“A truly beautiful hike following Ice Cave Creek and Levi Creek, then following a ridge to the Harrison plane crash.”
— Scott Todd
Fall Colors · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
The Ice Cave Creek Trail
is a moderate challenge, traversing a steep forested slope and offering a view of Palmer Lake. Then the hike becomes a gentle forested trail paralleling seasonal streams for about 3.5 miles with flowers, aspen groves, and solitude. There are very few hikers. The trail to the Sydney Harrison crash site is not hard to find if you are looking, and it is easy to follow. The USAF fighter crashed in 1952.
Need to Know
Follows intermittent streams, except for Ice Cave Creek; do not expect water past mile 2 after mid-July.
Starting at the Reservoir trailhead in Palmer Lake, climb Balanced Rock Rd.
(a heavily used fire service road) to the Lower Reservoir. Continue about 200 feet past the reservoir and look for a singletrack cutting right and switching up the slope - Ice Cave Creek Trail
. You'll then have bit more climbing until the 1.3 mile mark, where you'll have an opening in the trees and a few boulders to see Lower Reservoir and Palmer Lake town from the trail. Continue traversing the slope west of Ice Cave Creek; watch your footing as there are a few places where a misstep could lead to a nasty fall.
After crossing the creek, things level out into a small valley. At 1.6 miles go right onto the Swank Trail
at the 3-way intersection. About 1000 feet from the intersection, you step over a small seasonal stream, called Levi Creek, and the trail turns left (northward).
At two miles, you'll see the Sundance Mountain Trail
splitting to the right (eastward); go straight, following Levi Creek to a small ridge at mile 2.7 where there is a 4-way intersection. Left on Ice Cave Cliffs
goes up to a ridge about 1.5 miles to massive boulders just north of Devil's Thumb (a dead end). Right (east) may lead to private property (not sure). Go straight, descending a slope of Ponderosas into another small valley and parallel to another intermittent stream. This area rarely has hikers.
At mile 3.8, you'll cross the stream, ducking through brush, and immediately to your left is Sydney Harrison Connector Trail
. The trail is not hard to follow but is a bit overgrown in places. This trail follows a stream for about 1/2 mile and then turns right to climb to a ridge. At about mile 4.7 there is a 3-way T intersection with the Sydney Harrison Trail
; going right goes to Elk Park Road
; left goes to the Sydney Harrison crash site. Note this intersection because it is easy to miss on your return.
Following the ridge southward, it will curl west and then northwest, through a very old aspen grove and then arriving at the aircraft at mile 5.5 from the reservoir trailhead. Sidney Harrison was killed when the aircraft went down during a snowstorm in 1952. Please respect this site! Sadly some have desecrated the wreck by carving their names and using the aircraft for target practice. Leave the wreckage as you find is so that others may be reminded of the sacrifice made by those who serve.
Once you are done exploring the site, you can return via the same trails.
Flora & Fauna
A wide variety of wildflowers - White and Pineywoods Geranium, Yucca, Blackeyed Susan, Scarlet Gilia, Wood Lilly, Wyoming Indian Paintbrush, Bluebells, and Colorado Blue Columbine.
History & Background
Captain Harrison was a war hero who fought in WWII and in Korea. His plane went down in a heavy snowstorm in 1952.