This route is the route we took up Buck Point, but the mountain may be slightly easier to climb from the eastern trailhead (West Prong). The route follows the Willow Creek/Bears Ears Trail to the saddle between Mount Welba and Mount Oliphant before contouring around to the saddle between Mount Welba and Buck Point. From there the indistinct west ridge of Buck Point is followed to the summit. The crux of the route is a talus slope and then from the false summit there is much route finding through timber to reach the summit.
Minor boulderfields on the Willow Creek Route of Buck Point. The false summit of Mount Oliphant is in the background.
Drive Highway 13 either north of Craig, or south of Baggs to between Mile Markers 115 and 116 (this is about 25.5 miles north of Craig). Turn east on County Road 38 and follow it to Forest Road 109. The Forest Service boundary is about 9.7 miles from Highway 13 (after this point I took a wrong turn, so don’t have odometer readings).
Stay on FR 109, ignoring all the named roads that branch from it. Before the Forest Service boundary, make sure to stay right at s junction (now marked). If you start heading away from the mountains, you are on the wrong road. After the Forest Service boundary, stay left at two junctions, while staying on FR 109. The second left is labeled “Willow Creek/Trail 1144”. Follow the road to a locked gate. The trail begins here on the east side of the road/parking lot.
From the trailhead sign (marked for Willow Creek/Trail 1144), follow the trail east. (The trailhead is not marked on the map, but I believe it is near the "B" in "Bears Ears Trail" on the 7.5 minute quad). The trail is in very good condition by Elkhead Mountain standards and there were only a few logs to climb over in October 2005, August 2008 and September 2009. The stream crossings are even bridged.
From the trailhead, the trail descends through the forest to Willow Creek, at which there is a bridge. Continue along the good trail through the forest. It will eventually switchback and climb east to the saddle between Mount Welba and Mount Oliphant. This is about 1.75 miles from the trailhead.
From the saddle, the trail descends east, but don’t take the trail. Instead, leave the trail and more or less contour east around the Mount Welba to the north to the saddle between Mount Welba and Elk Point. This is easier said than done, but is straight forward enough. There are some short boulderfields, but the biggest obstacles are the sections of fallen timber.
Our general consensus was that it was better to stay at the same elevation of the two saddles or slightly lower rather than going high. Once you reach the area of the saddle, the timber is thick enough that you can’t see either peak, so a compass or GPS helps.
To reach the summit, head east along the indistinct west ridge of Buck Point. The route steepens near the top, but the terrain is overall easier the higher you go because the timber thins out. Once you reach the edge of the cliffs you are almost to the summit, so simply follow the cliff line east to the summit.
We climbed the peak on September 7 2009 and there were only two other signatures in the log. The legendary Mike Garrat (Delores Colorado) placed the register on August 16 2003 and one other person had signed it. I replaced the register jar with a larger and newer one.
Head back the same way. The round trip distance is about 6 miles with about 1900 feet elevation gain including the descent to Willow Creek and the ups and downs.
Photo shot from the top of the cliffs on the false summit of Mount Oliphant looking towards Buck Point.
A good pair of boots is needed.
Make sure to have the Routt National Forest map to find the trailhead. The 7.5 minute quad map and a compass (or GPS) should be taken for the hike itself.