Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bear Creek Canyon: A Lesser-Known Gem

Today I ran from my doorstep (always my number one preference) to the Bear Creek Canyon area here in southwestern Colorado Springs. The start of the true uphill (read: mountains) is only 2 miles away, and the singletrack starts only 3 miles away. I actually prefer this because I usually spend the first 20-30 minutes of a run moving slowly and awkwardly as the sleep and stiffness leaves my bones.

The main reason I've been biking to Manitou for the past week or so is because Barr Trail offers a highly-trafficked route into higher altitudes when there is abundant (un-packed) snow on most other trails. With the last few days of warm weather, though, that is no longer the case, and today I was excited to get back to my more favored stomping grounds of the next-major-drainage-to-the-south-of-Ruxton/Englemann: Bear Creek.

Today I took 666, the most direct ascending trail route in the area (also known somewhat affectionately as Balls-to-the-Wall and/0r El Diablo among Colorado College XC alums because of the 2000' of gain in three miles that kicks off the climb). This beautiful little singletrack ascends quickly along the southern (north-facing) wall of Bear Creek Canyon until it crosses over at about 8500' and flattens slightly over the next 1.5 miles where it deposits a runner in a beautiful opening in the valley at 9100', Jones Park. The trail passes waterfalls. It has inspiring views back out to the city. It offers several springs from which to drink. It is home to several groves of aspen. I love it.

There are two things I love about running to Jones Park: 1) I very rarely see anyone. 2) Even though it is at 9100' (and only 8 miles from my doorstep), the network of trails up there has only begun and within another 5-10 miles of running I can be as high as 12,300'. I understand that Pikes Peak's Barr Trail has all the history and fame--and this certain race that is contested on it every August--but for me it's hardly worth it to run over there regularly in the summertime because of the literal crowds that are on the trail. Granted, it is badass to run to the top of a 14,000+' mountain. But, most of the time, a 12,300' mountain or two (Almagre and Baldy) and 11,500' Rosa will do for me. I look forward to getting back there consistently in the coming weeks and months.

And, finally, a little sumin' sumin' to keep the foot tapping:


Joe Miller said...

Cool video!

Grae Van Hooser said...

Ya, that's some mad wa wa pedal work off the lead guitar! And I gotta get that hat! Have to pinch this song for my ipod.

Rocky said...

Brings up a good question. Do you ever run with music blasting in your ears? I prefer the sounds of nature, but I believe studies have shown the benefits of music. What do you think?

Anton said...

I do not run with music in my ears. Sometimes with it stuck in my head, but the purpose of my running is generally to clear that background noise away.

Anonymous said...


I have been following your blog for a little over 6 months now. I got your Indulgence movie as a Christmas present; It was awesome to see all the places you run in and hear what you had to say. Your mileage is amazing, and something I would like to reach. I love long runs at an 8-8.5 minute pace.

I was wondering if you could give some advice to anyone that would like to hear it. Here's my question: How did you get to this kind of mileage over the years, without major injury (besides what you have gone through), and when did you know to take it easy and run less miles, and when did you know you could increase mileage?

P.S.: 50 mile runs on the weekends sound awesome. You are an inspiration to many people, including myself. Keep up the good work!

Ben said...

I agree with the BIGMAN.

Good post.

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HappyTrails said...


How do those trails fare when we get the sloppy wet snows like this morning? Do you utilize some of the roads more (like GC or High drive) when it is wet? Good to see you running around here again.

Nick said...

I've read a bunch of your stories which is unusual as I'm not a huge technology guy but I love your running syle. Anyway, I figure since you've run in a lot of places I might be able to ask you for some advice on good places to run in Ashland, Oregon if you have spent any time there. I'm going to be there for a little while this summer to live with my Aunt and I will be doing that 13miler hill climb up Mt Ashland but other than that I will probably wander aimlessly through the woods.
I figure I'll end up with some awesome runs anyway but if there is anything particularly cool there I'd appreciate a heads up! (like that Ostrich run I didn't know if that was the right Ashland or not since there are a bunch of Ashlands)

Anton said...

Although I could spend a lot of time expounding on all the fantastic trails right from main street in Ashland, OR, the more appropriate thing for you to do is to just ask Hal, Ian or Erik at the store (Rogue Valley Runners, right on Main Street) when you get there. They'll be running the Hill Climb this summer, too, and they'll be more than able to point you in the right direction or even take you on a run or two. You won't have to wander aimlessly. Running in Ashland is great!

Rocky said...

Yeah. I hate when I have a song stuck in my head that I only know one or two lines to. I repeat it over and over 'till I'm in a trance almost--oh well, anything to get my mind off the pain!

Anton said...

I pretty much run the same stuff I normally do in the Springs when it's wet/snowy. I just laugh out loud more, I guess. I will say, over the last few winters, Rampart Range Road has proven to be an excellent venue for longer runs; people usually drive up to almost the Overlook (at ~9500') year round, so there are always at least some tracks to run in, even in Jan/Feb.