Hiking Up Pulpit Rock in Colorado Springs


Pulpit Rock's jagged, rocky skyline is a prominent landmark in northern Colorado Springs. Photograph © Stewart M. Green



During this year of pandemic, sorrow, upheaval, and isolation, I've been getting out every day to hike local trails and climb at a few remote cliffs. I have a few trails that scramble to low summits where I see few to no people, which is perfect. According to my list, this year I've tagged 251 mountain summits so 49 to climb for an even 300. I think I'm going to make it.


A few days ago, however, I decided to hike up 6,610-foot Pulpit Rock, a local Colorado Springs landmark that towers above North Nevada Avenue and I-25, and shoot some photographs. The unranked summit, reached by a mile-long hike on various social trails, offers perhaps the best view of Pikes Peak and its satellite mountains in the Springs.


Unfortunately, Pulpit Rock, once an isolated refuge, is now a popular hike since the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs built dorms below it so students are often lizard-lounging on ledges below the rocky top. Today, I decided I needed to risk the ascent in this pandemic year, so I donned my tiger-face mask when I got to the top and scrambled onto the small summit for only a minute since two kids were already up there.


After leaving the top, I followed another old trail along a couple of ridges and dropped down to the isolated sandstone summit of Eagle Rock just as the sun dipped behind Pikes Peak's south shoulder at 4:16 in the late afternoon. The best thing was that no one else was within a half-mile of me.


Pulpit Rock, formed by a coarse sedimentary rock called Dawson arkose deposited along the eastern edge of the early Rocky Mountains, lies at the northern end of Austin Bluffs Open Space, which includes a series of eroded bluffs to the southeast. The area is still mostly undeveloped with only eroded social trails climbing the peaks and threading through grassy valleys.


To hike Pulpit Rock, which is in my new BEST HIKES COLORADO SPRINGS book, I usually park at a trailhead by a utility station off North Nevada and then follow a good trail south until I'm below Pulpit and finish up a steep social trail on the peak's north flank. Alternatively, I sometimes park at the big lot for the UCCS Field House and work up social trails from there.


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