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A Casual Stroll Through Pancake Rocks Colorado

A view of a hiker on top of a rock formation called Pancake Rock Colorado

The Pancake Rocks trail in Colorado has it all. From a meandering walk through towering pines, a beautiful meadow with views of Sentinel Point, rocky outcroppings with views of the mountains, and finally, the star of the show, pancake rocks.

Pancake Rocks Colorado is great for all experience levels. The trail is easy to follow, with plenty of markers, so you won’t get lost. There are inspiring views throughout the trail and trust me, the views at the end are worth it!

So, let’s take a casual stroll along the west side of Pikes Peak to the breathtaking scenery along the Pancake Rocks trail.

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Where Are Pancake Rocks In Colorado?

Pancake Rocks Colorado Trail

Unless you live in New Zealand, it’s hard to confuse Pancake Rocks for anywhere else. Colorado is home to the only Pancake Rocks in the United States, and if you’re wondering why they’re called pancake rocks, we’ll get to that a bit later!

The Pancake Rocks Trail is located near Cripple Creek, Colorado, slightly west of Pikes Peak. As the crow flies, Pancake Rocks is only about 15 miles west of Colorado Springs.

How To Get To Pancake Rocks Colorado

A hiker sitting on a rock at the end of the trail at Pancake Rock Colorado.

No matter where you come from, it’s a hike to get to the Pancake Rocks Colorado Trailhead, listed as the Horsethief Park Trailhead. 

From Colorado Springs

  1. Jump on Highway 24W
  2. Follow 24W for 24 miles, being careful in Woodland Park to stay on 24W
  3. Once you hit Divide, look for signs for CO-67S.
  4. Follow CO-67S for about 9 miles until you hit the trailhead parking lot on your left.

From Denver

If you’re coming from Denver, believe it or not, the fastest route is to go south to Colorado Springs and then follow the same route above.

  1. Jump on I-25S and follow for about 68 miles.
  2. Take exit 141 for US-24W (Cimarron St).
  3. Follow the directions for Colorado Springs.

From The West

If you’re going to Pancake Rocks from the West, such as Vail or Breckenridge, here’s what to do:

  1. Take I-70E
  2. Stay on I-70E for about 26 miles
  3. Take exit 203 for CO-9S
  4. You’ll go through a few turns and traffic circles, but keep following signs for CO-9S
  5. When you hit Breckenridge, keep following signs for CO-9S
  6. After Breckenridge, stay on CO-9S for about 21 miles
  7. At Fairplay, turn right onto US-285S
  8. Travel 1 mile, then make a left back onto CO-9S and follow for 16 miles
  9. Near Hartsel, turn left onto US-24E and follow for 40 miles
  10. Once you reach Divide, you’ll turn right onto CO-67S and follow for about 9 miles to the trailhead parking lot on the left.

Where To Park To Hike Pancake Rocks Colorado

There is only one parking area for the Pancake Rocks Trail – at the Horsethief Park Trailhead, located on CO-67.

  • GPS Coordinates: N38.83441, W105.13762
  • Google Maps: Search for ‘Horsethief Park Trailhead‘ or ‘Horsethief Falls and Pancake Rocks Trails.’ Both will get you to the parking lot.
  • Fees: None
  • Vehicle Restrictions: Any vehicle can reach the parking lot. It is paved the entire way, and the parking lot is relatively flat and hard-packed dirt.

If you see a closed railway tunnel beyond the parking lot, you’re in the right place!

Pancake Rocks Trail Basics: Length and Difficulty

While beginner hikers can accomplish this trail, it will be challenging. For experienced hikers, this trail is moderate. It’s certainly no walk in the park!

This out-and-back trail measures 6 miles long. You can go the extra mile by visiting Horsethief Falls, which can be reached by heading straight at the intersection with the Pancakes Rock trail instead of turning right.

Be prepared for the journey! Read our guide on what to pack in your hiking bag to make sure you have all the essentials.

What to Expect While Hiking The Pancake Rocks Trail: A 3-step Guide

The first half mile was the most challenging part of the hike for me. A significant elevation increase gets your heart pumping and your mind wondering if you can complete the trail.

