A challenging wilderness hike awaits avid outdoor enthusiasts just outside the Colorado Springs city limits. Beautiful rock formations, including the magnificent Dome Rock mountain itself, pristine streams and wildlife within the huge park are sure to delight hikers of all ages and ability. Miles of trail provide the opportunity for short hikes or day long treks through the Pike National Forest near Divide, Colorado west of Colorado Springs.
The long loop out past and around the Dome Rock is rated moderate to difficult. There are no technical climbs required and no massive ascents, but multiple stream crossings and a ten plus mile distance could be extremely challenging to many hikers. The streams crossings aren’t deep or dangerous in the summer months, but there are several of them and if you want to see the entire park, you are going to get wet feet. From the trail head there are two ways to approach the course. My recommendation is to park in the lower parking lot and head down the trail to the west, which takes you on a counter clockwise loop around the Dome Rock. This route travels along some nice open space with nice views of the rock formations and the stream and some beaver ponds.
The trail is a steady downhill slope all the way to the west end of the Dome Rock before it begins to rise for the return trip. It is here that the best views of the Dome Rock are seen from the southwest end of the area. From there the trail becomes more difficult and passes through magnificent aspen stands along a small stream. Eventually the trail becomes steep for a couple of miles and the climb strenuous. Do not underestimate the time and distance on this section, the trail seems to climb forever. Finally about when you are wondering if you are even on the right trail you will crest the ridge and turn to the north along the top with some nice views of Pikes Peak and the Crags rock formations. Finally after another couple more miles you will encounter the long descent back to the parking lot through the pine forest of the Pike National Forest.
Be sure to bring along plenty of food and water for this hike. The full loop can take anywhere from four to seven hours depending on your conditioning and need for rest stops. A filter pump is useful on this trip as there are many opportunities to stop and fill water bottles from the streams, which will definitely help with the amount of liquids you will need to pack in. Sun screen is also a good idea in the summer months as much of the hike will put you in direct sunlight. Watch for wildlife along the trail, you might see bighorn sheep, mule deer, bear, coyote and fox and an abundance of smaller mammals and birds.
To reach the park take Highway 24 through Woodland Park to the small town of Divide. Turn south on Highway 67 there and drive several miles past Mueller State Park. Begin looking for Four Mile Road on the right side once past Mueller. Veer to the right on the paved road, which quickly becomes a dirt road. Drive about two miles on the dirt and look for the signs indicating the Dome Rock Trail head.