Cheyenne Mountain SP: Talon, Dixon, Dragon’s Backbone trails

Distance15.77 mi
Elevation Gain3235 feet
My Time7 hr 23 min
DifficultyHard
Closest TownCo. Springs
Food Nearby

My attempt to get away from the smoke led me down south to Colorado Springs, It was a hot long hike but well worth the time and the sweat.

Talon Trail

The Talon trail begins from the Limekiln parking area and trail head. I really liked this trail at this point as it is a gentle meandering walk through some fields and past patches of trees. My inner geek was satisfied as they also included little informational placards about the types of trees you were looking at. I learned about bristle-cone pine, and mountain mahogany and Douglas fir trees. For all the times I have been hiking I never had a good understanding of these and what they were so I really enjoyed that part of it.

The path leading to Cheyenne Mountain

About a mile into the hike you will get into an area that has a lot more trees and actually gives some decent shade which is nice because the beginning stretch doesn’t provide any shade at all. The trail also starts to pick up some more elevation at this point.

About another mile in there is a cool little side path that takes you to an overlook that has a bench and provides a nice view of Cheyenne Mountain. It also has another placard that has some information about the Peregrine Falcon’s that call this area home.

Cheyenne Mountain as seen from the overlook

Another couple tenths of a mile and Talon will split into two trails and you can take either one. North Talon splits off to the right and the main Talon trail continues straight and eventually splits off to South Talon. The quickest way to go is to just stay on the main Talon path which has some nice views itself before connecting with the Dixon trail.

Tree lined hills on the views from the Talon Trail

Dixon Trail

There are signs all over the place warning about how challenging it is to take the Talon to Dixon trail combo. There is another sign at this junction warning about how serious of a challenge it is about to be. Of course, I ignored the warning and started up the trail. (Don’t be like me!)

The first mile of Dixon really isn’t much different than what you had been on. It gets a little steeper and the trail narrows but it still isn’t too difficult.

Then you come to another warning sign that mentions that hikers only past this point and that the trail is going to really get tougher. This sign is not lying. The next 3 miles is 1800 feet of elevation over very tight switchbacks that come very close to the ledge (for those who are scared of heights). The one benefit here is from here on you are in the shade for most of this section of the trail and the views as you ascend are really lovely so long as you don’t look down.

The view of the rolling hills from the Dixon trail

This section of Dixon is extremely challenging and the footing is rocky to go along with the switchbacks and elevation gain. Makes sure to take your time.

Plane Crash and Open Field

When you finally finish the challenging stretch of Dixon’s trail you will come to another placard, this one talking about a plane crash. This was a bit eerie for me as I had no idea it was up here. The plane was a training plane and crashed in 1957 and the wreckage is still there.

The remains of the fuselage from the crashed plane leaning up against a tree

After this main wreckage the trail opens up to an open field, which to me was just spectacular. After the physically demanding trip up Dixon and the emotionally shocking find of the old plane crash, the field is just a nice reset button. It was calm and sunny and had a nice breeze blowing through. I stopped here for about 10 minutes to eat some snacks and just take in the calmness. I really enjoyed this spot.

An open field on the top of Cheyenne Mountain

Continuing along the path after my break I was surprised to see more airplane wreckage scattered about the field. The grass increases in height to about mid waist as you continue through the field and finally you will come to a junction. Here you will have an option to go to the Dixon homestead, continue on the Mountain Loop trail, or take the Dragon’s backbone. I continued up the loop and then took the Backbone from the north side and looped it back to the south.

Dragon’s Backbone

This is the trail where all the best views are but also, for me, it was an extremely challenging trail and for the first time I found myself yelling obscenities at rocks.

The most challenging part of the hike is the lack of a discernible trail. You will have to follow cairns or little pieces of colored ribbon tied around trees but I was really struggling to find the markers.

The beginning of the trail from the north side was easy enough though until you get to the rocks. The first part of the rocks on the north side are also easy to find your way around. The rocks looked easily climbable to get to some better views but I am not a climber.

As you continue south down the backbone the trail really gets tricky. You spend most of your time walking on the backbone, or line of rocks at the top of the mountain. The views are nice but following along is tricky. I found myself backtracking a few times and having to constantly pull up my Alltrails app to see if I was going the right way. Towards the end I even got completely lost and had to find my own way to the trail. While I was frustrated by the difficutly of finding the markers I was equally impressed with the views.

The Return

Hey remember all those signs that I ignored about how challenging this hike was and to make sure you give yourself time and have enough water? Well I figured out how important they were on my way back.

For the first time on a hike I actually ran out of water. The heat and difficulty of this hike had me drinking water more than I realized. I brought 3 Liters with me but ran out with about 4 miles left in the hike.

On a record heat day nearing 100 degrees this was a really tough walk to the finish. I have done hikes about this length before but never starting at this low of an elevation where the heat was this big a factor. Be Careful!!!!

Distance and Elevation

If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 15.77 miles and had a total elevation gain of over 3235 feet, which put the high point at just over 9,200 feet. I was also moving for a total of 7 hours and 23 minutes.

Effort

A mix bag of effort on this one. While it is a very long hike which has its own challenges, the entire second half is with a pretty steep incline and switchbacks which really slow down the pace and increase the difficulty. Pretty big number in this weeks step count according to fitbit.

Step count according to my fitbit Ionic.  Steps for this hike were 41,993.

Terrain

The lower section on the Talon trail is mostly wide dirt/sand trails and are very well defined. As you transition to the Dixon trail the trail increases in steepness and also becomes much more rocky. The Mountain loop trail is a narrow dirt trail with waist high grasses and finally the Devils Backbone is mostly rock walking with indiscernible trail and mostly following markers and cairns. Also a very long walk so make sure you have good hiking shoes and poles.

Access

Cheyenne Mountain State Park is part of the state park system and there is a $9 daily fee per vehicle with annual passes starting at $80. You can see more info on the fee’s here. The park can be accessed on JL Ranch Heights Rd off of Rte 115 in Colorado Springs . There are several smaller parking area’s near trailheads and picnic areas instead of one large one.

Wrap up

This was a really nice challenge and hike. It is almost like a series of different hikes all in one. You have the nice gentle nature walk style of the lower levels of Talon. A wooded almost foresty hike in the middle section. A really challenging elevation gain and then when you get to the top a scramble style hike.

It was one of the hikes that you will be proud of finishing but also it is overall enjoyable as well. The views throughout the hike are spectacular as well. One of the best feelings is that you can see Cheyenne Mountain for a majority of the hike and it just keeps getting closer and closer. On the way down you can see it again and the sense of accomplishment of climbing it is nice. So many hikes you get to the top but never knew what you were trying to accomplish so this was a nice aspect.

My one regret was not circling back to see the Dixon homestead. I planned on it after the Backbone but I was so frustrated after the backbone that I decided to head down. Maybe I will get another chance sometime. Overall I am going to rate this is a hard hike due to the elevation gain and overall length.

I have added this hike and all of my hikes to the interactive map section you can find here. If you have any comments or suggestions on a new hike for me to try you can email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com or follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

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