OverviewThe East Ridge Route is probably the easiest route on the mountain. From the trailhead, the route climbs steeply to the northwest up to Point 10287 and then follows the ridge west up to the East Ridge over several false summits to the true summit. There is no trail and there are many logs to cross and some steep sections, but the route is pretty easy. At less than five miles round trip, it’s a fairly short route, but is slower than hiking on a marked trail.
Getting ThereWithout directions, these trailheads aren’t exactly easy to find, so I took lots of notes and have done my best to explain them. On our first attempt, we failed to find the correct trailhead, so these directions should help, even if they sound slightly confusing! The maps of the area are not accurate!!
VIA STEAMBOAT SPRINGS
From Steamboat Springs, drive to the north end of town and to where County Road 129 leaves Highway 40. A sign marks "Clark" and "Hahns Peak". This is the same road heading to the airport. Drive north on CR 129 for approximately 26 miles. Pass Steamboat Lake and turn left on County Road 62. Drive County Road 62 west and south for about 3.5 miles to FR 42 on the right. Turn right on FR 42 and drive for 0.6 miles to the forest service gate. This gate is locked until July 1st each year. Drive County Road 42 for 1.5 miles to where FR 480 (east loop) takes off to the left. The road here is bumpy, but still passable to 2wd’s if you go slowly. Rather than turning left, continue straight along County Road 42 and follow the bumpy road for another ~3.7 miles. The west loop of FR 480 takes off to the left. Park here if you have a 2wd, or follow FR 480 left for 0.4 miles to 480B. Turn left on FR 480B and follow this short road to its end.
From Walnut Street in Hayden, turn north on Walnut, a.k.a. County Road 76, and follow it north for 0.7 miles to County Road 80. Turn right on (gravel) County Road 80 and follow it for 27.3 miles to FR 42. Turn right on FR 42. The first 2.5 miles of FR 2.5 are pretty good, but it quickly turns into a 4wd road after that. The rough section last for 1.4 miles and ends at a saddle. Continue straight at the saddle (instead of heading left), and follow FR 42 for another 0.8 miles. At this point, FR 480-West Loop takes off to the right. See the above paragraph for directions to the trailhead from here.
Route DescriptionThere is no marked trail, so there are many variations available. From the trailhead, there is an old trail heading southwest up to the saddle between the two Meaden Peaks. You can either follow this trail a short distance to the saddle or strike off west to Point 10287 which is highly noticeable to the west. From the saddle or east slopes of Point 10287, climb up to the summit of Point 10287, though if you want to avoid an extra up and down, you can bypass the summit of Point 10287 to the west and make a direct run to the saddle.
Once either on Point 10287 or the saddle just to the west, you will be on the East Ridge of Meaden Peak West. Simply head west and follow the east ridge of the peak to the summit. There are several dead trees to climb over and some steep sections, plus several false summits, but the route is relatively easy and this is one of the easier peaks in the Elkhead Mountains.
The first false summits aren’t as impressive as the highest one, so with each false summit passed, the views and scenery get better.