From Interstate 25 north of Colorado Springs, it appears as a white spire, a thumb poking from the distant greenery, like a bell tower calling congregants to the base of Mount Herman. A closer look reveals Monument Rock to be not just vertical but wide, like a castle wall pocked with quartz and feldspar that shimmers in the sunlight.

Monument residents identify with the rock. It’s used for the logo of the Friends of Monument Preserve, the guardians of this colorful mosaic tucked between downtown and the broader Pike National Forest.

The advocates display information on the post at the popular Mount Herman trailhead parking lot. Facing that post, look right for the path running into the woods. That’s where the trip to this great monolith begins.

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Paralleling the road, the trail feels wild, running thin and tight between tall trees. In a half-mile, it veers left over a berm. The trail spills out to a dirt road and the headquarters of the Pike Hotshots, the wildfire fighting crew. Go left at the road, coming to the gate, where to the right the trail heads back into scrub oak.

Soon the trail drops and the woods clear, revealing the foothills rolling south to Cheyenne Mountain. Bend around, and suddenly Monument Rock emerges, straight ahead. Beside it is a reflection pond, another pleasant surprise.

Either go back the way you came or, if you don’t mind exploring more unsigned trails, opt for the path trending northeast of the rock through the valley.

Less than a quarter-mile, cross the road for the trail continuing against a row of conifers. You’ll soon come to a ‘T’. Go left, following a wide path that passes curious cobblestone ruins and other foundations. The trail briefly switchbacks up through woods, back to the parking lot.

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Trip log: 2.7 miles (loop), 360 feet elevation gain

Difficulty: Easy

Getting there: On I-25, take exit 161 for Monument and drive west on Second Street through downtown. At Mitchell Avenue stop sign, go left and drive a half-mile to the right turn for Mount Herman Road. Follow to trailhead parking lot on the left.

FYI: Hiking, biking, equestrians. Dogs on leash. Stay off muddy trails. Icy in winter; use traction.

SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE

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