This week's hike will take you to some of the more remote reaches of both Mueller State Park and Dome Rock State Wildlife Area. Not only is it remote, it's quiet, and after the first mile and a half, you probably won't see anyone on this trail except maybe a hunter — or another reader of this column.
This hike is nearly 9 miles and has a bit of everything — treelined trails, valleys, an old ranch and grand vistas. Starting at the Rock Pond trailhead at the east end of the Mueller State Park Visitors Center parking lot, follow the trail for approximately 1.6 miles and then bear left onto connector Trail #44 that goes to the border of Dome Rock State Wildlife Area and the start of the 4 Mile Overlook Trail.
You'll pass through two gates a short distance apart and at the fork approximately 2.25 miles in, turn left onto the Hammer Homestead Trail. At about 3 miles, you'll drop into a small valley and the remnants of the Hammer Homestead. The trail continues through the homestead and up the other side of the valley, where it follows a ridgeline. At about 4.25 miles, start a steep descent and at the bottom of the hill, turn right onto the Cabin Creek Trail. Follow it around a pond, and into another valley, where it bends to the left and goes uphill. At the top of the valley, at about 5.5 miles, turn right onto the 4 Mile Overlook Trail, which descends a little before starting back uphill, with "uphill" defining the rest of the hike. At approximately 6.6 miles, bear left where the trail meets the start of the Hammer Homestead Trail and retrace your steps to return to the visitors center parking lot,= for a total distance of approximately 8.9 miles.
I have created a route for this hike on COTREX. The hike is best when done clockwise, as outlined in the description above and the COTREX route I created.
Things to know: A Colorado State Parks daily or annual pass is required for Mueller State Park, and a hunting, fishing or State Wildlife Area permit, for each person 16 years of age or older, is required to do this hike. You can purchase passes for both areas at the Mueller State Park Visitors Center.
Dogs are not permitted anywhere on this hike and bikes are not allowed in Dome Rock (you can lock them up at the gate that separates Dome Rock and Mueller). No overnight camping is allowed on any of the trails on this hike, which, by the way, has 2,400 feet of ascent and descent.
Weather permitting, this hike is doable all year. Cell phone service is virtually nonexistent once you leave the visitors center parking lot. Tell someone where you're going and when you expect to be back.
Water and bathroom facilities are available at the visitors center when it's open. This is a long hike, so bring plenty of water, food and layers. Hunters may be present in Dome Rock State Wildlife Area, so wear bright colors, stay on the trail and keep the noise down. For the most part, the trails on this hike are wide and easy to follow.
To get there: From US Hwy. 24 and Colorado Hwy. 67 in Divide, turn south onto Hwy. 67 and follow it for about 4 miles to the well-marked entrance to Mueller State Park. Follow the entrance road to the top of the hill and turn left into the visitors center parking lot.
Be Good. Do Good Things. Leave No Trace.