Devils Head Fire Lookout Hike

Devils Head Fire Lookout Hike

June 1, 2013 |  by

If you’ve not hiked to the top of the Devils head trail and climbed the 143 steps to the fire lookout, then I think you’re not allowed to have one of those Colorado Native bumper stickers. The Devils Head trail is the classic Colorado Front Range hike and is just about a hour from the center of Denver. The views from the top offer a 360 degree panorama of mountains layered upon mountains. Scroll down to explore the trail profile and photos of one of the best hikes on the Colorado Front Range.

  • Hike Distance: 2.8 Miles Round Trip
  • Denver Drive Time: 1hr 15min
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Duration: 2hr+
  • Elevation Gain: 940′
  • Activities: Fire Tower Lookout, Picnic Area, Camping Nearby, Hiking Trails
  • Dogs: Allowed on Leash

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This Colorado hike begins in a glade of tall aspens, some of the biggest we’ve seen this close to Denver. Then the trail meanders through some unusual rock formations until the trail opens into a high meadow where a quaint ranger cabin sits nestled in the trees. Up ahead and to your left, you’ll see the red steps that lead to the Devil’s Head fire lookout.
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The Devil’s Head fire lookout is the only operational fire lookout in the state of Colorado and is over 100 years old, though the current structure was built in 1951. If you are a history buff and enjoy historical photos, check out these two sites: Firelookout.org and Historicorps.
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Bill Ellis and his wife have been operating the lookout for over 25 years, and many visitors remark that their discussions with Bill are the highlight of their trip. The Denver Post did a great piece on the Ellises and the fire lookout that is worth reading – link to the Devils Head Article by the Denver Post.devils_head_stairs_colorado_hike
The views from Devil’s head reveal features of Colorado’s Front Range that are rarely discovered. My favorite is looking North down the spine of the foothills where red tinted rock formations push up from the peaks and resemble a chain of castles high above the forest. devils_head_northtolongs_colorado_hike
Pikes Peak dominates the landscape to the South. And the Western view from Devil’s Head is riddled with the red mountains of the Tarryalls, Kenoshas, and Platte range. And there are few signs of civilization, at least not in the early morning hours when I took these photos.
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Tips:

 

  • Camping: There is a USFS campground near the trailhead parking area. Some friends of ours have camped here and said it was a good experience. See the USFS Devils Head Campground site for details on camping and parking fees.
  • Go Early: Devil’s Head is one of the most popular hikes on the front range. If you are hiking this on the weekend, try to get to the trailhead by 8am if you want a less crowded experience hiking Devils Head.
  • Go Even Earlier for photography: The rising sun lights up the front range, and you can see hundreds of miles of mountains from the tower on Devil’s Head.
  • Rough Drive: The 10 miles of Rampart Range Raod can be dusty and a real washboard experience. 2WD is sufficient and this road is kept in pretty good condition, but be prepared for a less than comfortable drive on your way to Devils Head.
  • Be Lightning Aware: The front range is notorious for its lightning strikes and this is the highest point. If weather is looking bad, play it safe.
  • Rampart Range Road is closed December 1st to about April 1st each year. You can call the South Platte Ranger District at 303.275.5610 to get the current status of the road.

Related Hikes:

 


2 Trail Reviews


  1. AJ and community,

    This trail was fun. Great for families. And up on fire tower between 9-5 most days, is Bill Ellis, the mountain sage, he is full of stories, and definitely make a point of introducing your self and chatting.

    I had a little trouble finding the turnoff in Sedalia, with no GPS, and the roads up the mountain were manageable for my Honda Accord 1996, but only in perfect weather. Otherwise, car with good tires and/or 4WD would be needed.

    A Friend, and I enjoyed climbing the rocks and spending time contemplating the Colorado Landscape great hike, easy, and fun.

  2. We just did this trail yesterday (October 2013) and it’s now our favorite day-hike that we’ve found using this website. As the tip above says for this trail, brace yourself for a washboard experience when driving the last ~9 miles on Rampart Range Road. This dirt road is actually in good condition and well-maintained (no potholes), it just has very bumpy spots due to high use.

    When we started the drive on Rampart Range Road it was raining and we were a little unsure of whether or not we’d be doing the full hike. Then, by the time we got to the trailhead parking lot it had turned to snow due to the gain in elevation! It ended up being a lovely hike up. The further we hiked, the more it began to look like a winter wonderland. The hike up felt like a bit longer than ~1.4 miles to us because of the elevation gain. This is definitely not a difficult trail (very well maintained, not super steep), but make sure that those who are hiking are prepared for going up-hill the whole way. This would probably be a bit of a struggle for family or friends visiting from sea-level.

    Once we got to the base of the stairs for the tower, we weren’t even sure if it would be worth it to go up since it seemed like we were really socked in with snow. Wow though! By the time we were half-way up we already had amazingly beautiful views. The stairs are steep and do feel a bit rickety (especially when wet like they were for us), so definitely not for someone with a fear of heights. However, once we were up we were so, so glad we’d done this hike. It was one of the prettiest 360 views we’ve seen in Colorado. While we were there it actually started to clear with the sun coming out, which made it even more beautiful.

    We would happily do this trail again and again!

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