Bear Mountain

Page Type
Mountain/Rock
Location:
Colorado, United States, North America
County:
San Juan
Elevation:
12987 ft / 3958 m
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Page By:
Bear Mountain
Created On: Aug 11, 2015
Last Edited On: Oct 20, 2017

Overview


North face of Bear Mountain from Route 550




Bear Mountain is visible as an impressive peak from Route 550 south of Red Mountain Pass in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. Despite its spectacular looks and proximity to a major road, Bear Mountain does not have a trail and is rarely climbed. As of this writing, I have found no information about climbing this peak. I will describe below an approach via a trail that takes you into Bear Creek Valley where you will leave trail and go up a slope to get to the summit. Reaching this trail requires you to cross Mineral Creek.

Bear Mountain featured on cereal box

It appears that Bear Mountain is featured on the back cover of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory cereal box.

Bear Mountain on cereal box

Getting there

There is no official trailhead. The idea is to cross Mineral Creek and look for the trail that goes into Bear Creek Valley. From Silverton, I drove roughly 2 miles north on Route 550 and parked at a pull-over just before the road to South Mineral Campground. Mineral Creek seemed to split into many branches here making it less deep.

Moose near Mineral CreekMoose in Mineral Creek, from where I parked

Route

MapMap




Place
Elevation
Distance
Route 550
9420 ft
zero miles
Leave Trail
11000 ft
3.0 miles
Summit
12987 ft
1.0 miles
Total
-
4.0 miles





From Route 550, the first object is to cross Mineral Creek, which is no small mountain stream. I chose a spot just to the south of the junction of Route 550 and South Mineral Campground Road where the creek broke into many branches. When I crossed the creek in early August, it was no more than knee deep but at times of high water, it can obviously become much deeper.

Crossing Mineral Creek, no bridgeMineral Creek
Crossing Mineral Creek, no bridgeMineral Creek

Mineral Creek & Kendall BenchmarkMineral Creek & Kendall Benchmark


After crossing Mineral Creek, it is imperative that you find the Bear Creek Valley Trail. Satellite photos show that this trail reaches Mineral Creek area and then fades away. I chose GPS coordinates 37:48.8616 North, 107:41.8878 West and walked to it where the well-defined trail appeared. The trail made a broad switchback going up the forested slope entering Bear Creek Valley.

On Bear Creek Trail
On Bear Creek Trail



The forest soon thinned out/went away. Point 12613 ft could be seen at the south end of the valley. A steep rocky slope/cliff protruded into the side of the valley (I later left the trail, once I went beyond the protrusion).

Bear Creek ValleyPoint 12613 ft & the rocky protrusion


The nasty talus field of Sultan Mountain were visible across the valley.

Talus field on Sultan MountainSultan Mountain


Behind me, the red colored slopes of Anvil Mountain made a colorful scene.

Red colored Anvil Mountain with Tower Mountain behind itAnvil Mountain with Tower Mountain behind it


The trail traversed the slope directly below the rocky protuberance.

Trail nearing the rocky protrusionRocky protrusion


Beyond the rocky protuberance, a steep grassy slope appeared to my right (west). I left the trail at an elevation of 11000 ft and headed directly up the grassy slope.

Where I left trailWhere I left trail


The first 400 ft were very steep.

From the top of the steep portion of the grassy slopesLooking down the steep part of grassy slope


Sultan Mountain, Grand Turk and the nameless 12ers to the south of them could be seen behind.

Sultan Mountain & The Grand TurkSultan Mountain & Grand Turk
12ers to the south of Sultan Mountain12ers to the south of Sultan Mountain


As I went higher, the slope eased up somewhat. The summit of Bear Mountain came to view.

First view of the summit of Bear MountainFirst view of the summit


I was now in a beautiful flower-filled bowl.

Grassy slopes
Grassy slopes
Grassy slopes
Looking down the grassy slope I climbed



The summit above the grassy slopes.

Summit of Bear MountainSummit


Walked up to a 12500 ft saddle and followed the ridgetop to the summit.

Ridgetop to the summitRidgetop to summit


Views from the summit (it was a cloudy day, if you have better pictures let me know).

South Mineral Campground and peaks of the Ice Lake BasinIce Lake Basin
Route 550Route 550
Lake 11794 ft & Route 550Lake 11794 ft & Route 550
Town of SilvertonSilverton
Sultan MountainSultan Mountain
Peak 13042 ftPeak 13042 ft

Red tape

No fees or permits required.