Cheyenne Mountain

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Cheyenne Mountain
Cheyenne Mountain 1.jpg
Highest point
Elevation 9,570 ft (2,920 m)
Prominence 1,141 ft (348 m) [1]
Isolation 1.87 mi (3.01 km) [1]
Coordinates 38°44′13″N104°52′51″W / 38.7370372°N 104.8808817°W / 38.7370372; -104.8808817 Coordinates: 38°44′13″N104°52′51″W / 38.7370372°N 104.8808817°W / 38.7370372; -104.8808817
USA Colorado relief location map.svg
Red triangle with thick white border.svg
Cheyenne Mountain
Location El Paso County, Colorado, U.S. [2]
Parent range Rampart Range [1]
Topo map USGS 7.5' topographic map
Mount Big Chief, Colorado [1]

Cheyenne Mountain is a triple-peaked mountain in El Paso County, Colorado, southwest of downtown Colorado Springs. The mountain serves as a host for military, communications, recreational, and residential functions. The underground operations center for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) was built during the Cold War to monitor North American airspace for missile launches and Soviet military aircraft. Built deep within granite, it was designed to withstand the impact and fallout from a nuclear bomb. Its function broadened with the end of the Cold War, and then many of its functions were transferred to Peterson Air Force Base in 2006.


Homesteading on the mountain began in 1867 and the mountain was the site of resorts and retreats beginning in the 1880s. Spencer Penrose, who built The Broadmoor in 1918, bought many of the properties on the mountain and built the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Cheyenne Mountain Highway, Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, a lodge on one of the mountain peaks, and a retreat at Emerald Valley. The site of the lodge has become a wilderness Cloud Camp and Emerald Valley is now the site of The Broadmoor's Ranch at Emerald Valley. Land on Cheyenne Mountain that had once been owned by The Broadmoor is now the site of luxury homes. A community, Overlook Colony, that began in 1911 still resides on the mountain.

The two parks on and at the base of Cheyenne Mountain are Cheyenne Mountain State Park and North Cheyenne Cañon Park. A noticeable feature on the top of one of Cheyenne Mountain's peaks is an antenna farm with transmitters for cellular phone, radio, television, and law enforcement purposes.


Cheyenne Mountain has three peaks. The southern peak is Cheyenne Mountain's summit at 9,200 feet (2,800 m) in elevation. It was formerly called Mount Albrecht. The antenna farm sits on the middle peak. The northern peak, The Horns, may look to some like the head of a dragon or horns. [3] [lower-alpha 1] The peak is 9,200 feet (2,800 m) in elevation. [3]

The mountain's boundaries are Rock Creek, which flows from Mount Big Chief through Cheyenne Mountain to the town of Fountain, to the south and Cheyenne Cañon to the north. [3] [5] The western side of Cheyenne Mountain is in Pike National Forest, [6] [7] within the Pikes Peak Ranger District. [8] Colorado Springs' skyline features Cheyenne Mountain and Pikes Peak. Other mountain peaks are Mount Arthur, Mount Baldy, Mount Rosa, Cameron's Cone, and Mount Garfield. [9]


Early history

Cheyenne Mountain was named for the Cheyenne people. Native Americans found that Cheyenne Mountain was a good source of wood for teepee poles. It was visited by Cheyenne and Arapaho people, who may have sought spiritual inspiration from the mountain's waterfalls. [10] Cheyenne Mountain was used by Ute Native Americans to cross from the plains and benefit from the "steep slopes and hidden valleys" to safely travel from enemy tribes that had their horses stolen by the Utes. [11] :1

Late 19th century

William Dixon, a rancher, claimed a homestead in the Cheyenne Mountain foothills in 1867. He built a tavern along a trail up Cheyenne Mountain and turned the trail into a toll road, now called Old Stage Road, to Cripple Creek. The road begins as a paved road and is then a dirt road through Pike National Forest. His homestead ultimately became part of The Broadmoor resort. [3]

The Cheyenne Mining District was located on Cheyenne Mountain. [12] The Little Suzie gold mine was built by a group of prospectors in the 1870s. [13] Silver and minerals were mined on Cheyenne Mountain in 1883. [14] [15] Towns or resorts built on Cheyenne Mountain included the original Bruin Inn (1884), [16] [lower-alpha 2] Watsonville (town named in 1884) [17] and Wade City, also called Wade's Resort, (1885). [16] [18] [lower-alpha 3] The first mining claims granted for El Paso County were for the Manganese and Rio Grande lodes on Cheyenne Mountain by January 31, 1885. [20]

