Google GPS coordinates:[masked], [masked] (The meetup map isn't quite right. Google maps knows where the Mt Herman trailhead is.)
Just west of Monument, a network of gentle trails at the foot of Mount Herman lets hikers ramble over charming terrain without worrying about steepness or too much snow.
To get there Take the Monument Exit (161) off Interstate 25 and drive west for a half-mile on Second Street to Mitchell Avenue. Turn left and drive 0.6 mile to Mount Herman Road. Turn right and drive 0.8 to Nursery Road. Turn left. A Forest Service parking lot is immediately on the right. (we will meet here)
The hike: The Monument Preserve is a rare finger of the Pike National Forest poking out below the foot of the mountains. The paths through meadows and ponderosa pine stands are pleasant any time of year, but because the relatively low elevation (7,000 feet) and open terrain keep the preserve snow-free when other trails around town are icebound, it's particularly nice in sometimes snowy April. Paths crisscross the forest. For a grand tour, from the trailhead start on the trail farthest to the right while facing the trailhead sign. The path climbs imperceptibly through the woods, closely paralleling Mount Herman Road. In 0.75, it reaches a graded dirt road. Turn left and go a few steps, then pick up the trail again on the right. About 1 mile from the trailhead, the path drops into an open meadow where the honey-colored spire of Monument Rock juts up over the scrub oak. A humble stock pond at its base, at 1.25 miles, acts as a reflecting pool. This is the halfway point and a good place for a break. The loop dallies up to the foot of the Monument. Before heading on, take a close look at the jumbled bits of quartz and feldspar pressed together to form the rock. This formation, called the Dawson Arkose, was molded from eroding bits of the ancestral Rockies that washed onto the plain about 55 million years ago. When you're ready to move on, take a trail directly southeast of the rock. It crosses a dirt road in less than a quarter-mile and continues straight ahead, through groves of pines, until the trail runs up against a fence and turns left. Follow the trail southeast down a gradual valley for more than a mile, ignoring a handful of paths cutting off to the left or right. Along the way, the path passes ruins of a stone root cellar. Eventually, it runs up against another graded dirt road (Nursery Road) and swings left and parallels the road for a few hundred yards back to the trailhead.
Details: bringing a leash is recommended (one part of the trail runs along the road)
Difficulty: easy to very light moderate
Mileage: probably about 3 miles
*If this is your first event with the group for 2014, please bring the $5 annual dues with you. It will be collected before the event starts.