Grand Mesa Loop - Goodenough ReservoirCrater Peak Loop
12.8 miles RT (loop), 2850’ gain.
To get to the Leroux Creek access to the Grand Mesa National Forest, start in Hotchkiss (after touring all of the wineries), drive west to the N.F. Access sign (about 2.5 miles west of town), then head north up Leroux Creek. Eventually this paved road turns into a dirt road, then crosses the NF cattle guard. Continue for quite a while heading north. You will pass Oak Mesa on your right, then the next peak you will see is Green Mountain, overbearing on the NW horizon. 10,245 peeks up next on your right, then Doughty Mtn on your left, east of Green. The dirt road stays in pretty good condition until the turn for Goodenough Reservoir (yes, that’s really its name). After Lucky Find Reservoir on your right, a right hand turn immediately after a left in the road, and before you get to Elk Wallows Reservoir, Doughty Reservoir, Skimmed Milk, Wash Tub Reservoir, and Hartman. You wouldn’t believe how many reservoirs harbor lots of water up here. Amazing. The road is not great, but not too bad for 4x4, although places exist for you to damage your undercarriage. Dad’s 4-Runner did just fine, scraping once on the way in, but avoiding it on the way out. (if a 4x4 isn’t in your possession, the road is an easy walk, or also easy as a mountain bike ride, for those of you so equipped). We parked @ 39.02964,-107.69050, where an old road heads SE to Hilltop and Willow Reservoir, both of which provided gorgeous scenery. Mostly dry, we had to walk through a few snow piles, some of which are several feet deep. The road is not recommended for vehicles, but is an easy walk. In several spots, you walk next to the little creeks that feed the reservoirs. Beautiful greenery. From Willow Reservoir, we walked almost due north up the steepest slopes of the day – I measured the slope with my poles, and it was steeper than 45 degrees of dirt. After a quick ascent up the dirt, the slope evened out, and we walked up relatively easy slopes with some deadfall to the ridge between Darline and Crater. Once on the ridge, we headed SSE to the surprisingly awesome rocky summit of Darline. This was a total surprise, as I had no expectation of it being rocky. Some little scrambling took us to the small summit area. Views opened up of the Grand Mesa massif, and Terror Benchmark teased me from the SE, taunting my lack of ascent on that rocky point. After a snack, we headed down the rocks and headed north on the ridge on a small game/use trail, and dropped down to the lowpoint, then the relatively pleasant ridge ascent to the summit of Crater. This was a rocky awesome point as well, complete with a BM and the remnants of a elevation sighting pole. Another great summit, with views of Chalk Mtn. and a few other Delta County/Grand Mesa peaks. We enjoyed a quick break, then headed north to our next peak, Mt. Hatten, which looked impressive as well. More generally easy ridge walking with more descent/gain, through some awesome rocks and snow, and around a few windblown deadfall trees, down to the saddle. This ascent up Hatten was also steep, and as an added bonus, it was loose, sharp scree. After the ascent up the shoulder, however, you are immediately on top, as the summit presents itself at the south end of the peak. Another snack, some pics, and off on the shared ridge over to UN11106. Amazingly, those first three peaks are within 30’ of elevation from one another, and Crater is shy of county HP status by a mere 60’ (actually less as the BM is now listed as 11,333 and is a good 6’ below the actual HP. Lamborn, 11,396, just eeks out over the top of it. It actually looks lower from Crater’s summit, but that’s probably due to the bigger mountains behind it, Coal BM and Mt. Gunnison). The ridge north and west was similar to the others, but after the first saddle, deadfall was significantly more prevalent, and the going got much slower and rougher. We all got a few scrapes and bruises from trees and unforgiving branches on the way. We also saw a little more bear sign, but less elk/deer. We finally reached the saddle and the pass (Elk Park Trail, 39.06009,-107.69840), and noted it for our descent. We continued to pick our way west to the summit area, enjoying a few nice meadows and some nice scenery and a bit less deadfall. Some nice exposed basalt rocks took us to the tree-covered summit. Literally covered by a tree, this was by far the least rewarding summit experience, and we quickly headed out. We intended on meeting up with the Elk Park trail down lower, so bushwhacked south and east a bit to find the trail. Priest Mtn climbs high to the west, and Doughty Mtn rises up south of you. Once on it, we crossed where the ATVs have just torn everything up, and we found some very fresh bear tracks. We followed the trail for a while, then cut SE below Miller Reservoir through some easy open forest bushwhacking to the road, and back up just a bit to the car. All in all, a great hike. When I repeat it, I’ll likely skip 11106, and park directly at Goodenough Reservoir, and just do the loop of Darline, Crater, and Hatten. One can easily add Terror BM first, then do the other three, for a loop of about 9 miles and 2800’ of gain.