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Hiking Catamount Reservoir: A Journey to Remember

Dog hiking at the Catamount Reservoir

Imagine this: You’re standing at the edge of a tranquil reservoir, the cool mountain breeze tousling your hair. The sun is beginning to set, casting an ethereal glow on the placid water. As you take a deep breath, filling your lungs with the crisp, clean air, your eyes wander to the stunning backdrop – the mighty Rocky Mountains.

Welcome to North Catamount Reservoir! 

This picturesque spot nestled in the heart of Colorado is more than just a feast for the eyes; it’s a paradise for adventurists, hikers, and pet lovers alike.

In this article, we will take you on a virtual tour of hiking Catamount Reservoir. We’ll walk you through the hike, share insights on enjoying this place with your four-legged friends, and sprinkle in some hiking Catamount Reservoir tips that can come in handy whether you’re a seasoned trekker or a newbie.

Ready? Let’s get started!

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The Story of Catamount Reservoir

Catamount Reservoir can actually refer to two different reservoirs – the north or south Catamount. These are located in the North Slope Recreation Area of Pikes Peak, along Pikes Peak Highway. If you plan on hiking Catamount Reservoir, just be sure you know which one you’re going to!

But don’t worry, it’s not a tourist trap if you know how to navigate to the secret parking lots and hiking trails! More on that later…

South Catamount Reservoir

The North Slope Recreation Area is home to three reservoirs. The South Catamount is the smallest, but it still has a whopping 120 acres of water surface. This artificial lake is nestled between the North Catamount and the Crystal Creek Reservoir.

North Catamount Reservoir

Hiking Catamount Reservoir and seeing the reservoir upclose

This is the crown jewel of the article, and for good reason! The North Catamount Reservoir boasts 210 acres of surface water and over six and a half miles of shoreline. The North Catamount is, unsurprisingly, the northernmost Reservoir in the North Slope Recreation Area.

Hiking Catamount Reservoir is excellent hiking because it is more secluded than the South Catamount or Crystal Creek. When you hike the North Catamount, you may spot a few people on the trail, but you’ll have it primarily to yourself.

Crystal Creek Reservoir

Crystal Creek Reservoir, usually called the Crystal Reservoir, is the first alpine lake you’ll see after entering the toll road to Pikes Peak. This makes it a popular destination, with plenty of hiking and outdoor activities.

Crystal Reservoir is slightly larger than the South Catamount, but not by much. There is a 4-mile trail that goes around the lake when the season allows for entry. This is the southernmost Reservoir out of the 3 reservoirs in the North Slope Recreation Area of Pikes Peak.

You can find more information on the reservoirs on the Colorado Springs government website, including seasonal closures and fishing, boating, and mountain biking information.

Hiking North Catamount Reservoir

Now, let’s get to the good stuff – the North Catamount Reservoir hiking trails! Trekking around the North Catamount Reservoir is a hiker’s paradise. It’s filled with alternating terrain and spectacular views. If you love hiking with your furry pal, you’re in luck – it’s dog-friendly!

While you won’t find this hike on the Colorado Springs city website, you can find it on All Trails under ‘Limber Pine, Mule Deer, Mackinaw, and Ridge Trails Loop.’ Let’s get into the details of hiking Catamount Reservoir!

Where To Park

Don’t worry; you don’t have to pay the fee to drive down Pikes Peak Highway to enjoy this majestic hike through the Pike National Forest. Instead, opt for a small parking lot off Edlowe Road, or County Road 28.

  • Address: 3168 Co Rd 28, Woodland Park, CO 80863
  • GPS Coordinates: N38.92547, W105.09374
  • Google Maps: Type in Catamount Recreation Area

This dirt parking lot is located northwest of the North Catamount Reservoir. It’s fairly small and fills up fast on the weekends. I arrived at this lot around 730 a.m. to find it about a quarter filled. When I returned around 1 p.m., it was completely packed.

