With no trail from parking to summit (save occasional game trails or faint footpaths on bare soil) and loaded with several false summits promising plenty of ups and downs, this East Ridge Bushwack is more demanding than an initial glance at the map or route stats may suggest. Progressing through often dense timber and downfall and negotiating up and over or around numerous red volcanic outcrops, this route just might leave you a bit closer to exhaustion than the stats below suggest. Additionally, this is probably not the best choice for a beginner off-trail navigator, as the multiple false summits add complexity while the dense forest obscures line-of-sight.
While the summit of Thirtynine Mile Mountain is shrouded in evergreen forest, this East Ridge Bushwack offers up nice views of the surrounding area as well as the distant Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Pikes Peak from its many open overlooks.
Distance: About 9 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2,600 feet net; cumulative is much higher
YDS Rating: Class 2
From Hwy 24 in Hartsel
• Just east of the very small hamlet of Harsel, head eastbound on Park County Road 59 (which may be signed in places as Thirtynine Mile Road).
• It would be temping here to instruct you to just drive 25-ish miles on CR 59 to the toe of the east ridge of Thirtynine Mile Mountain, but I will provide a bit more detail to make the parking spot somewhat easier to find.
• Follow CR 59 for about 9 miles through rolling pasture land where county roads 59, 92 and 592 overlap for about 5 miles.
• Follow CR 59 to the right to head around the southwest side of Elevenmile Reservoir.
• Continue on CR 59 around the reservoir. At the south end of the reservoir, CR 59 will turn sharply to the south.
• Remain on CR 59 southbound for roughly 4.5 miles to a cattle guard at the boundary of private land and US Forest Service land at the toe of the east ridge of Thirtynine Mile Mountain. Park here.
• Begin on the north side of the cattle guard and follow the fence line westward. (Private land sits on the south side of the fence!)
• Within only ½ mile of hiking you will encounter two low rises, separated by a steep ditch.
• Near the northwest corner of the fence marking the private land, the route begins to steepen drastically.
• A bit more than 1 mile from the parking, you will near the crest of point 10734. Traverse to the south of this point, staying in open meadow when possible to ease your passage and avoid downfall.
• Continue about another ¾ of a mile to twin-humped Point 10814. You may opt to traverse around the south side of this hump (where the snow will be less deep and the trees more sparse) or ascend to the ridge of this hump.
• From here, it is one mile to the next false summit. Point 11121 is the highest and most rugged of the false summits you will encounter heading westbound on this ridge. To avoid steep rocks on the south side and dense timber on the northern slopes, you may find it most advantageous to stick to the ridgeline.
• Finally, from the western ridge of Point 11121 you have a clear view of your final objective. But, alas, the summit is still slightly more than a mile away and yet another saddle sits between you and the final push to the summit.
• The saddle between Point 11121 and the summit of Thirtynine Mile Mountain is blessed by somewhat sparser trees, but cursed by dense snow drifts in snow season.
• The final push up the eastern slope of the highpoint is through mostly dense trees. After all this hard work, you will arrive at a rather uninspiring, flat, wooded summit area.
• Congratulations, you’ve reached the half-way point! Fuel up on some lunch before beginning the trek back to your vehicle. Ease your return navigation by sticking mostly to the ridge-crest, then aiming for the fence line (keeping it, of course, to the north of the fence to stay off private property!) to steer your weary legs back to the truck.
• WINTER - Flotation (snowshoes would be ideal given that much of the route travels steep, densely-timbered slopes).
• Trail Map (Either the USGS Thirtynine Mile Mountain quad or a custom map will be necessary)
• Colorado Gazetteer or similar roadmap illustrating county roads
• Compass or GPS
• Water and snacks
• WINTER - Insulated, water-proof boots
• First aid kit