Early 20th century

The Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek District Railway (Short Line) traversed Cheyenne Mountain during the trip between Cripple Creek and Colorado Springs by 1905. It transported coal, mined ore, and passengers. [21] Also at that time, a carriage road went to Seven Lakes and the summit of Pikes Peak from Cheyenne Mountain. [21]

Grace Lutheran Church built a retreat in Emerald Valley in 1904. It is now The Broadmoor's Ranch at Emerald Valley. [22] [lower-alpha 4] In 1905, Dr. August McKay homesteaded on 120 acres on the east slope of Cheyenne Mountain. He developed a series of trails and rest houses that led to The Sunshine Inn that he built as a health resort above Old Stage Road. The property was purchased by Spencer Penrose, who had the inn torn down. [3] [23]

The Overlook Colony was started in 1911 by a group of Colorado College professors. It first started as a summer retreat for the educators, and grew to include musicians, doctors, artists, generals, oilmen, and an ambassador to India. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was built just below and the Will Rogers Shrine built just above this community. Residents manage the Overlook Colony Mutual Water Company that governs water conservation, maintenance, and testing of the water supply from deep within the former Little Susie gold mine. [13]

Bert Swisher and Thomas Dixon homesteaded on Cheyenne Mountain in 1917. Dixon resided with his family in a cabin near the top of the mountain in the middle of three valleys. Swisher's cabin was near the present site of the antenna farm at the top of the mountain, which was accessed by Old Stage Road. [11] :1:2

Spencer Penrose and The Broadmoor

Cheyenne Mountain became a successful recreational and resort area when Spencer Penrose developed The Broadmoor resort in 1918. [24] [11] :1 The Cheyenne Mountain Cog Railroad provided narrow gauge cog railway service to South Cheyenne Cañon from the Broadmoor Casino beginning in 1918. It later offered service from The Broadmoor to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Service ended in 1974. [25]

In the 1920s, Penrose began to develop on Cheyenne Mountain property on the northern peak that he bought in 1915. He built the Cheyenne Mountain Highway in 1925. [3] In 1926, the Cheyenne Mountain Lodge opened at the top of Cheyenne Mountain. It had a restaurant, a suite for Penrose on the third floor, four guest rooms, and living quarters for servants. [26] Visitors could make the trip up the Cheyenne Mountain Highway on the backs of elephants. [3] The lodge closed in 1961. It was razed in 1976 following years of destruction by vandals. It is now the site of The Broadmoor's Cloud Camp lodge and cabins. [26]

Penrose developed the country's highest zoo at 6,800 feet (2,100 m) in elevation, [27] the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (1926) on the mountain and Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun (1937) on the northern promontory of the mountain. [28] [11] :1 [lower-alpha 5] The Cheyenne Mountain Highway was built for transport to the zoo, shrine, and top of the mountain. [31] :222 The Broadmoor built a ski area on Cheyenne Mountain in 1959. In 1986, the resort closed Ski Broadmoor, but the city of Colorado Springs and Ski Vail stepped in to keep it open. It closed in 1991. [28] The land was sold to the Broadmoor Resort Community Association. [3] Land that had once been owned by The Broadmoor on the mountain was sold and is now the site of luxury homes. [29] :92

NORAD operations center

In the 1950s, during the Cold War, the interior of the mountain became a site for the operations center for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). [11] :1 The center, deep within Cheyenne Mountain, was completed in 1966 after spending $142 million and using 500 tons of explosives. The result was an underground city operated by the Air Force. [3] Popular Science wrote in 1965, before the dedication of the facility, that Cheyenne Mountain would be the only mountain to have buildings constructed within its interior. It was built to withstand being bombed: eleven multiple-story buildings stand on coil springs to absorb the shock of a blast, and care was taken to make sure that up to 800 people could survive a nuclear exchange. The buildings are encased in steel, surrounded by granite, and the facility is behind blast-proof doors. It was designed to be the "nerve center" for NORAD. [32]

