Location: Monument, CO
Distance from Denver: 54 miles (~1hr) ♡ ♡ ♡
Hike: ~2 mi RT ♡ ♡ ♡
Difficulty: Moderate ♡ ♡
Parking Situation: Small lot ♡
Parking Fee: N/A
This is such a little known gem of a hike! Be forewarned, however, that the drive to the trail head was a bit of an adventure! We plugged in Mt. Herman trail head into our GPS and sped down to Monument, CO like it was any normal hiking day & wound up in this aptly named parking lot:
Like any rational person, we thought that this meant it was the start of the hike and so we started hiking into the forest. About 5 minutes in, we quickly realized something was wrong because we had read the trail was only 2 miles but the mountain that we were supposed to climb seemed farther away. So we looked back at the map on the All Trails App and saw that, NO, we were not in the right place. EEK! So to get to the right place, here is what to do: when you see this sign, do not turn left into the lot! Rather, keep going straight until the paved road turns into dirt, and then make your way up Mt Herman until you see the parking lot on the side that looks like this:
As you can see, space is pretty limited but we didn't have a hard time trying to park. Within a few minutes, a family left the lot so we were able to take their spot. Parking is challenging here because you are literally on a narrow road on the side of the mountain, so just keep that in mind and be patient for a spot! The upside to limited parking, then, is that we had the trail relatively to ourselves! We saw about 4 other groups in total, which was great because without them it would have seemed extremely remote and desolate!
The hike starts through this overgrown forest that seems pretty unassuming ...
But then it opens up into this GORGEOUS field of flowers that was teeming with butterflies and bees! We have literally never seen SO many before in one small area and spent a good 15 minutes taking pictures of, and literally chasing, butterflies! Happy place for sure!
Like how beautiful are they?! Enjoy this peace because the rest of the trail is a bit of a challenge. It is very slippery (loose dirt) and has a straight incline for the next two segments (if you hike it, you'll see what we mean) so if you have hiking poles, it may come in handy for this portion. We tried finding exposed tree roots and used that as "steps" to both ascend and descend.
It doesn't look as steep or slippery in the pictures, but trust us it really is!
The views during the actual hike are quite muted and nothing to write home about. Past the two main inclines and then a relatively flat trek back into the forest, it becomes a steep rocky ascent. It seemed to us that the path used to be an old water bed! Watch your footing on this part of the trail and follow the cairns up!
At a certain point after this, you'll find a tree with a red ribbon tied to it. It marks a fork in the trail and lucky for us, we saw another group go the wrong way and double back just in time for us to follow them. When you see this tree, stay right and then you'll see another tree with a yellow ribbon on it. Cairns no longer mark the trail, but these ribbons do!
Once you are past the ribbons, you are in the home stretch of the hike! And boy is it well worth the effort! The views open up to a stunning vista overlooking the city of Monument (straight), the city of Larkspur (to the left) and the Air Force Academy (to the right)!
It is hard to describe in words how you feel when you're on the ledge. You can see the little road that you drove up, and then to realize how tiny it looks from ~1000 feet above!? So crazy. According to All Trails, you are supposed to be able to see Kansas on a clear day. I'm not too sure about that, but you can see pretty far! Brandon just absolutely LOVED being on top of the ledge. I know from being married to him how much he adores Google Maps (and maps in general) and swear if he could be any other creature it would likely be a bird so he could have a bird's eye view (pun unintended) of the entire world!
We stopped here for a bit to eat our snacks and take turns trying to name the different parts of town that we could see....this is, before we were interrupted by this little guy!
I think he wanted some company for his afternoon snack! We're with you little guy! :)
Believe it or not, the ledge pictured above is not the end of the hike. You can literally go higher, but we don't think that the views are worth it. Brandon scrambled up a rock path, and can attest that while you can see Pikes Peak, it is not as majestic so far away. We would recommend skipping the last bit of the hike up, but totally decide for yourself!
Either way, this hike is quite the hidden gem & we loved the quick hike to (what felt like) the top of South Denver ♡
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