Decades before white settlers entered Colorado Springs, the Front Range was home to several Native American tribes, including the Kiowas, the Cheyenne, the Apaches, and the Utes. The Cheyenne and Apache frequented Cheyenne Mountain as a source for teepee poles, whereas the Utes used the ravines and steep slopes to traverse from the plains safely. In 1867, William Dixon settled the lower slopes of the mountain, and in 1917, Thomas Dixon (relationship unknown) settled the summit of the mountain. However, despite this settlement over 100 years ago, the mountain has only recently truly established a path from bottom to top: the Dixon Trail.
As white settlement and systematic displacement of indigenous tribes has transformed the Front Range, Cheyenne Mountain has become a “recreational playground” — a confused, disorganized establishment. There has never been a well-marked trail leading to the summit, which some locals have referred to as the “missing trail” of the park. Since 2011, groups have been actively working on building this summit trail. Nearly complete after seven years and numerous delays, natural and otherwise, the trail’s grand opening to the public will occur early this fall.
The park contracted with Rocky Mountain Field Institute to construct the summiting section of the trail, which is filled with rock steps and steep switchbacks that gain over 2,000 feet of elevation. But RMFI is only one of several groups that has been working to make the Dixon Trail a reality. Significant efforts have also come from Friends of Cheyenne Mountain State Park, which sponsors the Cheyenne Mountain Run, a fundraiser specifically created to fundraise for the Dixon Trail. Hundreds of volunteers over the years from Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado and 63 students from Fountain Valley High School came for a weekend to help ensure the trail to the summit of Cheyenne Mountain would be open to the public as soon as possible.
While the entire trail will be open to the hikers, the last three miles won’t be open to cyclists or horses — the park insists for safety reasons that the steep trail could be dangerous, and the presence of bicycles could cause erosion. But as Susan Davies, executive director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition, told The Gazette, “No door is shut forever.”
The trail itself climbs over 3,000 feet, beginning at the Limekiln parking lot. Hikers will then start on Talon Trail, turn onto North Talon, and finally arrive to the Dixon Trail after nearly 3.5 miles. Once hikers reach the trail, it is a 4-mile trek to the summit of Cheyenne Mountain. Along the trail there are beautiful and varied views, including the ruins of a T-33 jet, soon to be accompanied by a memorial for the two men aboard the plane.
When one is hiking, it is easy to get lost in thought or conversation with friends — to dismiss the cultural heritage that predates Dixon’s creation of this homestead and the hard work, logistics, and frustration that can arise while constructing trails. It is a comforting thought that when the Dixon Trail opens to the public, hundreds of people who worked on the trail, whether physically or through donations, will finally see the trail become a reality.