Black Mountain P2K
Cougar Mountain P500
West Bears Ears Peaks P1K
East Bears Ears Peaks
McInturf Mesa

Jul 30, 2021

With: Eric Smith
Ingrid Dockersmith
Christian Giardina

Black Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile


With a long drive from Steamboat to our trailhead, we were up well before sunrise in order to start our hike by 7a. We were headed to the Elkhead Mtns in the NW corner of Colorado, with Black Mtn as our primary target, a P2K and the Moffat County highpoint. An easy ascent, we would fill out the day with a handful of other summits in the area before heading back to Steamboat.

Black Mountain

From Craig, CO, we drove north on SR13, then northeast on County Road 27, a well-graded dirt road that climbs 3,400ft into the Elk Mtns to reach the Black Mountain TH. The trail sign is dilapidated, hard to see on the drive, so it helps to know where you're going. The trail climbs 3mi through forest to reach the 10,860-foot summit. There was some downfall along the trail, suggesting the Forest Service had yet to do any maintenance on it yet this year, but it was mostly a minor inconvenience in a few places. We found an Andy Martin register from 2017 at the summit, with a nice view looking south through an opening in the forest. After leaving the summit, Eric and I took a short detour to visit the benchmark at the lower east summit where views looking north and east could be had. We then dropped steeply down the south-facing slope to return to the trail, eventually rejoining with Ingrid and Christian. It was 9:30a when we got back to the Jeep, making for a 2.5hr roundtrip effort.

Our plan was to do a more involved outing to a group of four summits a few miles north of Black Mtn, centered around Mt. Oliphant which caught my attention just for its name. We came to find the Forest Service was doing some road work in the area and had the access road closed a few miles from the Roaring Fork Slater Creek TH we planned to use. We drove past the Closed sign anyway, only to be immediately confronted by an active crew working on the road with no way across. We needed a new plan and went to the peakbagger app in search of alternatives.

Cougar Mountain

Alternatives were not hard to find, it turned out. We started with Cougar Mtn, about 4mi ESE of Black Mtn. We followed FR110 NNE to the northwest side of the forested mountain, getting within about 2/3mi. We used a combination of old logging roads (not shown on the topo map) and cross-country to make our way to the top in about 40min. The summit was buried in trees, but there was a register left by Alyson Kirk dated "6/19/22" (off by a couple of years, she meant to write "6/19/20"). John Kirk came by nine days later to do the same 4-peak outing that Alyson had done. On the return, the others went back via much the same route, while I took a more direct path using the GPSr. I had a bit more brush to contend with, so ended up only a few minutes ahead of the others back at the Jeep.

Bears Ears Peaks

This was the most interesting outing of the day, netting us two closely-spaced summits. We were able to drive the Jeep within half a mile of the higher west summit (a P1K) on the north side, and took all of about 15min to climb the steep talus slope to the top. There were no trees to block views on this one, and we enjoyed a longer stay to take them in. I wasn't much interested in the lower east (really, southeast) summit with little prominence, but Ingrid showed enough enthusiasm to convince Eric and I to join her. There was some easy class 3 scrambling off the east side of the west summit, then a walk through forest and along the north ridge of the east summit to reach its highpoint in about half an hour. It, too, had open views, but no register. We returned back along the North Ridge, then bypassed the west summit as we made a steep, descending traverse through forest and talus to return to the Jeep more directly. We found Christian relaxing in the shade of a tree nearby, collected him, and headed off.

McInturf Mesa

It was 1:30p when we finished up on Bears Ears, and about time to call it a day. On the drive back out to the highway, we stopped for one last minor summit that has very little prominence. It was easy enough that Christian decided to join us once again. This was the brushiest outing of the day, but thankfully short, taking less than 10min to reach a brushy summit with a large rock serving as the highpoint. We found its location to be northeast of the spot elevation on the topo map, at the eastern edge of the mesa. Views were somewhat limited by the surrounding forest and brush. On the way back, we followed a set of orange flagging that someone had installed, marking a somewhat less brushy route, but not really any faster than our ascent route.


Submit online comments or corrections about the story.

More of Bob's Trip Reports

For more information see these SummitPost pages: Black Mountain - Cougar Mountain - West Bears Ears Peaks

This page last updated: Wed Feb 2 17:50:09 2022
For corrections or comments, please send feedback to: