South Slope Routes on Crosier MountainCrosier Mountain, 9,250 ft.
If you’re looking for some quality montane zone hiking you might enjoy exploring Crosier Mountain. This large, complex mountain separates the drainage of the Big Thompson River from its North Fork, between Drake and the Estes Valley.
The reward for reaching the top is a magnificent view of the Estes Valley and many of the high peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park.
If you’re adventurous, and don’t mind finding your way off trail, Crosier has some drainages on it’s southern slopes above the Big Thompson that offer some good hiking.
The Waltonia Road Bridge is about 2 miles above Drake on Hiway 34. One tenth of a mile above the bridge is Sullivan Gulch. There is an old, moderately steep trail up the gulch which ends at a grassy area on the main ridge of the mountain in about a mile. A short hike to the east and an easy rock scramble will bring you to the top of a prominent rock summit with a nice view.
The next drainage up canyon from Sullivan Gulch (about four tenths of a mile) is True Gulch. The lower portion of True Gulch requires bushwacking, rock scrambling and good route finding skills. The upper portion is less difficult. The lower Forest Service trail (Garden Gate Trail), which starts from County Road 43, crosses True Gulch about 3 miles above the County Road 43 trailhead. True Gulch is a serious cross-country hike and should NOT be attempted by anyone without proper experience.
Long Gulch is about 4.5 miles above Drake, and just less than 2 miles above True Gulch. The entrance to the gulch is easy to miss since it doesn’t look like a major drainage. There is a metal guard rail beside the hiway across the entrance and very limited parking. Long Gulch is well named. It is the longest drainage on the mountain. There is an old use trail in the gulch which makes hiking easier. In the lower portion of the gulch the scars from the 1976 Big Thompson flood are still visible. The upper end is quite beautiful with aspen groves, meadows, and an old cabin with an old Coca Cola cooler inside. A few years ago, while descending Long Gulch we saw a large mother black bear and two yearling cubs running up the hillside, opposite this cabin. Be aware that this route passes through private property in a couple of places for a short distance. Please respect private property.
The other south slope drainages on the mountain involve getting permission from private property owners to get into them.
Another interesting way to see Crosier is point to point hikes. To do this, two cars are needed, or a car and a bicycle, and the energy to ride back to the starting point after the hike. All three trailheads offer the opportunity for point to point hiking.
One of my favorites is to start at the Glen Haven trailhead and come out at the lower (Garden Gate) trailhead. This is a hike of over 10 miles through all of the best scenery Crosier has to offer. If you’re doing this hike in the summer, I recommend fueling up with a delicious home baked cinnamon roll from the Glen Haven Store before starting, you might want take an extra one with you.
Another excellent point to point hike is up Long Gulch, through the pass at the top, then down the north slopes to Piper Meadow and on down the trail to Glen Haven. From the pass at the top of Long Gulch it is possible to bushwack east up the steep timbered slopes to the summit of Crosier if you’re really feeling energetic.
A couple of last thoughts about hiking on Crosier Mountain; there isn’t any reliable water source on the mountain, so carry lots of water. Any water found on the mountain should be filtered before drinking.
The National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map of the Cache la Poudre and Big Thompson is a very good, up to date, map to use for hiking on Crosier. It’s generally available from any outdoor equipment stores or online.
During hunting season there are many of deer and elk hunters on Crosier, that’s when I go hike inside Rocky Mountain National Park.
Enjoy exploring this wonderful mountain.