Having an SUV is best, but it’s optional to make it to this lot. The road is paved most of the way until you hit the parking lot area.

Starting Out: The Parking Lot To The First T

From the parking lot, you’ll want to head to the east end of the parking lot (towards where you drove from) to find the trail. From here, you’ll follow a few curves in the path until you reach a T-intersection.  

The natural flow of traffic for the trail is to turn left here so that you circle the Reservoir clockwise. However, I went right at the T and found the trail was far less crowded and offered the same fantastic views.

Since this is a loop trail, there’s no wrong answer here! Simply pick your direction and follow the path.

Getting To The Reservoir

A shot of the Reservoir through the trees while hiking the Catamount Reservoir

If you go right at the T, you’ll catch the first glimpses of the Reservoir quicker, about a mile into the hike. This is the southern tip of the Catamount. From here, you wind through the forest away from the Reservoir for quite some time – about 2 miles – before seeing the Reservoir again.

If you go left at the T, it’ll take you a bit longer to reach the Reservoir – around a mile and a half. However, for the next 4 miles, you’ll be trekking right next to the water and taking in all the breathtaking mountain views before heading into the forest to finish the hike.

Going The Distance

The hike around North Catamount Reservoir is not for the faint of heart. It totals around 9 miles, give or take, depending on how much you meander off the trail. Be sure to pack enough water and food, especially if you’re bringing your four-legged travel buddy with you.

Here’s an overview of the entire trail:

  1. Make a left at the T-intersection to hit Limber Pine Trail (Note: On the way to the T-intersection, do not get on the Elder-Fehn Trail)
  2. Follow Limber Pine Trail for approximately 1 mile.
  3. Turn right onto Mule Deer Trail.
  4. Follow Mule Deer Trail for approximately 0.6 miles.
  5. Turn slightly right onto Mackinaw Trail.
  6. Follow Mackinaw Trail until you hit the dam (approximately 2.5 miles)
  7. Cross the bridge over the dam.
  8. Continue on Mackinaw Trail, which will run into Ridge Trail after the dam (take Ridge Trail)
  9. Follow Ridge Trail for 1.5 miles. It will then intersect with the South Catamount Creek Trail and Limber Pine Trail. Take the Limber Pine Trail
  10. Continue on the Limber Pine Trail for approximately 1.8 miles, where you’ll come to an intersection with the Catamount Trail. Continue on the Limber Pine Trail, heading north.
  11. Follow the Limber Pine Trail back to the T-intersection, about 1 mile. Make a left at the T to return to the parking lot.

We always recommend packing a first-aid kit and other essential gear for every hike. You can read more about it in our article on the ultimate guide to packing a first-aid kit! This is especially true for any hike over 5 miles, and this one clocks in at around 9.

What To Expect While Hiking North Catamount Reservoir

As you traverse this beautiful Reservoir, what can you expect to see? Hear? Taste? Okay, not taste, but you get the point! Let’s delve into what to expect while hiking Catamount Reservoir.

The Trail

The hike around North Catamount is full of varying terrain that will challenge most hikers. Unlike the 14ers of Colorado, you won’t simply go uphill and downhill. This trail is packed with ups and downs; you can expect to gain about 1,000 feet of elevation overall. 

The trail is mostly packed dirt, with a few road/bridge travel areas near the main parking lot on the east side of the Reservoir. The trail can be pretty muddy in some areas. When you get close to the water’s edge, the trail runs along a sandy beach.

When I hiked this trail, I wore trail shoes that were not waterproof. I didn’t have much trouble, but I also went in August when it was extremely dry. You can check out this hiking Catamount Reservoir map from the Colorado Springs City website for more trail information.