The NORAD center has been staffed by Canadian and United States military personnel to monitor North American air space for intercontinental ballistic missiles and incoming Soviet military aircraft. [33] [31] :194–195 Locally, this military boom during the Cold War included the establishment of the United States Air Force Academy, Peterson Air Force Base, and Fort Carson. [11] :1 After the Cold War, NORAD monitored objects orbiting the earth and aircraft without flight plans. It is also known for monitoring the Christmas Eve orbit of Santa Claus. [33]

NORAD used to offer public tours, but due to security concerns they were suspended in 1999. The off-ramp on NORAD road has been staffed by Air Force Security Police since September 11, 2001. [3] Most of the center's operations were moved to Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs in 2006, [33] then in April 2015, the Pentagon reported that a few operations would be moving back in.[ citation needed ]

Antenna farm

During the 1950s, an antenna farm was built on the middle peak of the mountain [3] [11] :1 when Bert Swisher deeded ten acres to Bud Edmonds and several backers and Swisher signed a non-compete agreement. [3] [11] :2 Edmonds, John Browne, and Buck Ingersoll agreed to replace the trails to the area with a real road, which was opened in 1960 by the Cheyenne Propagation Company. [3] There are 700 cell phone, television, radio, and law enforcement transmitters on the antenna farm. [3] The Cheyenne Mountain radio site 145.160 repeater covers south central and southeast Colorado along the Interstate 25 corridor from Monument nearly to the New Mexico border. [34] In 2002, it was operated by the Cheyenne Propagation Company. [3]

Parks and recreation

Cheyenne Mountain State Park

The City of Colorado Springs and Colorado State Parks purchased 1,680 acres of land to preserve the "southeastern flank" of the mountain and its wildlife habitat in 2000. [35] The land, originally the JL Ranch, [lower-alpha 6] was slated for development of 2,500 houses. [35] [11] :1 [lower-alpha 7] The land was purchased to create the Cheyenne Mountain State Park, [11] :3 which is the only state park in El Paso County. An additional 1,021 acres at the top and east side of Cheyenne Mountain were acquired from 2007 to 2009. The park is now a total of 2,701 acres, part of which is at the base of the mountain and part of which is on Cheyenne Mountain. [35] [36] It has 20 miles of trails. [35]

Cheyenne Cañon

The 1,600 acre North Cheyenne Cañon Park, Starsmore Discovery Center, Seven Falls, and some of Colorado Spring's "most exclusive neighborhoods" are located in Cheyenne Cañon. [27] The source of North Cheyenne Creek is in Teller County. South Cheyenne Creek's source, also in Teller County, is Mount Big Chief, [37] [38] [39] near St. Peter's Dome. [40] The flows through Seven Falls [41] in South Cheyenne Cañon. [42]

North Cheyenne Cañon Park was started when the city of Colorado Springs bought 640 acres in North Cheyenne Cañon from Colorado College in 1885. An additional 480 acres was donated by General William Jackson Palmer. That land included High Drive, Silver Cascade Falls, and Helen Hunt Falls. In 1909 the Park Commission called it "by far the grandest and most popular of all the beautiful cañons near the city" for its evergreen trees, waterfalls, Cheyenne Creek, and rock formations. [10] Moderate hikes in the canon include Mount Cutler and Columbine trails. [27]

The two creeks meet and form Cheyenne Creek near the intersection of North Cheyenne Canyon Road, South Cheyenne Canyon Road, and Cheyenne Boulevard. [43] [44]

Historic trails

Two historic trails, only shown on the Pikes Peak Atlas, lead to the summit top of Cheyenne Mountain: the unofficial and faintly visible Swisher and the McNeil trails. At the top of the Swisher trail is a meadow and ruins of an old cabin. [45] [lower-alpha 8]

