Devils Head Fire Lookout, CO 2022
Devils Head Fire Lookout, CO 2022

Devils Head Fire Lookout, CO 2022

Devils Head Fire Lookout Tower, CO

This site was home to the country’s first female fire lookout and is still staffed today! The trail to the lookout is an extremely popular day hike, due in no small part to the incredible views from the top.

PROJECT PARTNER: Pike-San Isabel National Forest

SESSION DATES: June 5-10, June 12-17, June 19-24, and June 26 – July 1st.

PROJECT SUPERVISOR: Reid Saunders

CREW LEADER: Brittany Vallene

Project Site Description & History

The Devils Head Fire Lookout was established in 1912, and its original tower was built in 1919. In this same year, massive changes were taking place across the world. The Treaty of Versailles officially ended WWI, and in the United States, women gained the right to vote, Prohibition was enacted, and more than 25 race riots were held across the country that summer – the Chicago Race Riots being the most severe. The country at the time was also finally recovering from the 1918 H1N1 pandemic.

During that time in the Pike-San Isabel National Forest, several improvements were being made. The road up to Pikes Peak (14,110′) was completed in 1915, and tourists flocked to the opportunity to drive up this “fourteener.” Wildfire and land management practices continued to improve, and constructing and staffing fire look out towers like Devils Head was part of a larger Forest strategy.

Today, fire management technology has largely surpassed the need for historic fire lookouts like Devils Head. Many lookout towers have been torn down, turned into overnight rentals, or left in states of disrepair. Devils Head, located at the top of the Rampart Range, is unique in that it is still staffed and cared for by the Forest and partner organizations like HistoriCorps.

The jagged Rampart Range is included in the traditional homeland of the Cheyenne and Ute Nations. It is incredibly popular for climbing, mountain biking, and motor sports, especially OHVing and dirt biking, as well as shooting sports including archery and riflery. Its unique topography attracts a high number of lightning strikes that can cause fires, and given the recreational uses in this area, human-caused wildfires are spotted regularly. The complex wrinkles and folds of the landscape make it difficult for computerized fire detection systems to accurately pinpoint new fires, so to this day, we rely on human fire lookouts to spot blazes.

In 2020, volunteers repaired and restored nineteen windows at the lookout. In 2022, we’ll turn our attention to the signature stairs that carry the weight of hundreds of visitors every year. The views on this project will be unforgettable!

From our campsite near Devils Head Trailhead, volunteers will hike 1.4 miles (45-60 minutes) to the base of the lookout, then climb 143 stairs to the cab at the top of a rock. This is a moderately strenuous hike.

Those with an average level of fitness will be able to manage this hike and stair climb, but those with a fear of heights will be challenged!

This iconic cab holds both historic and modern significance.

Location and Logistics

SESSION DATES:  June 5-10, June 12-17, June 19-24, and June 26 – July 1st. Please plan to arrive at our campsite no earlier than 5pm and no later than 7pm on the first day of your session.

LOCATION:  We will be camping at the Devils Head Campground and hiking up to the lookout daily. It is 1.4 miles one-way and includes 950 feet of elevation gain. There are 143 stairs to reach the lookout. Those coming from lower elevations should plan to spend a day or two in Denver to acclimate before attempting this moderately strenuous hike which ends at more than 9,700 feet of elevation.

ACCESS:    Tent camping only

Tents, truck campers, and campervans can access this site. There are no hookups and the ground may not be perfectly level. There are no showers.

WEATHER:  Anticipate highs in the 80s and lows in the 40s. Weather conditions may be rainy, cloudy, or sunny. Volunteers are responsible for checking weather conditions before their session begins, and packing appropriately.

ABOUT VOLUNTEERING:HistoriCorps projects are free for volunteers! HistoriCorps will provide all meals, tools, training, equipment, and a campsite. Volunteers are responsible for their own transportation to the campsite, sleeping equipment, work gloves, clothes and boots, and other personal gear.

