Lookout Mountain sits at the start of a 2.5 mile long ridge that also holds Crystal Mountain to the east. Directly above Donner Pass about .5 miles to the northeast, Lookout Mountain is the 72nd tallest mountain in Larimer County. Lookout Mountain resides in Roosevelt National Forest, and has a well marked trail almost all the way to the summit. Views from the top include close ups of South Signal and Signal Mountain, the Backside of the Mummy Range, East and West White Pine Mountains and the rest of the high peaks. Lookout Mountain is also one of the tallest mountains east of Rocky Mountain National Park.
From Ballard Road TH: 1601' 3 miles one way
Trails marked in orange
Reaching Lookout Mountain
There are several ways to reach Lookout Mountain, as there is a four way intersection at Donner Pass. The shortest way (just over 3 miles) involves starting at the Ballard Road TH
and following the Donner Hill Trail. This route can be lenghtened by starting at the Buckhorn Ranger Station. Other ways of reaching Donner Pass include trail systems starting from the Crystal Mountain Road, Pingree park road, and Dunraven TH
, where a side trip can take you up Bulwark Ridge to the Signal Mountains, then Donner Pass, Lookout Mountain and down the Miller Fork trail to the TH.
From the Ballard Road TH, take the trail north for about a half mile to an intersection, where taking a left (Donner Hill Trail 926) will take you to Donner Pass and Lookout Mountain. Taking a right presumable takes you back to Ballard Road. The Donner Hill Trail climbs gradually through mixed aspen and pine forest for about a mile until you make a slight SE turn and the trail becomes considerably steeper. Note that the spruce trees become much shorter and more dense, a result of at least two sawmills that once operated in the area. The trail will take you right next to one of these sites, where large piles of wood and other relics still remain. From the sawmill, the trees transform back to the deep pine forest and the trail winds around a bit until finally topping out at forested Donner Pass, approximately 2.5 miles from Ballard Road. From here signs will direct you to Lookout Mountain via trail 934. This trail will take you about a quarter mile where another scratched out sign points out a spur trail to take you to the summit of Lookout Mountain. The trail does eventually peter out at the saddle of Lookout and another rocky point, but a short scramble SW will take you to the rocky top. A windbreak, register and massive cairn built by myself sit at the top.
Ballard Road TH 13T 0460233mE 4489697mN
Donner Hill Int 13T 0460403mE 4488799mN
Sawmill site #1 13T 0460568mE 4487548mN
Donner Pass 13T 0460909mE 4486507mN
Lookout Spur Trl 13T 0461174mE 4486582mN
Lookout Mountain 13T 0461206mE 4487274mN
Donner Hill sign
Donner Pass sign
Lookout Mountain Sawmills
There are at least two sawmill sites near Lookout Mountain, one of which is right on the trail, the other one is a stones throw away but is hidden by the thick forest just east of the trail, but a small, tree-chocked access road helps to locate it. Among the massive stacks of scrap wood are rusted out cans, barrels and other relics. Little information is online about these sawmills, but arial photographs via Google Maps shows these two obvious clearings in the homogenous forest, along with several other nearby clearings of about the same size, which leads me to beleive there are more than just two sites. As far as a time period when they were operating, I found a very old Thermos there, so they must have been running in the early 1900's.
The shortest route is from the Ballard Road TH
Other trails lead to Lookout Mountain form Crystal Mountain Road, Pingree Park and the Dunraven TH
The Donner Hill(926), Crystal Mountain(934) and Miller Fork (927, 926A, 926) trails lie entirely in Roosevelt National Forest, while the Bulwark Ridge Trail (928) and Pingree Park connection (928) enter Comanche Peak Wilderness area. Therefore, all regulations apply.
Also, I have taken pictures of the trail signs for convenience
Miller Fork Trail
Note: Like many other forested peaks on public land, hunters are often present. The Buckhorn Creek area and surrounding peaks are popular areas for seasonal hunters. Wearing some hunter's orange during hunting season is always a good idea, and always be aware of your surroundings.
The nearest actual campground to Lookout Mountain is the Tom Bennett Campground in Pingree Park, however there is evidence of dispersed camping in the area, including the Ballard Road TH parking area.
External LinksTrails.com (membership)
Some good info