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Pikes Peak South Slope Recreation Area – The Secret Side

Posted by Susanna Haynie on May 15, 2015
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pikes peak south slope open

South Slope Recreation area opens to the public

It came a surprise to me that the South Slope of Pikes Peak wasn’t open to the public. Well, to be honest, I actually had never given any thought to the South Slope of Pikes Peak.  The South Slope officially opened for its first public visitors on October 4, 2014, but the planning began in 2007 with the actual trail building along McReynolds Reservoir beginning in 2010 and continuing through 2014, with mostly volunteer hours. (Thank you!)

Who owns the Pikes Peak South Slope?

The area was deeded to Colorado Springs Utilities in 1913, to protect the watershed area. It has been closed to all public access since then to protect the drinking water of Colorado Springs, though other Colorado Communities such as Denver has long opened have opened their remote reservoirs for recreation.

The South Side is at 10,500-12,000 ft, this means that you should be equipped and prepared for weather changes and the physical challenges this elevation might bring.

Registration Starting again May 1st, 2016

Protecting the South Slope

The utility’s planners first needed to ensure that they opened the South Slope in a way that protects sensitive lands and a beleaguered sheep population. There are many strict rules to protect this untouched area, please observe them:

  • Stick to the trails in order to protect wildlife and minimize the impact of visitors
  • Fishing: (eventually fishing will be open for all reservoirs)
    • At Mason, anglers may keep one fish less than 16 inches.
    • McReynolds, which has low water and few fish at the moment, is catch-and-release only.
    • Restocking at McReynolds is planned for this spring.
    • Flies and artificial lures are required for both.
    • Fishing from the dam is prohibited
  • Boating:
    • permitted only at McReynolds Reservoir,
    • boats must be carried from the parking lot to the lake.
    • Non-motorized boats are allowed only on McReynolds Reservoir and they must be propelled by oars or paddles. Gas or electric engines are prohibited.
    • No contact with water is permitted.  Activities such as swimming, wading, sail boating and wind surfing are prohibited.
  • Hunting, camping, stream fishing and ice fishing are prohibited.
  • Consumption of alcoholic beverages is not allowed, noHIKING PIKES PEAKS SOUTH SLOPE smoking , no fireworks (and after the Waldo Canyon Wildfire we all know why!)
  • Protect the wildlife in this pristine environmental area. Do not feed, chase, capture, harm or otherwise disturb native wildlife and be considerate of others.
  • Please do not deface or remove any of the area’s plants, rocks or trees. No firewood collecting is allowed.
  • Open fires are prohibited. Do not use portable grills in back of vehicles or at shoreline. Only charcoal briquettes, liquid fuel or propane with shut-offs are allowed in picnic shelter area.
  • Motor vehicles are restricted to designated roads and parking lots. Parking along roadways is not allowed.

For more information contact the Colorado Division of Wildlife (719) 227-5200.

Registration   Starting again May 1st, 2016

How to get to the South Slope Recreation Area

Considering that for most Colorado Springs residents, Pikes Peak is RIGHT THERE, it came to me as a surprise to see that in order to get to the south side, you actually have to drive all the way around the mountain. Although South Slope is located just 20 miles from Colorado Springs as the crow flies, the drive from Colorado Springs is over 50 miles and takes 1.5 hrs:

  1. From Colorado Springs, travel west on Highway 24, 27 miles to Divide, Colorado.
  2. In Divide, turn left onto Highway 67 south.
  3. Continue 13.5 miles south and turn left onto Teller County Road 81.
  4. Continue on CR 81 for 3 miles; turn left on Teller County Road 8 (Gold Camp Road).
  5. Continue on Gold Camp Road for 7.5 miles to Forest Service Road 376, approximately 0.7 miles east of the old tunnel.
  6. Turn left onto Forest Service Road #376, continue 3.2 miles to the entrance gate of the  South Slope Recreation Area.

Registration  Starting again May 1st, 2016

Access to and permits for entering the South Slope

Each user is limited to four reservations per month.

Permit applications must be made by 1:00 p.m. the business day  (i.e. M-F) prior to the desired use and are being issued on a  first-come, first-served basis. If  your desired day is full you can get on a waiting list.

Use of the area is by permit only!   No access to the area will be allowed without pre-registering, permits are not available on-site. There are a limited number of vehicles and users allowed each day to this secluded, high altitude recreation area.

Fee is $15 per vehicle, up to eight persons per vehicle.

  • Registrations for the month of July will begin June 1, 2015; 12:01 a.m.
  • Registrations for the month of August will begin July 1, 2015; 12:01 a.m.
  • Registrations for the month of September will begin August 1, 2015; 12:01 a.m. South Slope will be open Labor Day

South Slope Recreation Area will open for its first full season of operation starting on Saturday, May 23, 2015.  The area will be open Memorial Day weekend, Saturday through Monday, 7:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.  There is limited parking and use is by permit only.  Days and hours of operation for the remainder of the season are every Thursday–Sunday, 7:30 a.m. -2:30 p.m. through the last weekend in September.

The maps currently available are rather poor quality and I hope to get my hands on better ones down the road. So please visit often.

Area Map

South slope recreation

via coloradosprings.gov

Now that the South Slope has been open almost a year there is more information available

More about the trails at the South Slope

A detailed hiking description of the South Slope

5280 makes mention of it as the “Hidden Side of Pikes Peak

CTA to download 10 Easy Hiking Trails PDF

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