Ute Pass:
The Trail to Gold

photo courtesy of the Ute Pass Historical Society.

Ute Pass has always been a major route through the Colorado mountains with Pikes Peak looming not far from the trail.

Whether buffalo, Native Americans, cattle, explorers, fur trappers or gold miners, the trail was well used.

It was named for the Native Americans who traveled and hunted the area, the Ute Indians.

Hundreds of years ago "The Pass" as we call it, was originally a buffalo trail heading up the mountains from the plains, or down the mountains to the plains, depending on where you were.

The Ute Indians followed the herds for food and clothing.  And in the mountains, they would camp, hunt and celebrate.

early map courtesy of the Ute Pass Historical Society.

Many towns came to be along the pass.  One of the most popular was Manitou Springs, which was part of Colorado Springs at the time.

The Utes would make a yearly pilgrimage down the pass to pay tribute to the "Great Spirit" at Manitou Springs.

They believed the spirit lived under the springs and his breath caused the water to steam and bubble.

The springs also had healing abilities, according to the Utes.  They would leave offerings to the spirit at the spring, such as beads, clothing, and animal hides.

There were a few famous people who traveled the Pass into the mountains.

In 1820, Major Long stopped near Manitou and noted the road that runs into the mountains.

Kit Carson, rode up the Pass on his way to South Park to trap beaver and hunt deer and elk.

Ute Pass: Originally The Native American's Trail to Their Summer/Winter Camps

The Pikes Peak Gold Rush of 1859 found hundreds of people streaming in from the east and heading up the Pass to find their fortune.

In the 1870's, the pass was used by freight wagons hauling supplies to the new towns further up the mountains.

The road was only a one lane trail and the men hauling the goods had to work out a plan so they wouldn't run into each other.

Travelers going up the mountain would go in morning and come down in the afternoon so they wouldn't meet.

Guard rails were also installed so cattle wouldn't fall over the edge of the pass.

With the danger of the narrow pass, the "Indian Trail" was no longer in use in 1872.

Instead, a new route was built using Fountain Creek as a guide.  Pioneers used picks and shovels and teams of oxen to drag logs for bridges.

They had to break huge boulders into smaller sizes to move them and slowly the new Pass was constructed.

The road was widened several times as more traffic headed to the mountains.

photo courtesy of the Ute Pass Historical Society.

In 1912, Chief of the Southern Ute Indians, Buckskin Charlie (shown above) and many members of his tribe were at the dedication of the new Indian Trail.

As they rode up the newly widened road, Buckskin Charlie would wander off the new road and travel the old pass he remembered when he was a young man.

As stated earlier, many towns have been built along the Pass.  A brief history of these towns follows.

Most are still there today, such as Cascade, where you pick up the Pikes Peak Highway for a long, leisurely drive up America's Mountain.

Woodland Park was the first incorporated town in Teller County.  Chipita Park was named after a Ute Chief's wife.

Green Mountain Falls is aptly named for the many waterfalls found in the area.  Crystola  was founded on an interest in the occult.

Divide is "The Center of the Known Universe" according to locals.  You will see each town has its own history and relevance to the journey of civilization up the Pass.

return to Explore Old West Colorado from Ute Pass