Chalk Mountain is one of the plethora of peaks on "top" of the Grand Mesa. It is on the high side of the peaks on the mesa, and is a ranked (at least 300' of prominence from its parent peak) 11er. There are 468 ranked 11ers in Colorado, several dozen of which are on the Grand Mesa.
Chalk Mountain is interesting in its remoteness and lack of traffic, as well as its spectacular view from the summit. Compared to Front Range peaks, it is fairly neglected. Although there we found a (very trashed) summit register dating back to 1998, we saw no one the day we summited. We were surprised we saw as many signatures as we did over the past 14 years, but the majority of them were hunters, although some were clearly there just because the peak is so obvious from so many places nearby.
Ascended alone, it is a fairly short hike, somewhere around 4 miles round trip and an ascent of around 1300'.
If you are interested in adding on more peaks, or making an excursion into a backpacking/wilderness/camp setting, see below in the "Getting There" section.
Stats courtesy of ListsOfJohn.com:
Elevation : 11,146'
CO Peaks Rank : 1714
County : Delta
Quad : Chalk Mountain
Coords : 39.1125°N, 107.6592°W
Rise : 766'
Getting ThereChalk Mountain is accessed from County Highway 265, which has two ends (one of which is named differently - Highway 330 out of Silt). One is on Highway 133, which goes from Carbondale over McClure's Pass to Paonia, and the other end is in the town of Silt, off of I-70. Expect a good 3 hour minimum drive to get to either end, 265 or 330. From either end to the Overland Reservoir turnoff, expect another 30+ minute drive. It is a remote peak in a remote area.
From either end (265 or 330), drive until you intersect this location:
STEVENS GULCH ROAD, aka 4010 Dr, 39.12552,-107.55789. This is also the location of the Dyke Creek campground. From that intersection, head west and south on 4010 Dr to the Overland Reservoir Road (clearly marked), 2 miles in.
This is also known as GG65 Dr. It is about 5 miles from the turnoff to Overland Reservoir. Park on the north side. There is a pit toilet and several camping areas at the "trailhead" (although there is no trail).
From the trailhead, you bushwhack your way generally northwest to the steeper slopes of the peak, and work your way up to the summit. There is no trail at any point.
OTHER OPTIONS, MORE PEAKS
If you are interested in more of an excursion or more of a backpacking/camping expedition and a multi-peak ascent from a base camp, I recommend using the High Trail (d.b.a. Monument Trail), which is at least an ATV trail, possibly a 4X4 trail until it gets to a bog/marsh, where it might be more of an ATV/OHV/hiking only trail. Not 100% sure on that, as we didn't hike it, but we did see several ATVs on it during our ascent. If you were to hike the Monument Trail into the basin to surround yourself with these peaks, you will be very isolated, likely with no phone service (we did have phone service on top of Chalk Mountain). You probably won't see many folks back there. A hike in from the road to a centralized camp will entail somewhere around 9+ miles and a gain of 2,000'+ to get in, plus the return hike out. An OHV might make a centralized camp more accessible, if you are so equipped.
From a central basecamp (water is available in the several creeks west of Chalk Mountain, even during a dry season), one may add on several peaks:
Chalk Mountain from the west involves at least a 3 mile round trip with 800'+ of gain.
10980 (unnamed but ranked) from a north camp will net at least a 4 mile round trip and a gain of around 500'+.
Porter Mountain (ranked 9er) from its shortest path next to the High Trail will net around a 2 mile round trip with 1000'+ of gain.
Willow Ridge (ranked 10er) will net a round trip of around 3 miles with 400'+ of gain.
Bronco Knob (named but unranked 10er with 224' prominence) will net around 3 miles round trip with 550'+ of gain.
DAYHIKE OPTIONS FROM OVERLAND RESERVOIR AREA
We added on an excursion to 10980, which turned out to be a good hike, but a good workout - 11.5 miles and a little over 1800' of gain. (see map)
If you are interested in another scamper up another nearby peak, 9522 (unnamed but ranked) and Chimney Rocks (unranked but technical gear and know-how required!!!) may be approached from the Overland Reservoir Road. On your way to the reservoir and at the powerlines running overhead north-south, either stop there and hike north to the saddle between 9522 and Chimney Rocks, or (if conditions permit) drive a 4x4 vehicle with good clearance down to the Dyke Creek, and hike to the saddle from there. 9522 is east up the easy ridge, and Chimney Rocks is west, through the Gambel oak. Bring a rope and gear and rock shoes and know how to use them before attempting Chimney Rocks.
Red TapeThis area is all Grand Mesa National Forest, which has certain rules, regulations, and common sense rules:
LEAVE NO TRACE - One should always practice Leave No Trace ethics, and leave any area in which you visit in a better state than in which you found it (pack out any extra trash you can). For more info on LNT ethics, see the external links area below.
HUNTING - The only major concern, which is not red tape, is to be aware of hunting season in the fall and MOSQUITOES in the late spring/early summer. This area is extremely popular for hunting starting at Labor day and continuing until early December. If you would like added safety measures, I recommend wearing "Safety Orange", and certainly put orange on your leashed pets during this time of year.
PETS - National Forest rules for this area require your pets to be leashed and cleaned up after.
LIVESTOCK - Also be aware that this area is also popular with ranchers of both sheep and cattle. Sheep herds are often watched by very large, sometimes aggressive sheep dogs. Ranchers are very protective of their livestock, and are legally allowed to shoot animals "harassing" their livestock.
MOSQUITOES - This area is known for particularly brutal hordes of mosquitoes (something to do with the hundreds of lakes, reservoirs, creeks, bogs and marshes). Either protect yourself with repellent and long-sleeved shirts and pants, or hike "after" mosquito season. Generally speaking, there are fewer of the blood-sucking devils after Labor Day. West Nile virus is a well-known and well-documented problem in Delta County and in most of Colorado.
WEATHER - Weather is highly variable on the Mesa. Storms can roll in quickly, but can also move out just as quickly. Mornings and afternoons are the best times for hikes. Even though the peaks on the mesa are "just" 11ers, the weather acts more like high 13ers and 14ers due to the mesa's prominence coming off of the high Uncompahgre desert plateau.
CELL PHONE/EMERGENCY RESPONSE: While anywhere on the Mesa, you are a long way from anywhere. Cell phones rarely work on the mesa. Consider a SPOT or other emergency beacon to let others know you are safe or if you need help. Your nearest help is probably someone else on the mesa, usually found around the lakes or trailheads.
CampingBeing all National Forest, you can camp in undeveloped areas for a maximum of 14 days. There are LOTS of listed "campgrounds" on the mesa, although few have any amenities (no water, very few pit toilets, and no other amenities). All water should be filtered and/or boiled. Always practice LNT ethics with your camp and bodily waste.
The nearest towns are Hotchkiss/Paonia (~30 miles, 1 hour away), Silt (~1 hour), or Collbran, (~30 minutes). Collbran is the only town that doesn't require you to drive back up the mesa (the other ones are down a considerable distance).
External LinksWikipedia has a fun page on the Grand Mesa National Forest.
Here is the Forest Service page on the Grand Mesa National Forest.
Summitpost's own page on the Grand Mesa.
Chalk Mountain on ListsofJohn.com.