Horsethief Falls / Pancake Rocks Trail

Location: Pike National Forest, western side of Pikes Peak
Nearest town: Divide
Distance from Denver: 100 mi / 2:00
Trail distance: 7.2 mi RT to both the Falls and the Rocks. RT to the Rocks, 6.2 mi. RT to the Falls, 2.6 mi. Therefore, 0.8 mi to the trail split, another 2.3 mi to the Rocks or another 0.5 mi to the Falls.
Elevation: 9760 ft at TH, ~10,200 ft at Horsethief Falls, 11,088 ft at Pancake Rocks
Directions: Hwy 24 west from Colorado Springs, Hwy 67 south at Divide, 9.3 miles south around a bend to the closed off Little Ike Tunnel, about halfway to Cripple Creek. Parking is on the left side of the road as you head south. No bathroom, just a small brown sign denoting trail #704.
Date hiked: 10/2012
Additional resource:
cospringstrails.com

Trail notes:
Trailhead comes up suddenly around a bend, but easy to turn around at the next pullout. Trail starts to the right of the tunnel (photo at end of post, per my policy to never lead with a parking lot).

Steep trail from the start. Solid climb up to the trail split at 0.8 mi. The meadow with ponding water and sneak previews of rock formations is a nice spot to catch your breath. A large sign denotes the two trails and distances. (Photo taken on the way back down, near sunset.)

I continued to the right on the Pancake Rocks trail, which began steeply climbing almost immediately and didn’t stop for another mile as it switchbacked up and up. About one mile up from the split, I reached a plateau. To the right were rocks with a view, where I rested and snacked for a few minutes (and texted friends about my estimated time off-trail, since I had great reception). Note that along the way are a few rock outcroppings off to the sides of the trail, but don’t mistake them as the pancakes.

From there, the trail mellowed out a bit and I got some views of mountains to the west. Since most of the views on this trail are to the west, I recommend starting the trail earlier in the day so you don’t have the sun shining at you from your view.

Continuing from the plateau, the trail dipped down, up, down, up for about 1 mile until reaching the Pancake Rocks.

Here I had views of the valley and roads heading into Cripple Creek, a strip-mined mountain in front of me (not so pretty, but don’t let it mar the rest of the scene), mountains to the west, red rock outcroppings to the east, and on this day, the Wetmore Fire toward Pueblo, which had started about 3 hours earlier.

After playing around in the very mini-Moab of the Pancakes and taking in the view, I headed back down the 2.3 miles to the trail split. Coming back down took patience at times, to be sure I didn’t slide down the steepest sections.

Back down at the meadow at the trail split, I had just enough daylight for a quick visit to Horsethief Falls. I quickly hiked the mellow, but slightly climbing 0.5 mi to the falls. This time of year and after a very dry summer, the “falls” were barely a trickle, with chunks of ice here and there along the rocks which the water falls down. I could imagine this being more impressive in the summer, but I believe it would still usually be a small falls.

From the falls, it was a quick 1.3 mi down to the trailhead, which I reached just on time for sunset.

Trailhead:

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