Thank the Muellers for this one!
Overview: The Muellers were ranchers near the Colorado Springs area. They bought up land with the intention of turning it into a wildlife preserve. In 1978 the Muellers sold the land and two parks were created: 5,000 acres of land was turned into Mueller State Park and 7,000 into Dome Rock State Wildlife Area. The Rock pond to Werley loop trail passes through both preserves. This trail provides excellent viewing opportunities for both flora and fauna, as well as some of the area's history and views of some of Colorado Highest peaks. From the trail head one can see Pike's Peak to the east, the collegiate peaks to the west, and Mt. Elbert, Colorado's highest point at 14,443 ft to the northwest. By starting early in the morning, one can take advantage of the opportunity to see some of the local wildlife: golden eagles, red-tailed hawk, turkey vultures and great horned owls are known to frequent the area. Some of the areas mammals include elk, mule deer, mountain lions, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, and black bears! As you pass by the aspens, keep an eye out for marks made by elk with their lower teeth. Black bears also climb these trees and scratch them to mark their territory! Although the park is open year round, the trails in and around Dome Rock State Wildlife area are closed from Dec.1 to July 15 to protect the bighorn sheep population.
The Hike: The loop begins as Rock Pond trail #5 in Mueller State Park with a walk through some pines, firs, and aspens. As it is a particularly wet area there is a lot of moss on the ground and growing on trees. Old Man's beard is seen in large patches growing on the pines. After two miles you cross the hunting boundary. The park advises visitors to wear brightly colored clothing to be sure hunters can see you in the area. There is a short side trip to brook pond at about two miles in where one can see large slabs of granite reflecting in the water. Shortly after the brook pond you'll come to rock pond. The Werley's built these ponds to irrigate the meadows below. After the ponds cross into Dome Rock Wildlife Area and you'll walk along a creek in a grassy meadow with plenty of wildflowers. The trail gets briefly becomes slightly harder to find at this point. At about 3 miles in you'll see turkey cabin just to your right. The Snare family built this cabin sometime in the late 1800's or early 1900's. When the Muellers bought the land they used it to acclimate and reintroduce wild turkeys. Shortly after turkey cabin you com to a marked fork in the trail. Take the Werley Ranch trail to the left on this trail you pass by Werley ponds as you approach the ranch houses built around the 1930's. There is even a two hole outhouse! From the ranch turn left on Cabin Creek trail. This trail is also marked with a sign. Sheep rock is the large rock to your right at 9,410 ft. You'll pass through more aspens on your way to Fourmile Overlook Trail, an old road. This road connects you back with Rock Pond trail #5 and back to the trailhead.
Warning: This is Black Bear Country! Be sure to take proper precautions and educate yourself on the dangers of hiking in bear territory.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.