resume on the other side. Continue following the trail up until you come to the first large rock formation that gives the trail its name, Gog. At this point the trail will actually dead end, and you must climb up a short section of rock if you want to continue to the next formation. Once atop Gog, you can see the other large rock formation on the other end of what is a generally flat and sandy summit. The second formation, Magog, farther to the south is the more impressive of the two, with more dramatic features and some great spots for bouldering or top-rope climbing.

Overall, the hike has some incredibly impressive views of Pikes Peak and its surrounding foothills. The view itself makes this hike worth it, but the rock formations are fun to explore as well. Take some climbing shoes and chalk with you if you want to get some low key bouldering in while you are there.

Distance: about 3 miles up

Time: 55 minutes

Directions: From downtown Manitou Springs, take Manitou Ave west and take a left on Ruxton Avenue. Continue on Ruxton to the Cog Railroad depot and park (try the Barr Trail lot for more parking). Once on foot, continue up Ruxton Ave until it turns into a dirt road. The creek will be on your left. Walk up the dirt about 100 yards and look to the left for a large log that crosses the creek. Cross this log and cross the Cog tracks. The trailhead should be right in front of you.

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