Scope of Work

PHYSICAL DIFFICULTY:  

HistoriCorps is committed to educating and training volunteers in preservation skills, with an overarching mission of inspiring a preservation ethic in all those involved. Learning and working alongside expert HistoriCorps field staff, volunteers will learn the skills necessary to restore the fire lookout’s stairs, cab exterior, and spruce up the lookout’s cabin. This project has a severe rating due to the daily hike of 1.4 miles each way with an elevation gain of 950 feet (one-way), a work site elevation of almost 10,000 feet,  and required climbing of 143 stairs. Volunteers will also need to carry personal drinking water and food in addition to carrying materials up to the worksite.

  • Wooden stair tread replacement – 35%
  • Stain all stair treads – 15%
  • Scrape and paint failed sections of paint on lookout tower – 15%
  • Minor carpentry repairs to lookout tower – 10%
  • Apply wood preservative/polyurethane to lookout’s cabin below tower – 20%
  • Minor carpentry repairs to lookout’s cabin below tower – 5%
Please note: Tasks vary by day and by week, depending on a variety of factors including: weather, project priorities, previous groups’ work, and more. Though it is likely you will get to learn and practice most or all of the above tasks, it is not guaranteed. The higher percentage of the scope a particular task is, the more likely you will get to practice it.

Sign Up!

We’re thrilled this project has inspired you to volunteer! Choose your session and register below:

You will know your registration was successful when you receive a confirmation email. Contact volunteer@historicorps.org for assistance.

HistoriCorps does not charge for its volunteering projects. HistoriCorps relies on donations to continue engaging volunteers to save significant historical sites across America for generations to come. Your donation of any amount will make an incredible difference! Increase your impact – make a generous gift today.

Volunteer Logistics, Policies, and Advice

We’re so glad you’re interested in joining this project! If you’re new to our community, review the Volunteer FAQ first! Please note the following logistics and policies:

  • HistoriCorps is committed to keeping our volunteers, staff, and project communities safe. All volunteers will be required to affirm that they will be fully vaccinated from the Covid-19 virus by the time their project begins. Read our Covid protocols here (updated October 2021).
  • Volunteering with HistoriCorps is free! We will provide all meals, tools, training, equipment, and a campsite or shared indoor lodging. Dinner is not provided on the first night.
  • Volunteers are responsible for bringing their own gear, work gloves, sturdy work clothes and boots, and appropriate sleeping equipment. Check the average temperatures before you start packing – the nights and mornings may be colder than you anticipate! Then, read this advice about how to stay warm when tent camping in colder places.
  • Campsite accessibility varies by project. Some projects can accommodate tents only; others can accommodate small RVs. Please review the project site description above for more information, and if you’re still not sure, email volunteer@historicorps.org for help.
  • If this project does not offer showers, you might want to consider bringing a solar shower or research other methods to clean up after the work day.
  • Volunteer crew sizes generally range from 4-8 volunteers, with two HistoriCorps staff that lead and train volunteers in the work.
  • Safety is one of HistoriCorps’ top priorities, and volunteers can contribute to a safe working environment by ensuring their physical fitness is adequate for the work. See above for this project’s scope of work and difficulty level. Please, call us if you are not quite sure if a project is a good fit for your skills or fitness level. We may be able to suggest a project more suitable and enjoyable for you.
  • Hard hats, eye protection, ear protection, gloves are standard personal protection equipment (PPE) required on all projects. Hard hats must be worn at all times on the project site, unless working in a designated safe space. Field staff will train volunteers on correct use of PPE.
  • Dogs are generally allowed to accompany their humans in project campsites (actually, we love having dogs join us around the campfire!). Dogs are not permitted on the job site for everyone's safety. HOWEVER: HistoriCorps also follows the rules and regulations of our project partner. If the project partner does not permit dogs onsite then HistoriCorps is no exception. Please ask HistoriCorps or the project partner directly if you have any questions about whether Fido is welcome.