The concept of a trail looping around the Pikes Peak massif had been in many minds for a long time. The concept became a civic-supported formal recommendation as a result of the Pikes Peak Multi-Use Plan — a large scale, year-long planning effort jointly sponsored by Colorado Springs Utilities and the USFS Pikes Peak Ranger District. Vic Eklund (CSU) and Frank Landis (USFS) managed it, with Design Workshop doing the administration. The 44MB report is online.
A large number of citizens participated in the study. They were designated the Citizens Advisory Group. The PPMUP recommended a 60-to-70 mile loop trail around Pikes Peak. The conceptual, generalized route of the loop was projected primarily over existing trails and, if necessary, roads, except in the southwest segment where it was a generalized route through the area of the Bison Reservoirs. It included access points —“portals.” Study participants included representatives from virtually every possible stakeholder in the area.
At the conclusion of the study, CSU and USFS formally handed over execution of the plan to the CAG. In early 2000 a small number of CAG members established a working group for getting this started. Included in this group were Josh Osterhoudt of Medicine Wheel, Mary (Ryan) Burger of Friends of the Peak, and Jim Strub, who had served on the North Slope Watershed Committee and Pikes Peak Highway Advisory Commission. Josh offered to lead it and hold the meetings at his place of business (Pepsi Cola Bottling, on North Stone). Josh invited others to join the effort and prepared meeting agendas. After a few meetings it became obvious that the group would need to organize into something like a 501(3)(c). But did this require a new organization? There was already a volunteer organization with a mission focused on Pikes Peak – Friends of the Peak. So Mary agreed to approach the FOTP Board about expanding their charter to include carrying out the PPMUP recommendations. Josh and Jim went to the next FOTP Board meeting. Mary had already greased the skids. The Board readily agreed to take on the additional mission. From then on, planning and building for the loop trail was carried out by FOTP. Since the PPMUP also had a vehicular “loop” around the mountain, Jim began calling the hiking trail the “Ring.” Mary added “the Peak” -- a valuable addition that pinned it down to the Pikes Peak area, since this had the potential to become a nationally known trail.
FOTP took up the identifying, begun by the working group, of specific alignments, segment by segment, using existing trails wherever possible, in accordance with the PPMUP. Mary coordinated this effort with the Forest Service and CSU, since all of the early effort was on their lands. She and Jim scouted routes for the three easiest gaps -- notably a bypass (Esther/Crystal) around the Pikes Peak Highway maintenance area, between the Mount Esther Trail and Crystal Creek; a connection (Raspberry Mountain) from existing Forest roads southwest of North Catamount Reservoir over to the Crags Road; and a connection (Putney Gulch) from the Crags Road over to Horsethief Park. USFS performed a NEPA and issued a favorable decision memorandum. Frank Landis tweaked and staked the routes, and Mary mobilized FOTP volunteers to do the building – first the Esther/Crystal bypass, then Raspberry Mountain, then Putney Gulch -- one segment at a time. Also, it was made known that using CSU and USFS roads as trail route in these areas was to be regarded as an expediency for completing the Ring as soon as possible, and that in later years consideration would be given to building actual trails parallel to these roads.
By 2003 it became time to start signing RTP. Carol Beckman agreed to lead the signing. Jim Strub agreed to arrange for the posts and decals, and to design an acceptable logo. Within hours of the logos coming out of his computer, they had gone viral — stationery, T-shirts, you name it. The signage used two colors: green for counterclockwise and brown for clockwise – both colors approved by the USFS as commensurate with their colored signage system. Generous donations paid for the posts and decals. The logos appear at the top of this document.
Meanwhile Mary and Jim scouted candidate RTP routes from Ruxton Avenue to Cascade, using the Ute Indian Trail as the basis. The Cascade end involved serious private property issues. After a few years CSU and El Paso County Parks began studies and proposals for re-establishing the Ute Pass Regional Trail thru this area. In October 2015 that effort finally came to a conclusion with a decision by the County Commissioners to route the Ute trail along the general route used by the Utes – basically what Mary and Jim had scouted ten years earlier. When complete, the Ute trail will fill one of the gaps in the Ring on the northeast side of the Peak. In 2014 Manitou Springs closed the other gap when they built the Iron Mountain Trail, completing a long-missing section of the Intemann Trail.
Closing these two gaps leaves only the most well-known gap of all — the 8-mile section in the southwest quadrant. In 2003 Mary and Jim began scouting the area and talking with some of the private land owners. They found a route for a sustainable trail from Pancake Rocks down into the Oil Creek drainage and then over a ridge to an existing trail along the West Fork of West Beaver Creek, from where there are several alternatives for reaching Gillette. In August of 2003 they submitted a map and written proposal for this connection to the USFS (see attachment). No USFS action was ever taken on it. The southeast end of it assumed use of an existing road in the Cripple Creek watershed, a use which at the time seemed agreeable to that City and the Timberline Camp. That area has stunning scenery.
In subsequent years many FOTP people have continued to scout various routes through this now well-known 8-mile gap between Pancakes Rocks and the "Watergate" on Forest Road 376. Besides Mary and Jim, scouting parties have included Mary’s husband Jim, Eric Swab, Steve Bremner, Paul Mead, and TOSC's Bill Koerner. In recent years TOSC has become more involved. They are now using their considerable resources to raise this project to a stronger, more public level. TOSC's Director, Susan Davies, is firmly behind the project.
Submitted by Jim Strub