Cascade Mountain is considered to be the southernmost of the “big ones” in the Never Summer Mountains in Colorado. As is typical for many of the mountains in both the Never Summer Range and the Front Range in Rocky Mountain National Park, Cascade Mountain has a gentle west face and a rugged and steep east face.
One nice aspect of Cascade Mountain is that unlike some of its neighbors in the Never Summer Mountains, the peak offers several routes that are free of the steep and loose scree common in much of the range, making this perhaps the most enjoyable mountain in the range that I’ve climbed. As with the other major summits in the Never Summers, the views are spectacular.
In addition to the standard routes along the north and south ridges, the west and southwest faces of the mountain appear to offer some fine snow routes. The east face should offer some nice and steep snow routes before early July as well.
Much of the Never Summer Mountains is composed of rotten volcanic rock, but Cascade Mountain has some relatively solid granite as well.
The summit of Cascade Mountain can be seen upper right. If you look closely you can see Kessler sitting on top.
Getting ThereNorth Supply Trailhead
On Highway 34 between Granby and Grand Lake, turn west onto County Road 4 between mile markers 9 and 10. Follow County Road 4 to a junction and turn right onto Forest Road 120, a.k.a. Kauneeche Road. Follow Forest Road 120 for 9.3 miles to the North Supply Trailhead. If you wish, there is a signed jeep road to the trailhead as well, but the main Forest Road 120 is good enough for 2wd passenger vehicles driven carefully, though there are several big potholes on the road. Park at the North Supply Trailhead.
Lost Lake Trailhead
Follow Highway 125 north from Windy Gap Reservoir (not far west of Granby on Highway 40) to County Road 4 which turns east between mile markers 16 and 17. Turn east onto County Road 4 and follow it for 5.7 miles to a junction with Forest Road 123.3. Turn left on Forest Road 123.3 and drive 0.7 miles to the Lost Lake Trailhead.
This is the gentle southwest side of Cascade Mountain as viewed from near the Lost Lake Trailhead. The other side of the mountain is steep and rugged.
Bowen Gulch Trailhead
Since this trailhead is within Rocky Mountain National Park, it requires an entrance fee. From Highway 34 north of Grand Lake, enter Rocky Mountain National Park and drive north 4.2 miles after the fee station to a road on the west (left). Turn west onto this road and follow it for 0.2 miles to a junction. The trail starts at the gated road to the right.
Routes OverviewSouthwest Ridge via North Supply Trailhead
This is probably the easiest route up the mountain. The route offers great views throughout its length as well. From the North Supply Trailhead, the route accesses the Blue Ridge via one of several routes. The route then more or less follows the Blue Ridge to the saddle above Bowen Lake and then accesses the summit of Cascade Mountain via its Southeast Ridge.
This route is about 11 miles round trip and has about 2300 feet elevation gain. The last part of the route is only class 2 and is rather easy in comparison to many of the mountains in the area.
Kessler high on the Southwest Ridge of Cascade Mountain.
Southwest Ridge via the Lost Lake Trailhead
This route access the Blue Ridge from the west and from the Lost Lake area. Once the route reaches the Blue Ridge, it joins with the Southwest Ridge via the North Supply route. After that, the route is the same as the Southwest Ridge route listed above. I have been to Lost Lake, but not up to the Blue Ridge from the west side, so make sure to use the National Geographic/Trails Illustrated map to navigate this route.
This route is 12.5 miles round trip and with about 3300 feet elevation gain.
Southwest Ridge via the Bowen Gulch Trailhead
This is a beautiful route that accesses Cascade Mountain from Bowen Gulch and Rocky Mountain National Park to the east. The route follows the trail up Bowen Gulch to Bowen Lake and then to the saddle above Bowen Lake at which location it joins the other Southwest Ridge routes.
This route is 18.2 miles round trip with 3700 feet elevation gain.
The north ridge of Cascade Mountain makes an easy route as well. You can approach the North Ridge from Bowen Pass which can be accessed via Bowen Gulch. You could even make a loop hike of the North Ridge and Southwest Ridge via any of the three routes described above. The shortest option would be to use the route from the North Supply Trailhead and this would be a 15.5 mile loop. My son and I have followed the ridge as far north as Ruby Mountain from Cascade Mountain, but there is a good trail from there to Bowen Pass, so the route is not difficult.
There appear to be many other fine route options as well. Several of the gullies on the west and Southwest faces appear to be excellent snow climbs in May, June or early July. Approach these routes from the same road that approaches the Lost Lake Trailhead.
The east face appears to have many fine steep early season snow routes as well. The east face appears to be a mix of crumbly loose rock and solid rock, so with route-finding, you may be able to find at least some good climbs there.
Maps show trails from the north starting at both Illinois River and Jack Park. I am unfamiliar with these routes, but since they are part of the Continental Divide Trail, they are probably pretty well marked. Consult the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Rand/Stillwater Pass #115.
The east face of Cascade Mountain appears to have some good snow routes early season. This is July 25.
This area is in a mixture of protected lands including the Bowen Gulch Protected Area, the Never Summer Wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park. Regulations for each can be viewed by clicking the links below:
Never Summers Wilderness
Rocky Mountain National Park
There are good campsites near both the Lost Lake and North Supply Trailheads. Good backcountry campsites exist at Lost Lake, Bowen Gulch and Bowen Lake, but the campsites at Lost and Bowen Lakes are heavily used, so tread lightly. There are also campgrounds around Grand Lake and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Lost Lake makes a good campsite and has a fine view of Cascade Mountain.
When to Climb
July through September is the normal climbing season, but the mountain can be climbed year round.
As mentioned there would be some good early season snow routes for those competent with an ice axe and crampons.
Cascade Mountain also has reasonable winter access from Bowen Gulch. There is a potential slide path between Bowen Lake and the saddle southeast of Cascade Mountain, but in winter most of it can be avoided by taking an alternate route through the trees.
Approaching Cascade Mountain from the south on July 25 2009.
For current road and trail conditions, contact:
Sulphur Ranger District
9 Ten Mile Drive
Granby, CO 80446
Below is the climate summary for nearby Berthoud Pass at 11,315 feet elevation which is several miles to the south and about 1000 feet lower than Cascade Mountain. These are all averages, so expect more variation, but this will give you a good idea about the climate at higher elevations around Cascade Mountain. *National Weather Service Data 1950-1985.
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