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Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

Dome Rock Loop

Great hike in the Teller County wilderness, just west of Colorado Springs

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    This guide contains photos
 (6 votes, 4 reviews)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 11.0 miles / 17.7 km
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly
 
Overview: Rising 800 ft above the 4 Mile Creek valley floor, Dome Rock is the quintessential Colorado destination. Adjacent to Meuller State Park, just south of Divide and north of Cripple Creek, you can hike here from mid-July to the end of November. This area is restricted because it is one of the few areas where Big Horn Sheep drop and nurture their lambs. You can travel this area on foot (with or without snowshoes, depending on the weather) or on horseback. No mountain bikes and no DOGS.

If you like variety, you’ll find it on this hike: wild flowers (in late July/early August), Aspen forests, beaver ponds, massive granite rock formations, views of the central Rocky Mountains, quiet streams and rushing creeks. Because it takes 5-6 hours to complete the 11 mile loop (depending on how often you stop for pictures, or how much exploring you do along the way), you may have the opportunity to experience the delight of Colorado blue skies and the drama of roiling clouds in one glorious day.

I recommend that for your first trip, you allow plenty of time. I also recommend you begin your loop from the south parking lot trailhead. Most of the UP is on the way out to the dome, especially if you take the side trail up to the lookout via the Twisted Pine Nature Trail. If you don’t want to do the loop, you can begin from the north parking lot, hiking out and back. This would shorten the hike by about a mile and reduce the amount of climbing involved (but it will also reduce your ability to see the panorama of the central Rockies). For this out and back hike, cross the bridge and then stay on the north side of 4 Mile Creek (unless you’re on horse back; horses must use the stream crossings and the trail engineered for them).

You’ll note in the Points of Interest that I have marked the stream crossing locations as X-1, X-2, etc., numbering them from the dome back toward the trailhead. There are no bridges. So if you don’t want to get your feet wet, watch for the small trails leading off into the brush along the creek. These will keep you on the north and west side of the creek all the way out to the dome, or all the way back from the dome. If do the loop, you must cross the creek just west of the dome. Again, no bridge here; take off your shoes and wade across — the bottom is sandy.

Directions:
Drive west from Colorado Springs in US Hwy 24 to Divide, CO. Go south on State Hwy 67, approximately 6 miles to Teller Co Rd 61 (4 Mile Rd) — this dirt road goes of at an angle as the main hwy cuts left. In 1.8 miles you’ll see a sign on the right indicating the trailhead for the Dome Rock hike. Drive down this road. There are two parking area; the south lot will put you closer to the start point, the north lot will leave you near the end. The toilet is on the edge of the south lot.


Tips: 1. Take plenty of water, or water purification equipment.
2. Take snacks; 11 miles will demand a lot of energy.
3. While the most dramatic photos can be taken in the late afternoon, dangerous weather also tends to arrive at that time as well. Be aware.

Points of Interest

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Trailhead

The Colorado Department of Wildlife has done an excellent job of maintaining this trailhead. There is plenty of parking space. The north lot has three large boards highlighting the flora and fauna that you might observe on the trail. Both lots have trail maps of the dome area and its connections to Mueller State Park. The granite formation at the trailhead provides a good preview of what you’ll encounter along the way.
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Nature Trail

Twisted Pine Trail
About a tenth of a mile along the trail, you’ll come to the Twisted Pine Trail sign. This 1.5 mile, up and back, trail takes you up 400 ft to a magnificent view of the dome to the west and Sentinel Point to the east. Along the way, you’ll encounter some trees that would make Dr. Seuss laugh. The CDOW has excellent signage along the way explaining the how and why. This trail and a short walk along 4 Mile Creek would make an excellent one hour “get acquainted” introduction if you don’t have time for the entire loop.
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Aspen Forest & Flowers

Along the path toward the first major turn, enjoy the wild flowers that grow in profusion beside Willow Creek. Small, pale purple bells never turn their faces to the sun, while the yellow potentilla and purple aster can’t get enough of it. A little over a mile along the trail, you’ll turn out of the Willow Creek vale and into a forest of shimmering Aspen. The feeling that your breath has been taken away is not just from the start of your ascent.
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Spring Creek Turn

At the top of the hill, you’ll turn right and follow the trail for another 1.1 miles, past the Sand Creek Trail sign, to the Big Horn Sheep warning and Spring Creek Trail signs. Along the way, you can look back, again, at Sentinel Point, and then westward toward the central Rockies. Spring Creek is fed by dozens of smaller streams along the way. It rarely shows itself, but you can hear it gently flowing beside the path. The nature of the forest changes here because the amount of moisture allows for more undergrowth and mushrooms the size of dinner plates.
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War Party Rock

War Party Rock is the first large granite terrain feature you’ll reach about half way down the Spring Creek Trail. It rises up about 400 ft above the trail on your right as you walk along. About .3 miles after the turn onto Spring Creek Trail, there is a small trail that goes up to the “War Party Overlook.”
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Dome Rock

