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Southeast Ridge via Brown’s Pass

Southeast Ridge via Brown’s Pass

Southeast Ridge via Brown’s Pass

Page Type: Route

Location: Colorado, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 39.19360°N / 106.112°W

Object Title: Southeast Ridge via Brown’s Pass

Route Type: Hiking

Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Time Required: Most of a day

Difficulty: Class 1 walk-up, some route-finding

Route Quality: 
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Page By: Sarah Simon

Created/Edited: Jun 24, 2008 / Oct 9, 2017

Object ID: 415284

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Horseshoe Mountain from just below the summit of Sheep Mountain F
Horseshoe Mountain from just below the summit of Sheep Mountain F
7 June 2008
Roundtrip Mileage: 8.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,590 ft.
USGS Quad: Fairplay West
Trail Illustrated Map: #110 Leadville Fairplay

This Class 1 hike on mostly solid footing requires little more than stamina and perseverance combined with basic navigation skills. Navigation is required for a short wooded section where the trail peters out between what is posted on-scene as Forest Service jeep road 176A and what is identified on maps as Forest Service motorized route 691.

Note that while the forest service has designated 691 as a motorized route, only a skilled dirt biker with plenty of patience and a willingness to travel slowly could/would travel the higher altitude reaches of this route in a motorized fashion. During an early June visit the only signs of humanity we witnessed between Browns Pass and the summit of Sheep Mountain F were ski and snowshoe prints.

This is a primarily south-facing route on a 12er sitting somewhat in the snow shadow of the peaks to the immediate west. As a result, this hike is a good early shoulder-season option when routes up other peaks are blocked by soft snow.

This route features a hike through a ghost tree and krumholtz forest and, once above timber-line, wide-open views as far as the eye can see for a solid mile or more of the hike.

Getting There

  • From Fairplay, follow Hwy 285 south for approximately 6 miles.

  • Turn right on County Road 658. (This road may not be marked as CR 658. The turnoff is about 4 miles south of Fourmile Road and two miles north of Weston Pass Road. If, after turning off Hwy 285, you see a Forest Service sign for Brown’s Pass, you are in the right place.)

  • Set your odometer back to zero.

  • At approximately mile 3 veer right on FS 176. (Shortly after turning onto FS176, if you stay right, you’re on 179.  Go left to stay on 176.)

  • Follow the signs to Browns Pass. At approximately mile 5, you will reach the Forest Service gate. (2x4 vehicles park here.)

  • Shortly after the gate you will encounter a water crossing that is likely to be shallow by quite wide. Use solid judgment in determining whether to take the water crossing on foot or by vehicle.

  • Standard 4x4s: Go as far as comfortable (that is, proceed as far as the capabilities of the vehicle and driver allow); find parking. Note that once the road begins steep uphill climb to the west at about 10,900 feet the road becomes considerably steeper and rougher and parking becomes very limited.

  • Customized or small-wheelbase (e.g. Jeep) 4x4s with powerful 4-low or ATVs: Park at Brown’s Pass summit.
Westward from the southeast ridge of Sheep Mountain F
Looking westward from the southeast ridge of Sheep Mountain F
7 June 2008

Looking south-southeast down the summit ridge
Looking south-southeast down the summit ridge
7 June 2008

Route Description

  • From the summit of Brown’s Pass head due-north on a wide ATV trail marked as 176A.

  • Quick eyes may pick up a faint trail and tiny cairns to their right, but many hikers will continue on 176A until it peters out at an ATV turnaround.

  • Continue to navigate through timber, heading north or north-northwest, until coming upon trail 691 (unmarked). Member update:  There is now a plexiglass sign and steel entryway of sorts indicating the beginning of trail 691.

  • Note that the trail may appear to be “on again, off again”, at least with deep snow drifts present.

  • As the trees thin, ahead of you will be a bulky plateau with a false summit peering out behind it. Skirt this plateau to the east.

  • Around 12,100 ft. the last stand of trees gives way to bare rock and the climb begins in earnest.

  • Follow the primary trail to approximately 12,500, then depart trail 691 to strike out northwesterly across the rocks and tundra of the broad summit ridge.

  • A final push to the west brings you to the 12,818 ft. summit of Sheep Mountain F.

Click on map for larger view

Essential Gear

Looking through a ghost forest toward Sheep Ridge
Looking through a ghost forest toward Sheep Ridge
7 June 2008
For safety and comfort, the following are recommended:
  • Long pants to protect tender legs during the brief bushwhack.

  • Topographic map

  • Compass

  • GPS

  • Colorado Atlas and Gazetteer (for back road navigation)

  • Trekking pole(s)

  • Sturdy hiking boots with grippy soles and stiff ankle support

  • More water than you think you will need (limited water is available on the lower reaches of this route)

  • First aid kit

  • Other standard backcountry essentials

External Links

Pike & San Isabel National Forests
Pike National Forest Recreation Map


Buffalo Peaks through the Ghost ForestHorseshoe Mountain from just below the summit of Sheep Mountain FWestward from the southeast ridge of Sheep Mountain FSheep Mountain F from the Fourmile ValleyGhost trio reaching for the skyLooking up at the false summit and summit of Sheep Mountain FLooking south-southeast down the summit ridge
Looking through a ghost forest toward Sheep RidgeJust a few more stepsSheep Mountain from the SoutheastBuffalo Peaks from summit, Sheep Park in low foregroundAlmost There - Nearing the Summit of Sheep Mountain FMap: Southeast Ridge via  Brown\'s Pass