Route: Manitou Missing Link Loop (CO)

Submitted by mschenberger on Sun, 12/12/2021 - 11:25am
Location
Colorado, US
Distance
29.5 mi
Vertical Gain
6,200 ft
Description

This route combines the two premier mountain running areas in Colorado Springs - Pikes Peak/Barr Trail and Cheyenne Canyon. While these are essentially right next to each other, there was no formal way to easily run from one to the other until the Lake Moraine Trail (locally known as the Missing Link) was built just a few years ago by Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates. 

This trail, along with the Intemann Trail above Manitou Springs allows for an awesome mountain loop easily accessible from town. While being close to a major metropolitan area, you will likely see very few people on the upper portions of this route. 

Following this route is fairly straightforward as the trails are reasonably well marked and there are just a handful of turns to make. Begin in front of City Hall next to Memorial Park in Manitou Springs (starting location of the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon). Follow Manitou Ave until the traffic circle, then turn left onto Ruxton Ave, continuing until you pass the Cog Railway station when you make a steep right onto Hydro street that takes you to the parking lot and Barr Trailhead. 

Once on Barr Trail, climb for about 6 miles until you're almost at Barr Camp. There will be a left turn onto the Mountain View Trail which takes you over to the Cog Railway tracks and the Lake Moraine Trail. Look both ways, then cross the tracks and begin a 4 mile traverse over to Cheyenne Canyon. The trail dips down at first before a final 800ish foot climb up to Jones Park Trail (#667 on forest service maps). Lake Moraine was built as a mountain bike trail, so it's generally very runnable with lots of sweeping switchbacks. 

At this point, I hope you didn't push your quads too much, because they're about to get beat up on the long descent back to town. While the name changes on apps like Trailrunning Project and All Trails from Jones Park to Kineo to Upper Buckhorn, you're staying on 667 until the intersection with 666/Bear Creek Trail. Turn left here and descend about a mile to High Drive - a wide, steep, car free dirt road. After a brief moment on High Drive, turn left onto Palmer Trail (part of the Section 16 loop) for a gentle climb followed by a very steep and often loose/rutted descent into Red Rock Open Space. During your descent, look for the first official left turn onto the Intemann Trail - it should be signed - and follow this (generally staying left at junctions) for a few rolling miles. Once you hit Pawnee Ave (should be your third street crossing on this trail), turn right and bomb down the pavement back to City Hall. Be sure to watch for cars in your delirious state on this narrow road!

 

Additional Notes:

Though being just outside the soon-to-be largest city in Colorado, this run takes you very much into the backcountry. Phone service is unlikely on the Lake Moraine Trail and the upper few miles of Jones Park, and there isn't much traffic on the trail once you leave Barr and before you get down to the Buckhorn portion of 667. So, like any proper mountain run, be prepared to get yourself out if you run into trouble. 

The Lake Moraine portion also sees relatively little sun in the winter and spring as it is north facing, so this may hold snow for awhile into late spring. 

 

GPS Track

FKTs

Comments

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Profile picture for user COSultrarunner

I love the Missing Link Loop! Done it a couple times previously. Now that I see it's a registered FKT route, I will follow this GPX today and report back later. John 

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Profile picture for user COSultrarunner

Well, that was a tough day! Started fairly moderate with reasonable temp (65 F) however it rose to the mid-80s F and it was a scorcher. I only carried 2 liters fluid plus a small can of coke (222 ml). I ran out with 6 miles to go in the heat and I dehydrated. Definitely slowed down and ultimately set the bar fairly low at 7 hours, 4 minutes, 26 seconds in the Unsupported category. I'd recommend others have a filter (Katadyn BeFree or similar) and resupply water from the few streams along the route. There are four if I counted correctly. In order of the route: Missing Link (Lake Moraine Trail) around mile 9, Jones Park (667) a couple miles later, then not until the bottom of 666 almost to High Drive around mile 19 or 20, and lastly just before crossing Crystal Park Road toward the end. My first FKT submission. It was a lot of fun and I hope to do more in the future!