(SOUTHERN COLORADO) — Whether you are new to the area or have heard it for years, the Palmer Divide is a common talking point in any Colorado weather forecast. Many of us are familiar with the Palmer Divide as the hill you drive over between Colorado Springs and Denver. But this area actually plays a bigger role, especially when it comes to our weather. 

Where is the Palmer Divide?

The Palmer Divide encompasses a large area on the Douglas -El Paso County line. 

It includes the foothills near Monument extending as far east as Limon and south including Black Forest. Cities and towns on the Palmer Divide include Parker, Castle Rock, Elizabeth, and Kiowa.

The Palmer Divide separates the Arkansas River drainage to the South and the Platte River Drainage to the North. Monument Hill, located in the Tri-Lakes area, is about 7,352 feet in elevation.

How does the elevation play a factor?

The highest point on the Palmer Divide is Bald Mountain, which sits at an elevation of over 7,881 feet in elevation. 

The lowest point lies at the Air Force Academy at roughly 6,600 feet in elevation.

From the highest point to the lowest, it’s a span of fewer than 15 miles and the elevation drops more than 1,000 feet.

This is a very large terrain feature especially when you compare Denver’s elevation of 5,200 feet and downtown Colorado Springs which sits at 6,000 feet.

Palmer Divide and our weather

The Palmer Divide creates its own weather patterns and can drastically change what weather we get across the Front Range. It plays a factor because of how the air sinks and rises around the ridge.

The Palmer Divide provides enough lift to enhance snow amounts during the winter. Parts of the Palmer Divide and the northern slopes of Pikes Peak can have 1-2 feet of snow with 5-8 foot drifts, while downtown Colorado Springs, less than 18 miles away, has only an inch or two of snow.

In the summer, the Palmer Divide helps to develop thunderstorms and is typically a prime target.

Depending on the depth and strength of a storm system, combined with an easterly flow, it may cause low-level wind and moisture convergence where the terrain begins to rise from the plains toward the mountains, helping to trigger thunderstorms during warmer months.