Why we love it: Colorado has an incredible trail system, but unless you’re up for taking on a fourteener, not many of them offer views that span 100 miles—in every direction.
When to go: The location of this trail—west of Castle Rock and down ten miles of bumpy, gravel road—weeds out the masses. You’ll find the most solitude on weekdays. But go now; the trail closes for the winter on December 1.
There’s only one trail here, so head for the steps to the right of the parking area. You’ll notice that the trees in the first stretch are scarred from years of adolescent markings: hearts, initials, and pictures are carved into nearly every trunk adjacent to the trail. Sunlight plays on the aspen stands as you start to climb. The trail is a steep 12 percent grade, so if you have a dog—especially an energetic one—bring him. He’ll come in handy when you get tired and need a little tug up the hill.
Look to your left as you climb for expansive views of Pike National Forest, and of Denver in the distance. The trail is clearly marked, and signage tells you when you’ve reached the halfway point. You’ll want to stop here and snap some photos on the massive rock outcropping before moving on. Just when you think the switchbacks can’t possibly get any steeper, things level out and you’ve reached the summit—well, almost. During the summer and early fall, you can climb the 143 steps to the top of the lookout tower to take in those 100-mile panoramic views.
Catch your breath in the clearing near the Forest Service cabin (the tower is still used to spot fires). In fact, it’s the perfect spot for a picnic—a small meadow and its accompanying critters provide the entertainment, and there’s no shortage of boulders to serve as tables and chairs. Be sure to bring plenty of water—you’ll need it, trust me.
Legend has it that there’s a stash of stolen gold hidden somewhere on this mountain, and former tower lookouts have reported seeing the ghost of a tattered old miner roaming the forest in search of the treasure. Maybe we’ll visit on Halloween and see what happens.
Getting there: Take I-25 South to exit 207B. Follow US-85 South (Santa Fe Drive) for about 20 miles and take a right on Highway 67 in Sedalia. Follow Highway 67 for 10 miles and take a left on Rampart Range Road. Follow the signs on Rampart Range toward Devil’s Head (about 10 miles).