This short trail in the Rampart Range, the foothills roughly parallel with Interstate 25 between Denver and Colorado Springs, leads to an historic fire lookout. The trail is only 1.4 miles, with 900 feet of climbing, which makes it incredibly popular. The U.S. Forest Service estimates 20,000 people a year hike it. The view from the lookout is worth braving the crowds. This is the last fire lookout on the Front Range that is still used-Forest rangers have been scanning the horizon for smoke from here for more than a century.
To try to make this trek a longer hike on my first visit to the area, I parked and wound up hiking for two miles on trails that were actually heavily-used dirt bike and ATV routes. So many cruised by me so fast, I feared for my safety. I decided to walk back to my car. Vehicles aren’t allowed on the trail to the lookout, but resist the urge to add mileage on surrounding trails.
- Avoid the crowds by making this an early- or late-season hike. Keep in mind Rampart Range Road is typically closed Dec. 1, April 1 and the lookout tower is only open to the public from mid-May to mid-September.
- You’ll find plenty of free camping along Rampart Range Road and other dirt roads in the area, though on weekends the noise of dirt bikes and ATVs will be your constant companion.
- Dogs are allowed but must be kept on-leash.
Recommended season(s): Late spring to fall.
–R. Scott Rappold