Distance: 3.75 miles
After climbing a 14er earlier in the week (see the Mt. Democrat entry), I decided to take advantage of the Indian summer weather and get in another hike. Rather than doing something strenuous, I decided to use this opportunity to do a fairly easy/moderate hike that would allow me to see the changing aspens. While autumn in Colorado has nothing on the colors seen along the East Coast, we are still treated to some nice scenery thanks to the yellowing aspen leaves. The changing aspen leaves generally hit their height around mid-September to early October (possibly earlier in higher elevations). I’m happy to say that I timed this hike just right in that regard.
Devil’s Head Mountain is an unusually shaped peak that rises above the rolling hills of the Rampart Range. Devil’s Head is at the southern end of the Rampart Range Recreation Area, which is very popular with ATV and dirt bike enthusiasts. Looking at the mountain from a distance, it isn’t difficult to see how it got its name: the granite rock structures along Devil’s Head’s long ridge have the appearance of horns on a crouching figure. Easily the highest point
in the Rampart Range, the mountain offers sweeping views of the surrounding Pike National Forest. In fact, this view has been put to good use by the Forest Service, who built a fire lookout station at the summit of Devil’s Head in 1912. The lookout tower has been added to and rebuilt several times over the last 95 years and is now the only remaining manned station of its kind in Colorado. In the early 90’s, the tower was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The hike up to the station takes very little time and shouldn’t prove too challenging to even the novice hiker. As far as I’m concerned, the only challenge presented by this hike is the steep climb along metal stairs up to the tower itself. The station is usually manned from May to October by volunteers who are typically happy to chat and answer questions.
Starting immediately from the trailhead, the hike remains fairly moderate as it follows switchbacks up to the summit. Initially, the trail heads south up a narrow, densely-forested gully with a seasonal stream to the left. After briefly leveling off, the trail begins to ascend once again with a
series of broad switchbacks. As the trail climbs, the views begin to open up to the north and west. The basin carved out by the South Platte River is the dominant feature to the west, with large granite structures that are typical of the eastern Pike National Forest sticking out like jagged teeth. Hikers familiar with the Buffalo Creek area may recognize Long Scraggy Peak and the Castle (further to the west). A few tenths of a mile from the end of the trail (three switchbacks), the Zinn Overlook Trail branches off to the left. This trail is easy, but thick overgrowth may make it a bit tricky to navigate in a few places. The route to the overlook passes between several rock structures and offers the first view of the lookout tower at the summit above. The Zinn Overlook offers a nice, but fairly narrow view of the Pikes Peak massif to the south. After backtracking to the main route, the trail eventually passes over the crest of a small rise before descending into an interesting gap between two long rock formations near the summit. Along the left side of the trail is a small cabin occupied by the
Forest Service volunteers who man the fire overlook. The trail eventually tapers off at the far side of the gap. The lookout tower is accessed via the narrow metal staircase that climbs up the side of the rock formation on the left side of the trail. The last few feet to the tower is over the exposed rock that crowns Devil’s Head’s summit. Upon reaching this point, it immediately becomes obvious why lookout tower was put here. The views are absolutely incredible in all directions. Virtually the entire eastern half of the Pike National Forest from Pikes Peak to Mt. Evans is visible to the west. In the immediate surroundings, the yellow aspens and gray rock formations stand out in stark contrast to the green pines. Even on a stormy day like this one, the vistas were quite impressive.
The route up to the Devil’s Head lookout tower is the only real hiker-friendly trail in the Rampart Range Recreation Area. There are numerous other trailheads along Rampart Range Road, but they access the motorized vehicle trails used by dirt bikers and ATV riders. For more information on this area, visit the Pike National Forest’s website: http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/psicc/spl/spl_ohv.shtml.
mind that the summit of Devil’s Head is very exposed, so I wouldn’t recommend climbing to the tower if there is a threat of rain or lightning. While the stairs leading to the summit are stable, anyone with a fear of heights should probably avoid this climb.
Directions: From the Denver area, take I-25 south to C-470 west and exit at Santa Fe (US 85). Continue along US 85 south for about 10 miles to the town of Sedalia. Turn right and follow CO 67 through Sedalia and up into the mountains. This road is very curvy and narrow in places, so be prepared to take bends slowly. After about 10 miles on CO 67, turn left onto Rampart Range Road. Follow this well-maintained dirt road for 8 miles to the Devil’s Head parking area and trailhead. Keep in mind that many of the users of the motorized trails in the recreation area use large trailers to get their off-road vehicles in. The drivers of these trailers tend to take Rampart Range Road slowly, so don’t be surprised if it takes longer than usual to get out in the afternoon (especially on the weekend).
Tot: 0.075s; Tpl: 0.02s; cc: 10; qc: 58; dbt: 0.0172s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.5mb