Horsethief Falls and Pancake Rocks

Horsethief Falls and Pancake Rocks is a gem of a hike with a gorgeous waterfall, beaver ponds (supposedly), super crazy cool rock formations, and amazing views.  The trailhead is located 9 miles off of Hwy 67 between Divide and Cripple Creek at an old tunnel.  Again, there are no neon billboards that say “Horsethief Falls/Pancake Rocks here!” like we are used to in Florida or anything even remotely easy to find.  As is common in Colorado, it is merely marked with the standard nonsensical  camouflaged brown post numbered 704.  One can only assume that this is the right place to start as there are no other options from this parking area.  Everything I read online said to get there early in the morning on weekends since there is limited parking, but my friend and I had no problems pulling in around 10 on a Sunday.  However, the leaves had already fallen and the weather was predicted to deteriorate throughout the day so it’s possible that would have affected the traffic.  *For the record, this hike would have been A++++ during the peak of the leaves changing but I missed it by a couple of weeks.  Aspens can be seen along the entire trail.

There are two potential options on this trail: a 2.6 mile out and back to Horsethief Falls and/or a 6.2 mile out and back to Pancake Rocks.  The first “shared” mile is fairly brutal on the lungs and takes you to the fork where you can SUPPOSED to see beaver ponds.  I saw a pond and a bunch of horse turds and sticks, but no beaver.  I have YET to see a beaver.  EVER.  Jipped.  So to me it was just a pond with some sticks in it.  Nothing exciting nor worth the few sentences of attention I just gave it here.

The trail is shaded by tall pines the entire way so be prepared for cooler temps.  The waterfall has the potential to be really impressive, however, given this hike was during the fall, the runoff was minimal.  But it is definitely worth seeing and pretty awesome regardless of the lack of runoff.  There are several areas to take pictures and/or sit next to the water.

To get to Pancake Rocks, we had to retrace our steps for about a mile back to the previously mentioned fork in the trail.  Once there, it is a steep uphill climb for a couple more miles and then it starts to flatten out at the top of the peak where the views start to get better and better.  Really cool rock formations are abound once you hit the top and the end of the trail is nothing short of captivating.  Couldn’t tell you the history behind the name of Horsethief Falls other than the fact that there were horse turds all the way to the end, but Pancake Rocks gets its name for the unique rock formations that look like stacks and stacks of pancakes.  Evolution is mind blowing.  This is a must do hike.  A little tough but just suck it up and do it.  As always, the pictures don’t do it justice…

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The view across from the trailhead parking lot.

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Horsethief Falls – several areas up and down the falls to take pictures. I, however, was lame and only took one.

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Random view along the hike at the top of the peak.

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Allow me to digress for a moment to write about the strangest thing that happened on our hike.  We ran into a lady on the trail that was holding out a stick and making animal calls at some gray birds sitting in a tree above her.  Stunned and confused, we stopped to figure out what the hell she was doing.  She purported that these “gray jays” were curious birds and will often approach humans, perhaps even landing on them.  As it turns out, she was partially accurate in her statement.  It kept creeping closer and closer to her and was certainly interested in checking her out but wouldn’t land on her stick.  We ooood and aaahhhhd for a few minutes and then went about our hike.  When we arrived at Pancake Rocks, we saw several of them hovering around, some even getting uncomfortably close to us with the most judging eyes, as if they were a bunch of valley girls sizing us up.  Of course we proceeded to experiment with actions that would certainly get us excommunicated from any tree hugging hippy dippy club in Colorado.  Our grand idea was to put pieces of our granola bar (it was all pumpkin seeds, quinoa, and almonds anyway so give me a break) in our hands and see if they would get closer.  Ladies and gents…I give you…Snow White…

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These birds stalked us for a good half hour, landing right on our hands to eat the granola bars…er…seeds.  Soon, we had chipmunks on our feet.  WTF just happened here!?!?  These are NOT pigeons in New Orleans, people.  I can’t imagine many people, if any, have ever thought of feeding these birds, so it’s not like they’re trained or domesticated in any way.  They were in the middle of the nowhere.  In the Rockies.  So strange but so awesome.  And we laughed our asses off.

Until next time…

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