Devil’s Head Fire Tower


This weekend’s hiking trip location was chosen to avoid the awful Sunday traffic on I-70.  I picked a spot relatively close to the Denver metro area in the foothills just southwest of Sedalia.  Devil’s Head is a rock formation on which is situated the last working fire lookout tower on the front range.

Since I had never visited this particular area I was surprised to find a navigation app routed me to the south of the trail head instead of the more direct route I expected.  Ignoring this red flag I followed the suggested route through Perry Park which turned into some of the worst forest service roads I’ve ever seen.  I was fortunate that it was daylight and not raining — otherwise I would not have attempted this road.  Even in good conditions I was concerned about “high-siding” my truck in a few spots while driving in 4×4 mode.

Devil's Head Trailhead
Devil’s Head Trailhead

Since it was Sunday I expected there to be quite a few people hiking this trail.  While the parking area had many vehicles it was not completely full.

We started up the trail and I immediately noticed signs that indicated dogs were to be on-leash only.  This contradicted several places online that said the trail was dog friendly.  Since the girls are pretty good about obeying my voice commands we ignored the sign.  I eventually put them on leash towards the top of the trail as we encountered a few families with their dogs, but by that point my dogs were tired and did not pull too much.

Around the first corner we encountered a large blowdown area.  According to a sign posted nearby this blowdown was the result of a EF-1 tornado that hit the area in July.

Yes, tornadoes can occur at high altitude — Devil’s Head
Yes, tornadoes can occur at high altitude — Devil’s Head
Fabi surveys the tornado damage at Devil’s Head
Fabi surveys the tornado damage at Devil’s Head
Tornado blowdown at Devil’s Head
Tornado blowdown at Devil’s Head

As we proceeded up the trail we did not meet very many people.  We made pretty decent progress in the surprisingly cool August weather.

My dogs were running back and forth along the trail, occasionally chasing squirrels and chipmunks along the way.  By the time we met the first group of people on the trail they were panting and happy.

The trail itself is not difficult.  The forest service has kept the trail wide and well-kept to accommodate the large number of people who visit.  There are many places where timber “steps” have been put in to assist hikers with the grade.  

At the top of the trail there is a pleasant flat area with two large benches and some shady trees.  There is also a cabin for the forest service lookout personnel.

The benches allow hikers to rest briefly before ascending the 143 steps to the fire tower.  One might have to wait here to allow some of the visitors already on the tower to descend to comply with the rules.

The steps themselves look daunting at first but are solidly built.  Using the handrails is extremely important at this altitude.

I told the dogs to head up the stairs ahead of me, partly to avoid them being directly underfoot. They went halfway up and decided to come back down again.

Once I convinced them to go up in front of me they ran to the top.  There are several direction changes on the stairs before reaching the top with a small area for viewing the surrounding area.  On a normal day the views must be amazing — on this day the smoke in the air from remote wild fires reduced the view to less than five miles.  There were a few people waiting to come down in this area so the dogs had to stop for adoration and being petted.  There is a narrow opening between some large boulders to traverse before reaching the actual tower.

When we climbed up to the observation deck around the tower the lookout ranger greeted the dogs and chatted briefly about the smoke and lack of viewing distance.  On good days he said you could see nearly one hundred miles to the east.  I will definitely return to this spot on a clear day.  


The lookout ranger also gave me a “completion” card for making it to the top of the tower trail.  I am now an official member of the Ancient and Honorable Order Of Squirrels. This is probably a big hit with the children  who are forced to hike with their families.

We did not linger too long at the top so that other hikers could ascend.  We headed back down the stairs where Lucy made more friends.

Fabi chased chipmunks for a while in the clearing at the bottom of the stairway before we headed back down.  This shady area would be ideal for a picnic and there are even vault toilets up there.

By the time we made it most of the way back to the trailhead Lucy decided she needed to cool off in a small stream.  Both dogs climbed into the water for a few minutes.

Lucy Plays In the Creek

The drive home was dusty but uneventful. All three of us napped for a few hours.

The trail is listed as 3.8 miles total but I tracked 5.7 myself.  There is about 1000 feet of elevation gain total.