Peterson Ridge P300
Lewis Peak P300
Clark Peak P2K
Pipit Peak
Peak 12,386ft P500
Bull Mountain P500
Owl Mountain Lookout
Owl Mountain P1K

Sat, Aug 27, 2022

With: Eric Smith
Ingrid Dockersmith
Christian Giardina

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 GPX Profile


Christian and Ingrid own a rustic cabin a few hours drive from Steamboat Springs, in the southeast corner of Jackson County along Jack Creek. It is close to the western edge of the Never Summer Wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park. We planned to spend a few nights there, hiking peaks on the drive to and from the cabin, plus a full day in the Never Summer Mountains. Our main goal today during the drive to the cabin was Clark Peak, a P2K, the Rawah Wilderness HP and the highpoint of Jackson County.

Peterson Ridge

From Steamboat, we drove south and east on US40 across Rabbit Ears Pass, then northeast on SR14 into North Park, towards Walden. Peterson Ridge and Owl Ridge together run northwest to southeast across North Park, dividing it in half. Both are fairly low, only about 300ft above the surrounding plains. SR14 goes over Peterson Ridge, just east of the highpoint. Though she and Eric had both visited it previously, Ingrid suggested we should stop to allow Christian and I to claim the easy ascent. It is an easy drive-up with a 1-minute stroll to the highpoint. There are no trees nor shrubs and the rolling, grassy hills are heavily used for cattle grazing. A modest telecom installation is found there as well. Our visit was about 15min before sunrise as we had gotten a very early start on the drive due to concerns about weather later in the afternoon (that never really materialized).

Medicine Bow Mountains

This range lies on the boundary between Jackson and Larimer Counties, and forms the eastern boundary of North Park. The eastern side of the range is part of the Roosevelt National Forest while the west side forms the Colorado State Forest. Access is easiest from the west, and conveniently the side we approached from, heading southeast out of Walden on SR14. There is a $9 vehicle fee at the entrance to the state park. We left one vehicle at the TH for the Beaver Lodge Nature Trail and took the Jeep to the end of the rough Ruby Jewel Rd. It was 7:45a before we started off on the Ruby Jewel Trail.

Our route roughly followed that posted on PB by Ben Brownlee. The first half hour follows a good trail through forest, eventually breaking out into more open terrain on the way to Jewel Lake. The lake is nestled in a broad cirque below Lewis and Clark, and it is here that the trail ends. We left the lake to start the cross-country trek up to the crest shortly before 8:30a. It would take about half an hour to climb the grass and rock slope to reach the saddle between the two summits. We aimed left of the saddle to visit the lower Lewis Peak first, its upper half a confusion of large blocks piled upon each other and slowing progress. It would be almost 9:15a before the first of us reached the summit, the others arriving over the next ten minutes. There are fine views to be found, looking west across North Park, north along the crest of the Medicine Bow Range, east to Clark Peak and south down to Jewel Lake with the Never Summer Mountains in the far background. Christian started down almost immediately, wanting to get a jump on the traverse to Clark Peak, the rest of us leaving soon thereafter.

The traverse between Lewis and Clark is standard class 2, more of the same we had found in climbing to Lewis - a mix of rock and grass. It would take about 50min to travel between the two. A rock-lined bivy site and a benchmark are found at the summit, but no register on either Lewis or Clark. Views are similar to Lewis, with a better view looking east across the Roosevelt National Forest and the Rawah Wilderness. We headed south from the summit, following the spine of the range for more than an hour and a half. We went over informally named Pipit Peak on our way to the more prominent Peak 12,386ft with more than 500ft of prominence. The hike is a fairly easy one, almost entirely class 1-2 with stunning views off both sides of the ridge. Most impressive was the not-much-longer permanent snowfield on the northeast side of Pipet, much of it exposed ice that could make for a nice practice ice-climb. The only other person we would see while out hiking was found traversing below us on the west side of the ridge heading to Clark. It was nice to have almost the whole area to ourselves today. Peak 12,386ft had the only register we would find on the outing, looking like a generic version of the bland registers left by the CMC.

Eric had left us at the saddle between Pipet and Peak 12,386ft, returning back across the West Ridge of Pipet to descend the original drainage we'd started up in the morning. The last summit would put him over the edge, he worried, so wisely chose the conservative option. From the summit of Peak 12,386ft, the traverse back across Pipet's West Ridge seemed cumbersome and unnecessary. Why couldn't we just descend down Peak 12,386ft's West Ridge and then into the adjacent drainage? Our maps showed a trail running partway up the drainage, so we thought it should be easier to make use of it rather than so much side-hilling needed to get to the original drainage. And so we decided to try it. It worked nicely enough, initially down the class 2 ridgeline, then northwest into the drainage over mostly grassy terrain. It was a little brushy crossing the streambed to the north side, but we soon entered the forest and found ourselves following a use trail down the drainage. We found old cabin remains shortly before finding the old road now serving as an unmaintained trail. We followed this past more log cabin ruins, eventually joining up with the 4x4 road we had driven in on. It wasn't until it was pointed out that we had about half a mile to hike up the road to reach the Jeep that I realized why others had not used this drainage on descent. Not a big deal really, but a little unpleasant to be hiking uphill at the end of a long-ish outing. We finished up around 1:20p, finding Eric relaxing at the Jeep, reading his book. We got out some beers, piled our gear and ourselves into the Jeep and headed back down the rough road.

Bull Mountain

This was a bonus peak on our way out of the state forest. Eric and Ingrid had visited it the previous year, but suggested it on the drive to give Christian and myself a chance to tag it. The summit is found about a mile northwest of North Michigan Creek Reservoir. An OHV road forks off the main road. We tried one variation of the roads shown on the map, only to be stopped by a gate where a yurt has been installed for visitor use. On our second attempt, we found the road forking north from the reservoir to work nicely, taking us within a few hundred feet of the summit. The top of Bull Mtn had been extensively logged in the past few years, leaving much slash, a few standing trees, and as yet, little re-growth. It was a disappointing summit with no obvious highpoint, weak views, and much debris to trip over in the process. The only things it had going for it were the easy access and 500ft of prominence.

Owl Mountain

Owl Mtn is a P1K on the south side of SR14, a few miles from the state forest. Eric and Ingrid had been to this one as well the previous summer, but seemed happy enough for a second visit. It is mostly a Jeep driving exercise, though any vehicle with high-clearance should have no trouble. We drove first to the lookout site east of the highpoint. The lookout tower has been removed, leaving only the concrete footings. A small, solar-powered radio antenna now stands where the tower once stood. There are good views in most directions from the open summit. Another ten minutes of driving got us to the highpoint about a mile to the east, or nearly so. The forest road goes around the south side of the summit before heading northeast down the ridge on that side. A short hike of less than a quarter mile through the forest gets one to the summit with poor views. A Bob Martin register from 1996 was found, as expected. There had been only a single other visitor since Eric and Ingrid's visit a year ago. It was after 3:30p by the time we finished up back at the Jeep. We still had more than an hour of driving to get us to the cabin along Jack Creek some miles to the south, so after driving back down to where we'd left the other vehicle, we headed off in that direction...


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This page last updated: Tue Oct 25 11:15:00 2022
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