See also


  1. An old Native American legend is that the mountain is the remains of a dragon that drank water from a flood, could not move from the weight, and died, leaving his image captured in the mountain's profile. [3] Legends of the lizard dragon with the great thirst were relayed to Spanish priests, recorded in manuscripts, and delivered to and stored in New Spain's capital and Madrid, Spain's archives. Another legend tells of a devil who lost a fight over land to the god Manitou, who took his dead body to a Cheyenne Mountain canyon, and the devil's horns are the only visible feature. [4]
  2. E. P. Tenney, a professor and the first president of Colorado College built a cabin in 1881 and the original Bruin Inn in North Cheyenne Cañon in 1884. There is a legend that the original building is incorporated within the current Bruin Inn. [16]
  3. Wade's Resort was also called Wade City. It was built by Joel H Wade about 1885 on the old Cripple Creek stage road (now Old Stage Road) along South Cheyenne Creek. Wade was the grandfather of Fred Barr. The town, a scheduled stop on the stage route to Cripple Creek, was torn down or burned down by 1934. [16] [19]
  4. It was next used beginning 1910 by the Girl Scouts of America. It was named Camp Vigil by Penrose after he bought the property and had more buildings constructed as a retreat for himself and his friends. After he died in 1939, it was left to the community and was used by the Boy Scouts and YMCA. It became the Emerald Valley Ranch in 1946. Buildings were purchased The Broadmoor from the Turley Family and land is leased from the Pike National Forest. [22]
  5. Thomas Jacob Noel stated in his book Revisited: The History Behind the Images that the Shrine opened in 1927, [29] :88 but it opened in 1937. [30]
  6. The 1,500 acre JL Ranch was a cattle ranch operated by Lloyd and Dorothy Jones until the mid-1900s. The NORAD entrance is near the site of the Jones' former house. [33]
  7. At the time, the acquisition and preservation of the JL Ranch land was considered a partial victory by the Colorado State Parks, City of Colorado Springs, and others. The ultimate vision was also to preserve land west of the ranch property, which would have connected the grass and shrublands at the base of the mountain to the forests on Cheyenne Mountain. It would have also protected unique geology in that area. [11] :1–2
  8. The McNeil trail begins over the crest of a hill from the Broadmoor Stables, which is a 5.7 miles (9.2 km) drive up Old Stage Road. It meets on a ridge with the Swisher Trail. Most of the land at the top is public land; restricted areas are the antenna farm, private property, the road, and the eastern half of the summit. There is an 800 feet (240 m) elevation gain over the combined trails, which are 6.5 miles (10.5 km) round trip. [45]

Related Research Articles

The Broadmoor

The Broadmoor is a hotel and resort in the Old Broadmoor neighborhood of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Broadmoor is a member of Historic Hotels of America of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Its visitors have included heads of state, celebrities, and professional sports stars.

Seven Falls

The Broadmoor Seven Falls is a series of seven cascading waterfalls of South Cheyenne Creek in South Cheyenne Cañon, Colorado Springs, Colorado. It has been a privately-owned tourist attraction since it was opened in the early 1880s.

Spencer Penrose

Spencer Penrose was an American entrepreneur and philanthropist. He made his fortune from mining, ore processing, and real estate speculation in Colorado and other parts of the West. He founded the Utah Copper Company in 1903, and also established mining operations in Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada.

Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun commemorative tower and chapel in Colorado Springs, Colorado

Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, also known as Will Rogers Shrine, is a commemorative tower and chapel on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It is named after Will Rogers, the American humorist, who died in a plane crash in Alaska in 1935 during construction of the shrine. It is also a tomb for the remains of Spencer Penrose – who built many of the city's prominent properties, including the neighboring Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and The Broadmoor resort – and his wife Julie. Completed by Penrose in 1937, the shrine is a 100 feet (30 m), five story observation tower that overlooks The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, and Garden of the Gods.

Cascade, Colorado Unincorporated community in State of Colorado, United States

Cascade is an unincorporated community and U.S. Post Office in El Paso County, Colorado, United States. The ZIP Code of the Cascade Post Office is 80809.

History of Colorado Springs, Colorado Place in Colorado, United States

Before it was founded, the site of modern-day Colorado Springs, Colorado, was part of the American frontier. Old Colorado City, built in 1858 during the Pike's Peak Gold Rush was the Colorado Territory capital. The town of Colorado Springs, was founded by General William Jackson Palmer as a resort town. Old Colorado City was annexed into Colorado Springs. Railroads brought tourists and visitors to the area from other parts of the United States and abroad. The city was noted for junctions for seven railways: Denver and Rio Grande (1870), Denver and New Orleans Manitou Branch (1882), Colorado Midland (1886-1918), Colorado Springs and Interurban, Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe (1889), Rock Island (1889), and Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek Railways. It was also known for mining exchanges and brokers for the Cripple Creek Gold Rush.

Cheyenne Mountain State Park

Cheyenne Mountain State Park is a Colorado state park that was acquired in June 2000 through a partnership between the City of Colorado Springs, Colorado State Parks, Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), Colorado Lottery, El Paso County, and other local private organizations.

