Trail Historian Eric Swab shares another fascinating tale of a local little-known trail.

The Honnen Trails
by Eric Swab


There is a trail that parallels the Ute Pass Regional Trail (UPT) between Manitou Springs and Longs Ranch Road. It is not an official trail, it’s a pipe line. For hikers and mountain bikers it has some advantages. There aren’t many ups and downs, and it’s not a road. The pipeline actually resembles a trail, and in my opinion is more attractive than hiking the road. There are some challenges, 9 tunnels and 4 bridges must be circumvented, but social trails have developed making this easy.


There have been recent newspaper accounts of the Colorado College Honnen Ice Arena being replaced by the new Edward Robson Arena. The Honnen building will become a facility for the Art Department. What do the pipe line paralleling the UPT have in common with Honnen Ice Arena? Edward H. Honnen (1899-1996) was a 1921 graduate of Colorado College with a degree in mathematics, and he was the contractor for the pipe line. At the age of 20, when his father died, Ed Honnen took over his father’s construction business.


By the 1930s the City of Colorado Springs was feeling the pressure of population growth on their water supply. The City had acquired the water rights to Crystal and the Catamount Creeks, and decided to harvest that water. In 1933 Honnen Construction was awarded the contract to lay the pipe that would deliver water from the Crystal and South Catamount Creek dams to the City. Ed Honnen established a construction camp at Longs Ranch which the City had recently purchased. 65 of the 100 men employed for this work were housed in the abandoned Longs Ranch buildings.


The pipeline in Ute Pass was not the only trail that Ed Honnen built. Many hikers and equestrians are familiar with the pipeline that crosses the road that leads to “The Ranch at Emerald Valley”. The tiny parking area at the point of crossing is the trail head for “The Pipeline Trail”, so labeled on the Pikes Peak Atlas. The trail passes an old mining operation, the historic resort of Cather Springs and the beautiful side trail up Little Fountain Creek to Bear Trap Ranch. Near the point where the pipeline trail joins the old Emerald Valley Road is an old mine tunnel and the chimney of the “The Emerald Valley Boys Camp” ruins. The pipe continues along the road to the head of Emerald Valley, where it climbs to the ridge overlooking East Beaver Valley. From there it contours up the valley to the Penrose-Rosemont dam.


This pipeline was the second attempt by Spencer Penrose to bring water from Gould and Beaver Creeks to the Broadmoor. The first pipeline, built in 1926, failed because there was no water storage, and the flow was seasonal. Penrose’s second effort, made in the mid-1930s, impounded the water in the Penrose-Rosemont Reservoir assuring a flow all year long. Ed Honnen constructed both the dam and the pipeline. This pipeline is now owned by the City of Colorado Springs.


Ed was not done building trails. Those of you who hiked the Manitou Incline before it was improved may remember seeing an old pipe exposed beside the ties. That was not Ed Honnen handy work. He was only 5 years old when the Incline was built in order to install that pipe. However, in 1939 Ed Honnen got a contract to replace that pipe which ran from the discharge pond at the Ruxton Park hydro-electric plant contouring over to “No Name Creek” on Barr Trail. This section of the pipeline is actually a one lane dirt road which can be hiked and carries the Forest Service number 706.  From “No Name Creek” the pipe passes under a large boulder and over a steel bridge to the top of the Incline. This pipe is only exposed where it crosses the bridges over Cabin Creek and the gulley near the top of the Incline. You may have noticed a manhole cover just west of the foundation for the Incline Power House. In that pit is the valve that controls weather water from Ruxton Park or water from the Catamount Reservoirs (not Honnen’s pipe) runs down the penstock and turns the turbines in the Manitou Hydro-electric plant.


It is an interesting side note, that Ed Honnen leased the Manitou Incline from January 1 to June 10, 1939 to haul his equipment and pipe up the mountain for this project.


Over the years, Ed became a very successful general contractor, involved such projects as the building of Ft. Carson and Peterson Field and various water systems Denver and Colorado Springs. In 1949 Ed Honnen left his successful general contracting business and purchased the McCoy Caterpillar dealership. He is remembered for his $750,000 contribution to his alma mater, Colorado College, for the construction their Ice Arena. On the centennial of Ed’s graduation, perhaps we should also remember him for his unintentional trail building on Pikes Peak!

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