OverviewOther than Baker Mountain, Walton Peak is the northern most peak in the Gore Range. The Gore Range actually extends from Fremont Pass on the south to Rabbit Ears Pass on the north, but the northern half of the range (north of Gore Canyon and the Colorado River) bears little if any resemblance to the more rugged peaks to the south. The northern Gore Range consists of a large forested plateau, and rolling peaks and hills. None of the peaks in the northern Gores rise to timberline.
There are actually two summits consisting of Walton Peak. Some maps label them as two separate mountains or peaks, but they really aren’t big enough to be two peaks in my opinion. The south peak is the highest at 10,559 feet/3219 meters.
While one local guidebook touts the spectacular hike to Walton Peak, I am a bit reluctant to use the word spectacular for the mountain. I would use the word nice. Climbing Walton Peak was akin to eating a squirrel. It taste OK, but there simply isn’t much meat on the bone.
The mountain still is “nice” as are all other mountains, and a good workout, but to me the peak is more a rolling hill than what I usually call a mountain. In winter, snowmobiles can and do reach the summit of the peak (though not that many are in the summit area), and don’t expect a completely quiet time on a winter weekend. The peak is capped by a small radio tower. Even the northern summit has a small radio tower as well. In summer, there is even a rough 4wd road to the summit, though it is still a popular hike for Steamboat residents. There are no rugged slopes or points, and the peak is forested to the top.
So why bother including it here? Normally I do not include submit peaks. I guess just because there are no other submissions in the northern half of the Gore Range, other than Baker Mountain, another hill. Plus I’m really bored and everyone else is in bed. Actually, I may have been more impressed with the mountain had I climbed it on a sunny day, just after a fresh snow coating the trees, but today was cloudy and rather gloomy. Not snowing, just dark and gloomy.
Now, enough about the less interesting aspects of the mountain (or hill in my own opinion). There are actually some redeeming qualities to this “mountain”. In winter, there is absolutely no avalanche danger at all on the main routes, so the climb is safe unless you intentionally stray onto the open east slopes. In winter, the peak is also an easy ascent for novices, though it is a long hike. While the snowmobiles are noisy, at least they make a good trail for snowshoeing or skiing to the top, and you don’t have to go through the trial of arduous trailbreaking as is the case with most mountains in this part of the state. In summer, the hike is supposed have really nice wildflower displays. There are some nice views, and even some of some more rugged mountains such as the (southern) Gore Range, Never Summers, and Indian Peaks, and also of the Flat Tops, but admittedly these views are all from afar.
The moral of the story and all of the above, is that this is a “nice” peak and trip, and a safe climb, but the mountain isn’t spectacular in the sense of rugged and jagged peaks. It may still be worthwhile, and much better than flossing the dog’s teeth or going to work, but not on my top ten peak’s list. Well, here goes……….
Getting ThereFrom Steamboat Springs, drive south and east on Highway 40 or about 19 miles, over the west summit of Rabbit Ears Pass and to the turnoff to Dumont Lake on the north (left) and Harrison Creek on the south. A sign marks the turnoffs. In winter, you will have to park on the highway on the north side of the road.
To reach the same trailhead from Kremmling, drive east and north along Highway 40 over Muddy Pass. The trailhead is something like five miles west of Muddy Pass, but check this yourself.
In summer, you can follow the Harrison Creek/FR 251 road south for about two miles before parking. The road is apparently good for 2wd’s to this point, if driven with care, but is not passable to 2wd’s beyond.
This above is the trailhead I used. Actually there is a shorter route in winter. About 1.5 miles or so west of the trailhead described above, there is a short plowed road that leads to a parking lot. This trailhead will offer a shorter route to the summit.
Routes Overview: Eating a SquirrelSee the Route Page for more details:
Harrison Creek Route
In winter, there are snowmobile tracks all over the place, so make sure to take a map and compass. I used the route from the turnoff off Highway 40 to Harrison Creek Road/FS 251. More than likely, there will be a snowmobile track all the way to the top unless you visit just after a big storm.
My route was about twelve miles round trip, but it will be a shorter hike or ski if you use the alternate trailhead.
Chicago Transplant also writes:
If you want to avoid the snowmobiles, part at Walton Creek winter TH, maybe 1/2 mile west of the snowmobile demarcation line, and take the 3A and 3C trails (blue diamonds) past North Walton Peak and then break trail up the north ridge to the summit. Its kind of a round-about way to get their, but peaceful. Some snowmobile tracks right at the summit, but mostly this is a snowshoe/ski only route.
As stated, you can drive to the junction of FS 251 and FS 303. Most people hike west along the track to the summit. This hike is eight miles round trip.
When to ClimbFor snowshoeing or skiing, December through April will be best. The best time to climb the peak in winter is on a weekday, when there won’t be many (maybe even none) snowmobiles in the area.
For hiking, July through September is best. Wildflowers are supposed to be nice in July and early August.
This area receives a lot of snow, and this is one of the snowiest areas in the state of Colorado, despite the lower altitude of the area when compared to some of the Colorado mountain areas. With the lower altitude, but higher snowfall, the area can be sloppy in mid or late May through June.
In fall, this is a very popular hunting area, and you may want to avoid it. At the very least, wear blaze orange during the hunting season.
Red TapeNo red tape.
CampingThere are said to be many good campsites along FR 251 after leaving Highway 40. Dumont Lake, just north of this area has a campground as well. Just to the west and along HIghway 40 are Walton Creek and Meadows Campgrounds.
Mountain ConditionsCLICK HERE FOR WEATHER FORECAST
Below is the National Weather Service Climate Summary of Steamboat Springs. The data is from 1908-2005. This is the closest long term weather station, but be aware that higher elevations will be much wetter and colder. Steamboat Springs is at 6695 feet elevation, so expect the temperatures on Walton Peak to be 10-20 degrees colder than in Steamboat (except for cold winter nights).
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