The Dragon's Tail Ridge is an alternative route up the west side of Grandeur Peak. The route follows the next major ridge to the immediate south of the standard west ridge described in the West Slopes route.
This route is named for the prominent bands of limestone cliffs which snake their way up the lower and middle portions of the ridge, giving the appearance of a dragon's tail when viewed from a distance.
Refer to the main page "Getting There" section for directions to the trailhead.
One-Way Hiking Distance: 2.2 miles
Trailhead Elevation: 4,960 ft.
Summit Elevation: 8,299 ft.
Elevation Gain: 3,339 ft.
Average Gain per Mile: 1,518 ft.
GPS coordinates appear in blue and are UTM NAD83.
From the trailhead parking area (432780E 4506582N) follow the trail up the sagebrush slopes to the north of the residential areas until it reaches the flat dirt road which runs north-south along the base of the mountain. Turn right and follow the road south; about 200 feet along the road the standard West Slopes trail (433149E 4506555N) can be seen heading up the ridge on the left.
Continue south along the road for ±0.20 mile and look for the vague remnants (433243E 4506257N) of on old road climbing steeply up the slopes on the left. Hike up this road for approximately 300 feet and look for a trail climbing steeply up the slopes above the road (433271E 4506166N). Follow this trail as it makes a series of small switchbacks, then moves onto the rounded lower portions of the actual ridge.
Follow the trail upwards for ±0.15 mile to the base (433502E 4506104N)of the first low rockband on the ridge, a 100-yard long band of limestone known as "The Reef". On the north side of this rockband is a series of bolted sport climbs. Either hike around the north side of the rockband or ascend around the backside on the south.
At the upper end of The Reef the next major rockband which comprises the dragon's tail portion of the ridge can be seen about 1/3 of a mile further up the ridge. Continue following the faint trail up to the dragon's tail, then pass the 0.25-mile long rockband on the right (south).
Above the dragon's tail the faint hiker's trail soon fades completely, although numerous game trails may be seen. Here the ridge becomes more rounded, and soon after the first brush is encountered. The bushwhacking may appear formidable but is actually not as bad as it looks. With a little routefinding and periodic use of game trails the bushwhacking will rarely exceed Class BW2.
Eventually the brush clears up a bit, and the ridge becomes narrow and rocky. It is possible to remain right on the ridge, but there is a fair amount of brush on the ridge and it is generally easier to contour a few dozen feet below the ridge on the south.
After passing a small dip in the ridge the brush ends for good, and the ridge begins climbing steeply the final 600 feet to the summit. About 50 yards prior to reaching the summit the Church Fork trail intersects the ridge and is followed the short remaining distance to the summit (435821E 4506523N).
The recommended descent route is via the standard West Slopes ridge, which will create a loop hike returning to the starting trailhead.