Devil's Head Lookout

Trail through aspen groves and giant boulders to a 360-degree panorama at a historic fire tower.

Hiking Moderate

Distance
4.4 km
Ascent
251 m
Descent
251 m
Duration
1-2 hrs
Low Point
2.7 km
High Point
2.9 km
Gradient
Devil's Head Lookout Map

The Rampart Range is a sub-range of the Rockies located southwest of Denver. The mountains here are not especially tall, but they’re very craggy, studded with cliffs and boulders of coarse stone. Devil’s Head is the tallest and perhaps most rugged peak of the range. The Forest Service forged a trail to its summit and built a lookout tower on top, at 9,748 feet elevation, in order to spot wildfires in the surrounding national forest. That was 100 years ago, and the lookout has been maintained ever since. The current structure was built in 1951, and is the oldest lookout tower still in use on the Front Range.

Description

You may get to meet the volunteer who lives and works in the tower if you come during the summer, and be invited inside. The highlight you can really count on, though, is the 360-degree view that the summit affords, as long as you’re there in good weather. You’ll see why the spot is so strategic for spotting fires. On a clear day, you can see many miles in all directions—far past the Rampart Range, to Denver in one direction and Colorado Springs in the other, the Great Plains beyond, and the Rocky Mountains on the western horizon. Pikes Peak rises over everything to the south.

The whole hike to get there is enjoyable, too. A well-traveled trail meanders gradually uphill through mixed conifer and aspen groves (brilliant in the fall!), and many of the Rampart Range’s signature boulder mounds. Every now and then you’ll catch a glimpse through the trees to the view that surrounds, but the ultimate reward comes after climbing 143 stairs to the tower platform. That’s where you’ll get the 360-degree panorama. The stairs and platform are typically open even if the tower is not, but may periodically be closed for maintenance.

The trail begins from a parking area next to Devil’s Head Campground, located along a spur from Rampart Range Road. These roads are dirt, but passable to all but very low-clearance cars. They are closed December through April or mid-May, and the spur road sometimes longer. If the spur road is closed, simply hike the extra half-mile along it to reach the trail, but be prepared for snow on the ground.

This adventure is suitable for families and beginning hikers, with ample shade and lots of rest spots along the trail. There is a toilet at the trailhead and near the lookout at the end. There's no water available, however, and parts of the trail are a bit strenuous. Dogs are allowed on leash. Remember also that weather can turn quickly in the mountains of Colorado, especially during the summer monsoon season. It’s best to get an early start and be back to the safety of the car by the afternoon.

Sources: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/psicc/recarea/?recid=12927 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil%27sHeadLookout https://www.summitpost.org/devils-head/405734

Difficulty

Moderate

Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November

Features

  • Wildlife
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Summit Hike
  • Dog friendly
  • Wild flowers
  • Family friendly

Guidebooks in this area