Mount Herman is the hulkish backdrop to Monument, like a mound suddenly rising from the flats where the town sits and Interstate 25 runs onward. If you're a savvy hiker and keep skipping the mountain between Colorado Springs and Denver, it's time to change that.
The most-trafficked trail to the top of Herman is a delight, offering slices of wilds classic to Colorado's great outdoors.
The trip is a good warm-up for ventures at higher elevations. That's for the demanding ascent over a short distance. And that's for the ruggedness.
If you're only comfortable on clearly-marked trails, this one probably isn't for you. Don't expect anything more than down timber and cairns marking the steep way at times. If you go during busy hours on weekends, don't expect parking either.
Space is at a premium along the dirt road where the trail begins. It starts by climbing beside a sometimes-cascading creek, one spoil within the first half-mile, along with a butterfly meadow, ancient rock outcrops and tall pine and Douglas fir.
Atop a ridge, the route continues left up a hillside with eroded gullies and strewn with rocks and roots. The path seems to disappear here; at last visit, we kept an eye upward to spot an orange windsock, marking the popular launch point for paragliders.
They take flight while most stay put and take it all in: Pikes Peak above the vast forest; the Air Force Academy and waters spotting towns stretching east; and, on a clear day, Denver and Mount Evans.
Trip log: 2.1 miles round trip (out and back), 1,018 feet elevation gain, 9,060 feet max
Getting there: Off Interstate 25, take exit 161 and continue through downtown Monument on 2nd Street. Cross the railroad tracks, and at the Mitchell Avenue stop sign, turn left. Follow for a half-mile to right turn for Mount Herman Road. When the pavement ends, continue about 3 1/2 miles to the trailhead marked 716.
FYI: Road manageable by passenger car, but conditions worsen in rainy weather. Hiking only recommended. Dogs on leash.
SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE