OverviewParadise Benchmark (BM) is one of the lesser known peaks in the Flat Tops. It is rather inconspicuous, but is a ranked summit and is climbed more than some might expect. The summit register indicates at least one ascent per year, mostly during hunting season.
Most of the slopes around the peak are gentle, but the southeast ridge and slopes are gentle. We saw many elk on the climb and Mirror Lake has more fish than I have ever seen in a backcountry lake.
The Flat Tops are more of a huge elevated plateau rather than a typical mountain range, but the plateau has been eroded into many individual peaks and summits, and most of them are flat-topped, or dome-like as is this one. The mountain area composing the Flat Tops contains over 110 lakes full of fish, and also has some of the most extensive areas above timberline in Colorado.
Flat Tops: 11,000+ Foot Peaks with 300+ feet of Prominence
Getting ThereThere are four main ways to reach the trailhead. I have only driven to two of them. The trailhead is near Trappers Lake. Most people will come from Meeker.
There is a road from the west and Meeker, one from the east and Yampa or Phippsburg, one from the northeast and Oak Creek, one from the north and Hayden, and one from the northeast and Pagoda (village) and Hamilton. I know only the roads from Hamilton and Pagoda, but very few Coloradoans will be coming from that direction (Craig), so it seems rather pointless to describe the drive in detail. Most people will be driving in from the Meeker or Yampa areas. After Pagoda or not far past Buford, all roads are gravel and in good condition in summer.
From just north of Meeker and along Highway 13, turn east on County Road 8. Follow County Road 8 to Buford. Follow the road another 17 miles and turn right (south) on FS Road 205 towards the Trappers Lake Lodge. There are several roads here, but they are well marked. Follow the road (FR 209)a short distance to the turnoff marked for the Mirror Lake Trailhead and park there.
From Yampa or Oak Creek:
I haven’t come in this way, so directions will be brief. Use a map. Briefly put you can reach country road 8 (see above) from either CR 25 from Oak Creek or CR 21 from Yampa. From there, you follow the road all the way over Ripple Creek Pass and down to FR 205. Turn left and follow the directions above.
I haven’t come in this way, so directions will be brief. Use a map. Briefly put you take CR 53 south to CR 29. Turn left (east) and follow CR 29 to CR 55. Turn right (south) and follow the road to the junction with CR 8. Take CR 8 over Ripple Creek Pass and follow the route above.
Unless you live in Craig, few Coloradans will use this route and thus the directions won’t be detailed. From Hamilton (13 miles south of Craig and along Highway 13), drive east on Highway 317 to Pagoda. Highway 13 turns into county road 29. Turn right on CR 55 and follow the remaining directions from the route from Hayden.
Routes OverviewParadise BM can be climbed from many directions, but the shortest route is from the north and from Mirror Lake. This is also the steepest side of the mountain though, so the route is rugged.
Via Mirror Lake
From the trailhead, a good trail reaches Mirror Lake. You have to stay on the trail to avoid private property near the beginning.
The lake is 3.5 miles from the trailhead. From the lake, it is possible to head northwest to the ridge and then south to Sable Point. The ridge can be followed south to the summit. The return can be made via the ridge east of Mirror Lake. It is very steep, but elk use the route and have made a path.
This route is 11 mile round trip and can be done in one very long day, but it's nice to camp for a night out too. The going is slow once you leave Mirror Lake.
There also appears to be a nice early summer snowclimb up the chute south of Mirror Lake. It would require an ice axe and crampons for sure.
Other routes on the mountain are much longer. The southeast ridge from the area around the Little Marvine Peaks is probably the easiest route, but it is long. This area can be reached from the East Marvine Trail or the Trappers Lake area.
Red TapeBasic Rules
• Entering or being in the area with more than 15 people per group, and a maximum combination of 25 people and pack or saddle animals in any one group is prohibited.
• There is no permit system in place in the Flat Tops Wilderness but we do ask that visitors sign in on provided trailhead registration forms.
• Camping within one hundred feet of any lake, stream or trail, or any “No Camping” or “Wilderness Restoration Site” sign or within ¼ mile of Trappers, Hooper, Keener or Smith Lakes is prohibited.
• Building, maintaining, attending or using a campfire within one hundred feet of any lake, stream, or trail or within ¼ miles of Trappers, Hooper, Keener or Smith Lakes is prohibited.
• Storing equipment or personal property or supplies for longer than 10 days is prohibited.
• Hitching, tethering or hobbling any pack or saddle animal within one hundred feet of any lake, stream or trail is prohibited.
• Possessing any pack or saddle animal within ¼ mile of Trappers Lake except for watering or through travel is prohibited.
• Possessing a dog or other animal that is harassing wildlife or people or damaging property is prohibited. There is no leash law in the Flat Tops, however dogs must be kept under verbal control at all times.
• Possessing or using a wagon, cart or other vehicle including a wheelbarrow or game cart is prohibited.
• Shortcutting a switchback in a trail is prohibited.
When to ClimbThis peak could be climbed year-round, but I'm not sure if the road is open all the way to the trailhead in winter and spring.
The Flat Tops receive much snow, so despite the lower altitude than the 14'ers, the peaks remain buried in snow until mid-July. Snowshoes are recommended in June. The Flat Tops have many mosquitoes in July, and sometimes into early August. From September and into December is hunting season, so wear blaze orange and use extreme caution. On the plus side, hunter traffic usually keeps the Trappers Lake and Ripple Creek Pass roads open until around Thanksgiving weekend. Late November might be the best time to make a “winter conditions” ascent because after the road closed, this would be about a three day trip.
CampingThere are many campgrounds in the area and at Trappers Lake. On summer and holiday weekends, they are crowded. In the backcountry there are campsites around Shamrock and Mirror Lakes, but make sure to camp at least 100 feet from the lakes.
Mountain ConditionsContact the Yampa Ranger District for up-to-date road, trail, and wildfire conditions:
PO Box 7
300 Roselawn St.
Yampa, Colorado 80483
CLICK HERE FOR WEATHER FORECAST OF THE AREA
Weather and climate data for Marvine Ranch at 7800 feet elevation is below. *National Weather Service Data 1972-1998. Expect much wetter conditions at higher elevations. The area around Paradise BM will average around 10-15 degrees colder in the daytime than Marvine Ranch; nighttime temperatures won't have as big of a difference.
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