Trust me, you can!

1. The Beginning: A Walk Through Mixed Pine Forest

A hiker on a trail in Colorado surrounded by trees.

Once you park the car and get your pack ready (and maybe your four-legged friend), it’s time to hit the trailhead. Look for the path on the southeastern side of the parking lot and get ready for a steep incline. The trailhead is marked with a trail 704 marker.

As I mentioned, the first half mile is a doozy. That said, the path is wide and enveloped in pine needles and cool shade. You’ll follow this trail, sometimes walking alongside the nearby Oil Creek. 

Around the 0.6-mile mark, you’ll see a trail veer off to the left. Ignore this and continue straight. The left trail will take you to Sentinel Point. Shortly after, at the 0.8-mile mark, take a right turn onto the Pancake Rocks Trail.

By the way, if you’re hiking solo, you can read about how to hike alone safely here!

2. The Middle: A Sneak Preview Of The Views Ahead

Once you turn onto the Pancake Rocks Trail, you’ll continue through a wide-open forest and traverse some switchbacks.

Along the trail, you’ll have a few sneak previews of the views you’ll get to see at the end of the trail. This includes some beautiful views of the western Rocky Mountains. Additionally, you’ll see plenty of:

  • Interesting rock formations
  • Rocky outcroppings
  • Gorgeous views of Pike National Forest

3. Pancake Rocks: Views For Days

A view from the top of Pancake rock trail in Colorado.

At the 3-mile mark, you’ll emerge from the forest to a rocky outcropping like you’ve never seen before. Layers upon layers of rocks are stacked all around, and the glorious Rocky Mountains are your backdrop.

Now, you can explore the rocks and take in the breathtaking views. To the east, a majestic wall of rock blocks the view of Pikes Peak. To the west, you can sit on a large ledge and drink in the views of Pike National Forest and the distant Rocky Mountains.

The south offers more mountainous views and rolling hills, while the north marks your way back to the car.

Pancake Rocks: Why They Look Like That

View of the rocks and the reason its called Pancake rock

Unlike the pancake rocks in New Zealand, which are mostly carved of limestone, Colorado’s Pancake Rocks are made of granite. Buckle in for a little pancake rocks Colorado history!

Over centuries, the Pikes Peak granite was eroded and weathered by rain and wind. What is left are the Pancake Rocks stacked on one another like a delicious breakfast of flapjacks.

Bringing Pets: Hiking With Your Furry Friends

The Pancake Rocks Colorado hike is dog-friendly, so be sure to include your four-legged pal on this hike if they’re up to it!

If you bring your pet, here are a few things to consider:

  • Trail Length & Difficulty: Ensure your pet can hike at least 6 miles before bringing them. Additionally, be confident that your dog can traverse the elevation gain and the rocky terrain at the trail’s end.
  • Wildlife: The Pike National Forest is home to mule deer, black bears, mountain lions, bobcats, squirrels, and other critters. Keep your dog leashed to avoid unwanted encounters with wildlife. For tips on wildlife encounters, check out our guide on what to do if you see a wild animal on a hike.
  • Snow: In the winter, much of the trail is in the shade and packed with snow and ice. Only bring your dog if they are accustomed to walking on snow and ice. Speaking of cold weather, bring any necessary jackets or accessories for your pet to be comfortable and read our guide on hiking with dogs in winter!

Wrapping Up The Pancake Rocks Adventure

A view of a hiker on top of a rock formation called Pancake Rock Colorado

Pancake Rocks Colorado is a walk to remember. With stunning views of the Rocky Mountains, a rewarding summit, and plenty of elevation gain, it’s the epitome of Colorado hiking.

The beginning of the hike takes you through a stand of open pine forest as you walk alongside Oil Creek. The middle takes you on an adventure through open meadows and rocky outcroppings with a sneak preview of the views ahead.

Finally, as you reach the summit, you’re rewarded with the quirky and intriguing pancake rock formations. An extensive ledge offers the perfect picnic spot to sit and listen to the sounds of the mountains.

So, pack your bag and head to Cripple Creek to enjoy this lovely hike through Pike National Forest. Happy hiking, friends!

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