October 31, 2017 Slideshows » Columns

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Dome Rock Loop Hike 

Dome Rock State Wildlife Area, bordering the south side of Mueller State Park, has many hiking trails that are worth exploring. Due to big horn sheep that breed in the SWA, much of the area is off limits for almost eight months. I wrote about the 4 Mile Overlook trail a year or so ago, a hike that can be done year-round, but another hike, the Dome Rock Loop that goes out to the rock formation that gives the area its name, is only accessible from mid-July to the end of November.

Although it can be done either clockwise or counter-clockwise, I recommend clockwise, which avoids a couple miles of a long slog uphill. Due to a number of creek crossings without bridges and the large swaths of aspens on the south side of the loop, this hike is best done starting in mid-September, when the creek flows are low enough to cross and the fall colors are in full swing.

To get there: Take Highway 67 south from Highway 24 in Divide for 5 miles and turn right onto Teller County Road 61. Take County Road 61 for 3 miles to the well marked entrance to the Wildlife Area.
Bob Falcone
The entrance to Dome Rock SWA is well marked.
Bob Falcone
The road entering Dome Rock SWA. There is a parking lot straight ahead and another to the right. Although this loop can be done from either parking lot, I suggest doing it from the parking lot straight ahead.
Bob Falcone
As a state wildlife area, the rules are a little different than in most State Parks. Though not shown on this sign, note that bikes are not allowed in the area.
Bob Falcone
There are maps posted at each parking lot. These signs also indicate the part of Dome Rock that is closed from December 1st through July 15th each year. This loop goes clockwise, starting with the Willow Spring Trail, to the Spring Creek Trail, and returning on the Dome Rock Trail. Total distance is just under 11 miles.
Bob Falcone
The Willow Creek Trail starts to the right of the rules and map signs. All mileages noted in the following slides were measured with a GPS, and are approximate distances.
Bob Falcone
Although not listed on the big sign boards, the Twisted Pine Trail cuts off of the Willow Springs Trail, about .10 of a mile from the trailhead. For this loop hike, continue straight past Twisted Pine.
Bob Falcone
The Willow Creek Trail winds through a field and then into a wooded area, gradually increasing in elevation. At about .9 miles from the trailhead, the trail gets significantly steeper. At about 1.9 miles, the trail comes out of the wooded area and to this small landing. Make a sharp right for another .2 of a mile uphill section.
Bob Falcone
For approximately the next .9 of a mile the trail has a number of uphill and downhill sections. You can catch views of the distant Collegiate and Sangre de Cristo peaks.
Bob Falcone
At about 2.89 miles, the Sand Creek Trail cuts off to the right. From December 1 to July 15 you can't go past this point. To continue to Dome Rock, go straight ahead.
Bob Falcone
At about 3.2 miles, the Spring Creek Trail goes to the right. A sign here says this is where the seasonal closure starts, however, Colorado Parks and Wildlife says the closure does in fact start back at the intersection with the Sand Creek Trail. From here the trail goes downhill, and other than a few mild up-hill sections.
Bob Falcone
At 3.6 miles, pass the Dome Rock View Trail, on the left. The Dome Rock View Trail is an out-and-back trail to a nice, high viewpoint towards Dome Rock. This is a good hike if you don't want to do the entire loop, but still about a 10 mile round trip hike. Stay to the right here to continue on the loop.
Bob Falcone
At just under 6 miles, the trail breaks out of the woods into a large open meadow, with Dome Rock over your right shoulder. A little further on, at about mile 6.1, you'll encounter the first of five crossings of Four Mile Creek. About 500' after your first crossing of the creek, the Spring Creek Trail becomes the Dome Rock Trail.
Bob Falcone
Panorama looking back at Dome Rock where the Spring Creek Trail becomes the Dome Rock Trail.
Bob Falcone
There are no bridges at the creek crossings, and during the summer months I've encountered creek flows that were wide, high and fast, making late fall the best time to do this hike. You can cross the creeks by carefully rock-hopping or wading through the most shallow sections, but you will probably still get a little wet.
Bob Falcone
At about 7.75 miles, pass a sign with information about the purchase of land that makes up part of the SWA.
Bob Falcone
At about 8.6 miles, you'll pass the remains of the Jack Rabbit Lodge. Bear right to stay on the Dome Rock Trail. For the remaining 2.4 miles, keep Four-Mile Creek to your right. There is a steady but mild uphill section at about 10 miles, and at 10.8 miles you'll arrive at the west parking lot — a short walk to the south lot.
Bob Falcone
Once past the Jack Rabbit Lodge, the trail follows Four Mile Creek, which opens up into a wide meadow. With the right timing,you'll catch some nice reflections.
Bob Falcone
The Dome Rock loop. Start and end are in the upper right hand corner, and this route goes clockwise.
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Bob Falcone
The entrance to Dome Rock SWA is well marked.
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