Geography of Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Springs geography describes geographical topics regarding the city of Colorado Springs, Colorado in El Paso County, Colorado. With 194.87 sq mi (504.7 km2) of land, it is the state's largest-sized city. Denver is the most populated city.

Ivywild, Colorado Neighborhood in Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

Ivywild, Colorado, is a subdivision of Colorado Springs south of the downtown, west of Cascade Avenue and along Cheyenne Creek. As of 2015, the United States Geological Survey defines Ivywild as a Populated Place. It is one of the city's oldest working-class neighborhoods.

Cheyenne Mountain Highway

The Cheyenne Mountain Highway, also called Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Road, is a road in Colorado Springs, Colorado that begins at the intersection of Penrose Boulevard, Old Stage Road, and West Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard. It is a paved road to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun. Thereafter, it is an unpaved private road to the summit, known as The Horns.

North Cheyenne Cañon Park United States historic place

North Cheyenne Cañon Park or North Cheyenne Canyon Park is a regional park located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It is a National Register of Historic Places listing.

Parks in Colorado Springs, Colorado

There are a wide range of recreational areas and facilities in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

El Pomar Estate United States historic place

The El Pomar Estate was the Penrose House and estate of Spencer and Julie Penrose in the Broadmoor, Colorado, Colorado Springs, Colorado It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places listings in El Paso County, Colorado and the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties.

Blodgett Peak

Blodgett Peak is a mountain summit in El Paso County, Colorado. Blodgett Peak is located in Pike National Forest. and at its base is Blodgett Peak Open Space of Colorado Springs.

Broadmoor, Colorado landform and neighborhood in El Paso County, Colorado, United States

Broadmoor is a neighborhood in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

South Cheyenne Cañon

South Cheyenne Cañon, or South Cheyenne Canyon, is a canyon in Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Colorado. The South Cheyenne Cañon road to Seven Falls is called "The Grandest Mile of Scenery" in Colorado. Seven Falls has been a tourist attraction since it was opened in the early 1880s. Trails from the top of the falls lead to Midnight Falls, near the headwaters of South Cheyenne Creek, and Inspiration Point. The area has been a center for parks, such as the Stratton Park and Colorado College Park. Now, part of South Cheyenne Cañon, including the Starsmore Discovery Center, is in the North Cheyenne Cañon Park. The area sustained a significant flood in September 2013, which closed Seven Falls until Spring 2015. Presently the falls are open again.

The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA.

Seven Lakes, Colorado

Seven Lakes is an abandoned, historical populated place in Teller County, Colorado on the Pikes Peak mountain. It was once the site of the Seven Lakes Hotel along a carriage road to the summit of Pikes Peak. Its waters flow from Beaver Creek to the Lake Moraine reservoir, a supplier of water to Colorado Springs.

St. Peter's Dome is a granite-topped peak on Pikes Peak massif in the Pike National Forest. The peak, at 9,528 feet (2,904 m) in elevation, is located in El Paso County, Colorado, above Colorado Springs. It is located about 8 miles (13 km) from Colorado Springs along Old Stage and Gold Camp Roads. Old Stage Road is picked up behind The Broadmoor and Gold Camp Road winds through Cheyenne Canyon.

Cheyenne Creek

Cheyenne Creek is a stream in Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Colorado at 5,920 feet (1,800 m) in elevation. The stream is fed by the North Cheyenne Creek and South Cheyenne Creek and flows into Fountain Creek near Nevada Avenue, between Interstate 25 and the Pikes Peak Greenway trail. North Cheyenne Creek and South Cheyenne Creek flow through Teller and El Paso Counties. The source of South Cheyenne Creek is Mount Big Chief, near St. Peter's Dome, and it flows to Seven Falls.


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Further reading

External images
Searchtool.svg Cheyenne Mountain panorama, all three peaks, 1896–1901
Searchtool.svg Seven Falls, South Cheyenne Cañon, 1890–1900
Searchtool.svg Vista of Cheyenne Mountain, Cheyenne Road, 1915–1920
Searchtool.svg Panorama of Cheyenne Mountain (color)
Searchtool.svg Sky Ride at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
Searchtool.svg Cheyenne Mountain trail, Cheyenne Mountain State Park
Searchtool.svg Cheyenne Mountain antenna farm