The Sleeping Giant
Elk Mountain P1K
Peak 7,700ft P500
Deer Mountain P500
Howelsen Hill
Quarry Mountain P1K
West Quarry Mountain

Sun, Jul 25, 2021
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX Profiles: 1 2


Eric's niece and nephew were in town overnight, visiting with Mom, Dad and Uncle Eric, so I was own my own for the day. Nothing superb, I simply visited a handful of summits in the Steamboat area that Eric had already done. I stayed busy until afternoon, then returned to the condo to have dinner with Eric and family.

Sleeping Giant - Elk Mtn

Elk Mtn is a P1K northwest of Steamboat. The Sleeping Giant is just a name for Elk's South/Southwest Ridge and has almost no prominence. The pair lie on a combination of State and BLM lands. John Kirk had posted a GPX track on LoJ in 2017 that Eric had used earlier in the year and I would use today. The route starts from dirt County Route 46 to the west. There is a barbed-wire fence along the road, but it is unsigned and appears to get little maintenance anymore. There was much sign of cattle grazing on the other side of the fence, but it was old, nothing of recent origin. The route starts brushy and remains so for much of the way, but it is dry, waist-high scrub stuff, and weaving through it is not difficult. There is a homestead on the northwest side of the road to start, and another to the north as one ascends the lower slopes - both were quiet today, but I don't think they'd care. The brushiest part comes right as one begins to ascend the base of The Sleeping Giant - careful route choices here can save one from bushwhacking. Once the ridgeline is gained, the brush relents some and the outing becomes more enjoyable. A use trail of sorts helped through the forested section on the north side of the ridge. Smoke marred what would otherwise be decent views from the ridgeline during the ascent. I went over The Sleeping Giant highpoint almost without realizing it, continuing on to Elk Mtn as the ridge turns from a northeast to north heading. A use trail appears during the last stretch, getting me to Elk's summit in a little over an hour and a half. I found a reference mark near the top, but no benchmark, no register. My return went the same route, taking an hour and a quarter.

Peak 7,700ft

This unnamed summit lies on private property a few miles east of Elk Mtn. My driving route (found on the GPX track) is an exercise in the folly of blindly trusting Google Maps on rural roads. I spent an hour driving between the two summits, twice as long as it should have taken had I applied any brainpower to the task myself. There is a brand-new home sitting atop Peak 7,700ft in a rural development. Diamondback Way will get you most of the way, with a spur road then leading up to the home. It is eerily abandoned, or at least appears to have been abandoned. Dry grass and weeds grow around the unfinished driveway, right up to the front door and garage. It appears someone had it built in the last year or two, then perhaps ran out of financing and had to abandon the project or had it repossessed. I walked around the home to the backside where the highpoint is partially hidden in trees and brush. This one felt very weird.

Deer Mtn

Deer Mtn is a few miles south of Peak 7,700ft in another private rural development. I drove to the end of Deer Rd where a cul-de-sac makes for uncertain parking. An SUV blocked the spur road that John Kirk had used to drive closer. I walked the spur road to its end where some building materials and other crap have been collected and seemingly forgotten. From there, one heads cross-country through brush and trees to the northwest, skirting the edge of another homestead to the north, this one occupied. A canvas tent with a wooden porch has been erected at the property's edge, a man-tent, from the looks of it. I continued past this, first through open field, then progressively heavier brush until I was actually bushwhacking - ugh, ugh. A fenceline is reached and followed heading west, ending the bushwhacking affair. There is a use trail here, aligned with an old road shown on the topo map. When the fenceline topped out south of the highpoint, I turned north and found my way without much effort to the top, hidden among the trees. No views, but one can get a partial one to the west from the fenceline. I returned the same way (avoiding the heavy brush on the descent), taking half an hour for the roundtrip effort.

Howelsen Hill - Quarry Mtn - West Quarry Mountain

I naively thought this would be an easy drive-up. Howelsen Hill is the site of the first ski area in Steamboat Springs, founded by Norwegian immigrant Carl Howelsen in 1914. It has a rich history of developing Olympians and is known as North America's oldest operating ski area. A perusal of the topo map and satellite views show a good dirt road on the west side of the ski area going all the way to the top of Quarry Mtn, another P1K. The reality is quite different as I found out while driving to the end of Routt St. This is where the Blackmere TH is located, and the road is gated to vehicles. The area has been developed as a mountain bike park and is quite popular. No fees to use it, but there's no chairlift taking you up to the top, either. I hiked the main road (Blackmere Rd) for an hour and a half to reach the highpoint of Quarry Mtn where a VOR station is located. I stopped on the way to visit Howelsen Hill (highpoint next to the top of a chairlift) and Pt. 8,252ft, the east summit of Quarry Mtn. There are several telecom installations at the east summit, but otherwise not much to look at. Between Pt. 8,252ft and Quarry Mtn I came across a solo hiker standing idly by the side of the road. A younger fellow in his 20s, I asked if he was alright. He was holding a small piece of rock and commented that he was looking for the source of the "smoky quartz" as he pulled at dirt and rock from the undercut side of the hill. I decided he might not be playing with a full deck and left him be. On my way back down, I came across him a second time, about a quarter mile further up the road. He asked me if I'd been to the summit and if I'd seen an old gold mine there. I told him I didn't, just the VOR at the summit, but he insisted - "My map shows a gold mine up there." He only seemed to reinforce my first impression, as I told him I was sorry, but of course he was free to check it out himself. Back by Pt. 8,257ft, I decided to leave the road and follow a powerline route more directly back to the start. This was steep and only partially trailed, but it was more interesting than the roadway. The route eventually becomes the T-Bar Trail, an equestrian and foot traffic-only route through meadow and forest to the west of Blackmere Rd, getting me back by 2:30p. Time to head back for a shower and socializing...

The following year, while reviewing LIDAR elevation data, John Kirk determined that Pt. 8,252ft was actually higher than Quarry Mtn. It thus got the new name of Quarry Mtn and the old one was relegated to West Quarry Mtn. Good thing I made the side visit to the telecom towers...


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