The Wildlife

Let’s face it: a hike isn’t a hike without spotting some wildlife! The North Catamount doesn’t disappoint and has a lot of potential wildlife sightings. Here are just some of the wildlife you may see while trekking around the Reservoir:

  • Moose
  • Deer
  • Bighorn Sheep
  • Black Bear
  • Mountain Lion
  • Bald Eagle
  • Golden Eagle
  • Owls
  • Various hawk species
  • Bobcat
  • Fish – Rainbow trout, Cutthroat trout, Mackinaw (If you plan to fish, grab your fishing license beforehand!)

If you see a wild animal, be respectful and stay a safe distance away. You can read more about what to do if you encounter a Moose, Black Bear, Grizzly Bear, Mountain Lion, Wolves, Bob Cat, Alligator, Wild Boars, Snake or Coyote! Be prepared for every encounter.

The Views

One of the best things about hiking Catamount Reservoir is the views. One moment, you’ll be walking through a dense forest. The next, you’ll be strolling on the beach with a full view of the rocky mountains as your backdrop.

The beginning of the hike will start out in a dense forest on a dirt path. As you meander towards the Reservoir, you’ll hit meadows, tall grasses, fields of flowers, and stunning evergreens. Once you hit the Reservoir, you can enjoy the beautiful lake scenery as you continue hiking toward the main parking lot.

At the bridge, you’ll see a dam and view the easternmost side of the Reservoir. This is the most populated portion of the trail and may be filled with anglers, depending on when you go. After this fishing area, you’ll hike along some more sandy beaches and view some intriguing rock formations before heading back into the forest to finish the hike.

Other Hikes In The Area

If you decide to hike the North Catamount and fall in love, don’t worry; there’s more to explore! The South Catamount and Crystal Reservoir have a few beautiful hikes around the lakes and neighboring mountain peaks.

South Catamount Reservoir Hikes

There are 3 exciting hikes around the South Catamount Reservoir area. You can opt for a short 2.5-mile hike or take on the challenge of the 8-mile Dewey Mountain hike.

  • South Catamount Creek Trail: An easy 2.5-mile trail that runs alongside the northern side of the Reservoir.
  • Catamount Falls And Green Mountain Falls: This challenging 6.5-mile trail starts east of the Reservoir at Green Mountain Falls near Chipita Park. You’ll follow the Thomas Trail towards the South Catamount on this out-and-back trail. This trail will not require a $5 fee, as you will take Highway 24 to get to the parking lot at Green Mountain Falls.
  • Alternative to Green Mountain Falls: An alternative trail from the above involves looping in Dewey Mountain before heading to the Reservoir. This makes the trail about 8 miles long, but adds some breathtaking views!

Crystal Reservoir Hikes

Crystal Creek Reservoir has two main hikes around it. However, some of these trails can be connected to travel from Crystal Reservoir to the South Catamount.

  • Crystal Creek Reservoir: This trail loops the entire Reservoir, a 4-mile hike along the shoreline.
  • Green Mountain Falls Pond To Crystal Creek: This trail starts at the Green Mountain Falls Pond off Ute Pass Avenue and heads southwest toward the Crystal Reservoir. It’s an out-and-back trail that requires about 3.5 miles of your time.

Wrapping Up The Adventure of Hiking Catamount Reservoir

Our dog getting a drink while Hiking Catamount Reservoir

The North Slope Recreation Area has three beautiful reservoirs: The North and South Catamount and the Crystal Creek. The North Catamount is the largest of the three reservoirs. It happens to be one of my all-time favorite hikes in Colorado!

This challenging hike encompasses approximately 9 miles of hiking trails that wind you through forests, meadows, and beaches. On this hike, you can expect to share the trail with only a few other hikers, especially if you hit the trail early. Hiking Catamount Reservoir is a unique Colorado experience due to the varying terrain and views.

Have you hiked the North Catamount Reservoir? Let us know what you thought about it in the comments section below!

As always, stay adventurous and enjoy the beauty this wonderful region has to offer! For more hiking guides like Hiking Catamount Reservoir, check out our hiking blog!


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