Spring Creek Trail allows you to sneak up on Dome Rock. You approach from the east and first catch a glimpse of the south face of the massif. It’s like seeing a bald man’s head from the rear quarter — no facial features visible. As you continue west toward 4 Mile Creek, more and more of details come into view. Finally, as you stand at the creek ford, you look back on the full face. It still has no whiskers of any kind, but the wrinkles and folds might remind you of your grandfather.
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First Crossing (X1)

This is the first and only time (if you follow my GPS track) you’ll cross the creek. The creek here is the lowest elevation of the entire hike, 8240 ft. From here the track rises gently all the way back to the trailhead. If you were to turn south here and follow the creek for another three miles or so, you’d arrive at the northern tip of Mt Pisgah Reservoir.
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X2

Second creek crossing site. The main trail (required for horses)goes to the south side of the creek for a while. The hiking trail on the north side is narrow, but quite passable. In a few places you'll be walking through dense vegetation along the creek bottom.
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X3

Another creek crossing possibility. Use only if you want to walk on a wider trail or if you have horses. Picture is not of the crossing itself; just to let you see some of the activity along the way.
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X4

Back across the creek ....
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Crossing (X5) & Jackrabbit Lodge

According to one source, in 1904, a prominent Cripple Creek Banker, John Delano Husted, incorporated the Crescent Cattle Company to purchase grazing land from Divide to the Four Mile area. He sold stock to religious ministers in the Boston area who would visit the ranch in the summer at an elaborate cabin called the Jack Rabbit Lodge. Rumor was that Teddy Roosevelt was a guest during a hunting trip to the Pikes Peak area. The ruins of Jackrabbit Lodge are all that remain after it burned to the ground in the 1940’s, leaving only the stone chimney and part of the foundation. Note the rock in the stream: observe the high water mark.
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X6

Across again.
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Beaver Complex

Four Mile Creek has carved a wide valley at this point along the trail. Beavers have helped sustain it by building dams that have created small lakes. Today the creek runs wide of the beaver habitat, continuing to carve out new twists and turns. Just east of the beaver ponds you will encounter some of the roughest water in the creek as it drops down the steepest part of the canyon. At this point the trail begins to widen from a single track to a path about six feet across. Historians tell us this used to be a stagecoach road. Stop here and imagine, if you can, what it would be like to be heading west along this “road” on your way to spend a few days at Jackrabbit Lodge in the early 1900s.
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X7

Last crossing point. This one is particularly deceptive in that it looks as though you'll need to cross it to get back to the trailhead. Not so. Stay on the trail north of the creek until you reach the small foot bridge near the parking lot.
Pictures in this guide taken by: dougknighton
Reviews
cheldric
This is one of the prettiest moderate hikes I've done in Colorado. (I've lived here 26 years, have backpacked, rock climbed, and climbed a bunch of 14'ers.) If you have out of state company this time of year - this is the place to bring them.

As FullerMedia said - wear long pants as it can get brushy. Definitely do the loop clockwise if you're planning on doing the whole loop. We parked in the north lot - then headed south. We only needed to do one creek crossing at the west end of the loop. The trails to avoid the creek crossings as you're headed back east along the north side of the loop were easy to find - and rise on the side of the hill enough to give you good views of the beaver ponds.

We completed the loop in 5 1/2 hours. That was with numerous stops for photos and a lunch break.

Visited on Aug 09, 2014

by cheldric on Aug 10, 2014
FullerMedia
Scenic, moderate hike with plenty to look at and enjoy. The trail was varied, we liked the different types of flowers and birds. Nothing technical, but some bushwhacking was in order as we followed our guide's suggestion to stay north of the creek on the way back. We started at 7:30 a.m. and were back at the car at 1:00 p.m., stopping for about 25 minutes to eat on a rock overlooking the dome (after the first creek crossing, which I didn't need to remove my boots to make).

Only a couple of trails are marked - bring a GPS or detailed map. Hiking poles help with the downhill. You might benefit from long pants - some prickly vegetation along the way. All in all, a fine way to spend the day!

Visited on Jul 29, 2014

by FullerMedia on Jul 29, 2014
MartySharty
feels good to be back in Colorado
this was an easy hike, too easy, but the scenery was beautiful!
great for pets and kids....
Headed up north to the National Forest, stay tuned.

Visited on Jun 27, 2013

by MartySharty on Jun 26, 2013
dagmar.thompson@me.com
We hiked the trail in reverse order. I can understand why if you had to do this portion of the hike at the end, you would not make it. We found the trail to be beautiful. The Aspen groves were wonderful. There are raspberry bushes everywhere. My only negative comment is that the trails are poorly marked. As a result we made several wrong turns and had to back track. You will want to bring lots of water and be ready to work through some water.
Visited on Jul 20, 2012

by dagmar.thompson@me.com on Jul 23, 2012

Dome Rock Loop Trail Map


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About the Author

dougknighton
dougknighton
30 guides
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Retired Air Force Chaplain who began military life as an Airborne Ranger. Evidently I didn't get enough...

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