With the dog days in full swing, summer starts to drag. How about visiting a new crag for a little pick-me-up? Located in the Pike National Forest, near Sedalia, Devil’s Head is a hidden climbing area gem with over 1,000 routes scattered across 100 crags, spires and walls—all hidden only an hour from downtown Denver.
The sheer number and variety of climbs here make Devils Head one of Colorado’s, and arguably the country’s, most impressive granite sport areas (with some trad routes thrown in). Even though it’s a short drive from Denver and Colorado Springs, it’s nestled deep in the Rampart Range, so it feels more remote than it is. You’ll camp among the pines and ramble directly to the crags from your site.
The climbs at Devil’s Head deliver something for everyone with steep walls for vets, lower angle routes and multi-pitch options—and spectacular panoramas. The granite here isn’t just slabby (although you will find plenty of face climbing if that’s your thing); it’s also rife with complex roofs, cracks, hearty hand holds and jugs. Plus, locals are continually establishing new routes here, too, so you’ll always find novel challenges.
The Visionaries Behind Devils Head: In 1993, Tod Anderson bolted the area’s first line, “Private Idaho” (5.11a), located on the Headstone formation. Ever since, a devoted team of climbers, including Anderson and his son Gordon, Scott Sills, Todd Leeson, Derek Lawrence, Paul Heyliger, Tom Rossbach, Dan Godshall and Mike Carrington, have continually established new gems throughout the six-square-mile area.
Getting Here: From Denver, take Highway 85, or South Santa Fe Drive, for 10 miles to State Highway 67 in Sedalia. Turn right, and after 10 miles, turn left on Rampart Range Road (Forest Road #300). Follow it south for 9 miles to the main Devil’s Head fire-tower trailhead. Or continue to mile marker 10 or 13 for access to the Lower West Side. A short walk/drive north along Jackson Creek Road reaches the southeastern access point.
When To Go: The Forest Service typically keeps the Rampart Range Road gate open from April to the first weekend in December.
Learn More: Pick up the guidebook Rampart Range Rocks by Tod Anderson. Published in 2010, it covers 400 routes in the East Valley, West Valley, Lower West Side and Radio Head. But something new is always on scene at Devil’s Head. Route developers estimate they put up 50 to 100 new routes each year here. Stay up to date with this digital climbing guide: rakkup.com/guidebooks/south-platte-devils-head-rock-climbing
With so many must-dos, and more being added every day, it’s tough to recommend just a few, but here’s a rundown of walls and routes to please everyone.
Newbies and novice leaders will appreciate this well featured, 50-foot wall in the lower West Valley that features six fun routes, all easier than 5.10.
This rock buttress located west of Devil’s Gate offers numerous easy to moderate (5.6 to 5.10) routes that reward climbers with stunning vistas of the Rampart Range. Try the eponymous “Slabulous” (5.7), a gratifying, well-bolted, two-pitch climb that scales 165-feet of superb granite.
This imposing 250-foot west-facing yellow wall is one of the area’s classic crags. Scale the longest continuous stretch of the Headstone via “Remote Control” (5.10a, 2 pitches, 240 feet). One of the first lines put up on this wall, it begins on a slab, but then carries you to an overhang and arête that add excitement and challenge. And, don’t miss “Topaz” (5.10c, 2 pitches, 220 feet), The Headstone’s prize route, known for its chicken heads, layaways and a small roof that requires a big move.
(5.11a, 2 pitches, 120 feet)
Located on the newly developed Passageway Wall, this route requires scaling an unrelenting vertical face to reach a slender granite summit spire that delivers a bird’s eye view of Denver.
(5.11b 1 pitch, 80 feet)
Climb an overhanging, angled dihedral on this must-do route located on the Lower West Side’s Chicken Head Ranch. Get ready for sustained, varied, techy moves that require as much mental focus as they do physical ability.
“The Devil’s Own Stone”
(5.11d, 1 ptich, 70 feet)
This route on Devil’s Gate, one of the area’s best new crags, requires climbers push through several cruxes to reach the top of a stunning wall. It’s a hard single-pitch climb but it’s littered with enough crimps and nubs to support a sustained effort.
(5.12a, 1 pitch, 90 feet)
The favorite climb on Starcastle, the highest crag here, “Elliptical Seasons” follows a stunning seam on a glorious yellow-and-red wall. The route—which delivers a mix of crack and face climbing, and requires some reach-y moves—demands constant effort from start to finish. There’s even a final tricky move to reach the anchor.