OverviewElk Mountain must have spectacular views (the book Hiking Grand County goes as far as to say that the best views of Grand County are from the summit), but I will just have to use my imagination as to what they look like. When we were high on the mountain and intense storm dropped visibility down to 50 feet or so and we didn’t get any views at all.
The west side of Elk Mountain is gentle while the east side is steeper and has some steep cliffs. The mountain is made of volcanic rocks and is just above timberline. Interestingly, there is a benchmark on the summit of the mountain, but no summit cairn as is typical for the other nearby mountains.
There seems to be some confusion as to exactly what mountain range Elk Mountain belongs to, but most likely it could be considered to be part of the Rabbit Ears Range.
Getting ThereVia Parshall
This route offers the best road (at least in 2009) of the two driving routes to the trailhead.
Just west of Parshall and on Highway 40, turn north on County Road 21 (known as FR 112 higher up) between mile markers 194 and 195. Follow CR21/FR 112 for 10.8 miles to a gated road on the right. Park here.
Via Granby/Windy Gap
The road via this access is pretty good, but when it is wet it is extremely slippery and the route from Parshall is recommended if the weather is not dry.
On Highway 125 north of Windy Gap Reservoir (Highway 125 turns north of Highway 40 not too far west of Granby), turn west on FR 112 between mile markers 9 and 10. Follow FR 112 for 14.7 miles to a gated road on the left. Park here.
Routes OverviewThere are probably several routes that can be taken up Elk Mountain, but the West Slopes and South Ridge Loop is probably the best route. This route is 5.5 to 6.0 miles round trip depending on the exact route taken.
The east side of the mountain is steep and may offer some good snow routes, but I haven’t tried them and thus don’t have any information. There are some cliffs on that side, but the rock is crumbly basalt and it doesn’t appear good for climbing.
Red TapeThere is no Red Tape.
CampingThere are campsites along both access roads, including not far from the trailhead, but make sure to camp only on public land.
When to ClimbWe found the west slopes route to be quite wet and spongy in late June from recent snowmelt and the south ridge route has slushy snow in the trees, so it may be best to wait at least until early July before climbing the peak. Early season (mid or late May) may be good if the roads are open and if you can climb on frozen snow in the morning. July through September or sometime in October would be considered the normal climbing season.
Elk Mountain could make a safe winter ascent, but I don’t know how far the access roads are plowed, if at all.
Mountain ConditionsFor current road and trail conditions, contact:
Sulphur Ranger District
9 Ten Mile Drive
Granby, CO 80446
Below is the climate summary for nearby Berthoud Pass at 11,315 feet elevation which is several miles to the south and about the same elevation as Elk Mountain. These are all averages, so expect more variation, but this will give you a good idea about the climate at higher elevations around Elk Mountain. *National Weather Service Data 1950-1985.
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