Objective. Provide a multi-use path to the top of Sheep Mountain from the existing Intemann trail. The proposed Sheep Mountain spur is an out and back trail. The trail provides users a sustainable route to enjoy the surrounding Manitou Springs vistas while accomplishing a relatively short climb up the hillside.
General Considerations. The Sheep Mountain area of interest is on land owned and managed by the City of Manitou Springs with adjoining land owned by Colorado Springs. The Manitou Springs Parks, Open Space, Trails (POST) Master Plan, 2016, provides the guidance for this proposed trail development. As a spur off the Intemann trail, the proposed trail is consistent with the experience offered by the Intemann trail with an average trail grade of 8-9% and a 30-36 inch width suitable for hiking and biking.
Sheep Mountain is part of a trio of high points, clustered together, that define the immediate southern backdrop of Manitou Springs proper. The trio of high points include Red Mountain, Iron Mountain and then on the eastern edge, Sheep Mountain. The proposed Sheep Mountain spur provides a sustainable route to a high point while offering opportunities for future trails as outlined in the Manitou Springs POST; e.g., trails in Wild Cat Gulch as well as paths that parallel the existing east-west Intemann.
Sheep Mountain, ~7155 feet elevation, is the high point of a ridge that runs generally east-west. The soils are decomposed metamorphic rock and Pikes Peak granite lacking overly striking features. The southern exposure of Sheep Mountain, primarily overlooking the Crystal Park housing, consists largely of grassy open terrain. The northern exposure consists of open grassy areas with clumps of gambel oak, as well as a sprinkle of juniper, pinyon and pine. The western portion of the northern exposure has a dense stand of pines. The hillside slopes of Sheep Mountain range from about 35-60+%. The southern exposure has in general the steepest hillside slopes; however, the northern slopes immediately adjoining the east-west Intemann are also steep. The east-west ridgeline offers a relatively gentle line of cascading high points. A significant draw is on the northeastern side; from the top of Sheep Mountain, the draw runs at an approximate 95-degree bearing. See exhibit 1 for an overview of the Sheep Mountain area.
Trail Concept. The trail concept is to reach the top of Sheep Mountain with a sustainable path while providing a user experience of a short climb. The spur to the top could potentially start anywhere along the Intemann trail. This segment of the east-west Intemann has a western access point at Pawnee Rd and an eastern access point at Crystal Park Rd.
Sheep Mountain can be reached by traversing across the contours on any of the four sides. Although the final approach to Sheep Mountain can come from the west, private property limits a western starting point off Intemann; in addition, the steep slopes on this north-west side would dictate a path principally paralleling Intemann. Starting from the eastern side, we can follow the existing Intemann trail until reaching an appropriate point to start a climb. From Crystal Park Rd, Intemann approaches Sheep Mountain from the east and then turns slightly north before proceeding west. We would take advantage of Intemann’s eastern climb until we max out the elevation and find a suitable cross slope to begin the spur.
The trail designers developed a concept that takes advantage of the multiple possible approaches to the top. Key considerations included touching on ridgeline high points, as well as, traversing both northern and southern sides of the ridgeline. Traversing across the northern side of the ridgeline presents a path through gambel oak with a sprinkle of confers, while the southern side, with little vegetation, provides views to the south-west. With a starting point on the northeastern side, we can take advantage of all exposures as we climb to the top. We have an average trail grade of 8-9% with no segment having more than a 12% grade. Trail width is 30-36 inches, any risers are less than 3 inches to suit hiking and biking.
Proposed Trail Layout. From our starting point off the Intemann, the trail climbs approximately 250 feet over a half mile to the top of Sheep Mountain with a predominately eastern aspect. The trail layout is described in three legs to simplify the below narrative. See exhibit 2 for the proposed trail layout.
Leg 1. We leave Intemann onto a slight ridgeline knob just north of the major east-west draw. The trail traverses west on this minor knob into the draw. The trail crosses the draw and turns southeast following the contour to just below a ridge high point by traversing minor stands of gambel oak and winding around the few standing conifers. Portions of this trail segment have cross slopes of 60%+. The trail then wraps around the ridge knob onto the south side, makes a turn and climbs up to ridge high point #1. From ridge high point #1, we have 360 degree views having climbed approximately 85 feet in elevation from the start.
Leg 2. From ridgeline high point #1, the trail turns west on the north side of the ridge, following the contour below the ridgeline until we have an opportunity to climb back onto the ridge. We then follow the contour of the major east-west draw going west to reach the northern side of the draw before turning back to the east-west ridgeline. This portion, where we go north and then come back south through the draw, is mostly open terrain with a few clumps of gambel oak. Upon coming back to the ridgeline, we reach ridgeline high point #2, having gained approximately 95 feet in this leg.
Leg 3. From ridgeline high point #2, the trail turns back northwest traversing through heavy stands of gambel oak. The proposed trail continues west and wraps around to the ridgeline on the west side of Sheep Mountain. Portions of this trail segment have cross slopes of 60%+. Once we reach the ridgeline, high point #3, we have open views to the west as well as south and north. We make the final approach to the top of Sheep Mountain by traversing on the south side while hitting the top from the east. Leg 3 gains approximately 70 feet in elevation.
Summary. The proposed trail provides an approximate half-mile spur, gaining 250 feet, to the top of Sheep Mountain. The trail starts as a spur off Intemann taking advantage of Intemann’s climb up the eastern flank of Sheep Mountain. The trail has predominately an eastern aspect, traversing alongside the contour of the east-west ridgeline that defines Sheep Mountain. The trail reaches three notable high points of this east-west ridgeline providing the best views of the surrounding areas. The final approach comes from the west traversing east across the southern side before turning back west to reach the top. The proposed route changes directions, winds around conifers and provides multiple viewpoints that mitigate the open terrain appearance of Sheep Mountain.
If you would like to see the Sheep Mountain Trail built in the foreseeable future (or you actively don’t want the trail) please email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org and OSAC at email@example.com .