OverviewThere appear to be several route possibilities available on the mountain, but I’ve only climbed the Southeast Ridge, which may be the most practical route up the mountain. The route is steep , slippery and tedious in places and can have some minor bushwhacking, but the difficulty never exceeds class 2+.
Getting ThereFrom Walnut Street in Hayden (on Highway 40 between Craig and Steamboat Springs), 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 past the California Park Guard Station. There are several possibilities of where to park (since there is no official trailhead), but we parked at the small saddle marked Elevation 8270 on the topo map. This is 1.2 to 1.3 miles north of the Guard Station turnoff.
Route DescriptionAs mentioned above, there are several choices of places to park and start the climb, but for simplicity, let’s start at the minor saddle mentioned above (marked elevation 8270 on the topo map).
From the trailhead the first objective is the Southeast Ridge of Saddle Mountain. At low elevations, the ridge is indistinct, so head slightly north of due west until the slopes begin to really steepen. The route is through the aspen forest and there may be some minor bushwhacking. Make sure to keep an eye behind you and notice any landmarks for the return trip.
The ridge gradually becomes more defined as you gain elevation, but when a steep brush covered slope is visible straight ahead (about 9000 feet), the best route is to find the minor spur on the right and in the pine trees. The route straight up the slope is very steep, slippery and unpleasant, so the route up the spur in the pine trees is the best route to choose.
At the top of the slope, the Southeast Ridge of Saddle Mountain becomes well defined. The ridge is basically the route to the summit, but there are several places where you will bypass some thick brush or rock outcrops. Parts of the ridge are a bit tedious, but up high the ridge becomes a nice scramble with some nice viewpoints off the big cliffs to the south.
There are a few false summits to climb over before you find yourself on the summit with a benchmark. The summit register is located here, but it appears that the summit just to the west is a few feet higher. From the benchmark, it’s a nice scramble over to the true summit.
Enjoy the nice views from the summit before heading down. Expect to slip at least a time or two on the slippery slopes.
The distance isn’t, but it is rather it’s a slow and sometimes rather rough route. Expect to take at least a half a day to most of a day on the climb.
Essential GearA good pair of boots are needed as is a good map and compass and/or GPS.
We didn't bring trekking poles, but wish we had, especially for the descent.