11.0 miles, Half day
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.
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.
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.