text and photography by Ryan Stikeleather
Keep Your Momentum
I made a New Year’s Resolution to hike one hundred miles by the end of 2017. This goal of mine would double the amount of miles I hiked last year. All my logged miles took place between May and early November. So, starting four months sooner should make this goal a piece of cake.
I made a this bold commitment (after my Blackmer Loop Hike) with a nonchalant appraisal of a measly eight miles each month. Eight little miles. Well, it’s nearly the end of January, and I’ve only completed one hike. And, technically, I completed it before the new year even started. Ummm…I better get my butt in gear!
Just The Facts
- Trail: Mt. Cutler
- Difficulty: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 400 ft
- Distance: 1.1 mi. (2.2 round trip)
- Trail Use: Hiking, Trail Running
- Trail Condition: Maintained, and clearly marked
- Bring Your Dog: Yes (but must be on a leash)
- Access: All Seasons
- Trail Map: North Cheyenne Cañon Trails Map
- Entrance fee FREE
I wanted a quick local hike to get me back on track, and North Cheyenne Cañon had what I needed. Mt. Cutler is perfect for when you only have a little bit of time, you don’t want to drive very far, or you want something easy. You can complete the whole trek in about and hour. You'll be back home without even breaking a sweat (ok, you'll probably be a little sweaty).
If you’re worried a brief hike is going to be short on views, you’re in for a surprise. The trail climbs up above North Cheyenne Creek (be sure to listen for a small waterfall nearby), and delivers breathtaking views into the cañon below.
The winter weather has transformed the popular trail into a feast for the senses. Lichen covered granite (accented with clean, fresh snow) pop with lively color. Determined Douglas fir clutch onto hillsides with twisted, gnarled roots. Hushed silence you can only get during a calm snowfall.
It’s About Timing
I love leaving the footprints in fresh snow. I’ve wanted to hike during actual snowfall for a long time, but I’ve not had a chance for several years. Well, today my luck finally changed.
It wasn’t a blizzard mind you. Not even any measurable accumulation. Just enough to reduce visibility and hide the city below. And, just enough to keep everyone else off the trail (I've been told those are called “sensible” people).
The light breeze carried the tiny snowflakes around me. The mountain tops popped in and out of view; clear and prominent one moment, shrouded in mystery the next. Every changing, and I had it all to myself.
Back For More
Before I reaching the top, I found the trailhead for Mt. Muscoco. A newly updated trail for North Cheyenne Cañon, and one I’m eager to hike. So, I will be back for another hike very soon. After the Muscoco trail marker, look to the south, and down into the canyon, for an excellent view Seven Falls. It’s much easier to see the falls in the spring and summer, but trust me, it’s there.
As the trail reaches a high point, the views opens up to the East. If you continue north, on the main trail (keeping to the left), you'll reach the actual summit of Mt. Cutler. But don’t forget to double-back, and follow the trail down to a rocky ledge.
This ledge is where I spent most of my time. Relaxing, watching two ice-climbers work their way up and down a popular run. Listening to the wind blowing thourgh the trees, followed by echoes from the climbers. Feeling the cold air, and delicate snowflakes on my nose.
Come One, Come All
Mt. Cutler makes a great hike for families young and old. Challenging enough to keep you entertained, but easy enough for the kiddos. I mean...I wouldn’t recommend a stroller on the trail, but little legs shouldn’t be too worn out after this hike.
If you’re new to hiking, or would like to try something short, give this trail a shot. The commitment time is minimal, the views from the top are exceptional, the rugged cañon rocks add non-stop variety, and (need I say more) the whole family can join in on the fun.