Upon entering the Estes Valley, there are several mountains that immediately take precedence on the near horizon. Longs Peak and The Crags (part of Twin Sisters) to the south are givens. Directly west of town is Deer Mountain and Macgregor Mountain (named for the Scottish lawyer who basically ran Lord Thomas Dunraven out of town by 1880). To the north is Lumpy Ridge.
The last mountain that stands out is actually more or less, in town. Its summit is crowned with communication towers and a cable car runs hourly trips to the summit in summer where a small gift shop is located. This is Prospect Mountain.
An interesting thing about Prospect is that there is a tunnel that runs through the bottom of the mountain. The ‘Prospect Mountain Tunnel’ carries water from Mary’s Lake over to Lake Estes where in turn, it’s eventually carried down-valley to nourish the Front Range and Denver. Some of the older (1960’s) quad maps show this tunnel.
Even though all of Prospect Mountain is entirely private property, the owners, whom of which are made up of individual residential owners and the tramway, seem fairly relaxed and copasetic about accessibility. A service road for the radio towers obviously exists but it’s not a path that I would choose due again, to the property concerns. In my opinion, there's no need to test boundaries, so to speak. There is a well-defined, 'unofficial' social trail on the backside (southeast shoulder) of the mountain that provides a more incognito route to the top which, I’ll detail later.
Prospect does have limited climbing to offer as well. On the southeast side is a small arête and detached fat column. The climbing for the most part on Prospect is moderate to difficult sport. Some trad routes do exist but everything is limited to 1-2 pitches and short at that. The rock is granite and most of it is crimpy. See the climbing section below for more details.
I haven’t been able to track down why the mountain was named thus. But when William Henry Jackson visited Estes Park in 1873 on a photographic trip, the locals, of which there were precious few (Estes by then had only been settled for ~13 years), were already referring to the mountain as Prospect.
Since Estes Park saw its’ inception in the early 1860’s, perhaps this was a moniker given to idealize the future ‘prospects’ of wealth and or prosperity for years to come? Perhaps Estes Park's first resident, Joel Estes of Missouri bestowed the name in his part-time ramblings for gold. I don’t know but it’s as a good a guess as any. Mining by the way, played no part in Estes’ past. There are a few mines south of town but nothing really ever payed out.
From the town of Estes Park, drive south on Co. 7 (South St. Vrain Avenue) for roughly 2.75 miles. On the right side (west), look for Peak View Drive; turn here. Stay on Peak View Dr. as it veers left.
After a mile or so, on the right, look for Curry Drive.
Turn right and proceed up the road. This is all neighborhood (private houses). Curry Drive ends after a half mile. Park at the end of the road (parallel). Parking here is VERY limited (perhaps room for 4-5 vehicles). You'll need to parallel park to provide enough room for others to do the same.
Follow the old road past the gate/dirt embankment and on the left, after only a few meters, spy a well-worn dirt and gravel hiking path. This is your access point. The climbing areas can be accessed from here as well.
Since this is a short and fairly simple hiking route, it's just a matter of keeping to the existing path. The route alternates between dirt and loose gravel. There are copious amounts of pine needles, roots and branches and some downed trees to navigate. Pretty much as what one would expect.
Expect the ascent time to be somewhere around 30-45 minutes.
Prospect Mountain is a good opportunity if you only have an hour or so to kill or are looking to do something off the 'tourist' path. This mountain combo's well with Rams Horn and Lily Mountain.
The major thing to be mindful of is of course, the private property. Whether its the residential neighborhoods surrounding the base, the Estes Park Ariel Tramway or the cell phone towers (AT&T, Verizon, Park School District), the entire mountain is privately owned. So please stick to only the south side social trail.
It is also for this reason that there is no camping sub-section on this page. If however, you’re intent on camping while staying in Estes Valley, see the camping section under the Storm Peak page.
Prospect Mountain is only a class-2 hike. So expect to take the usual barrage of hiking equipment (poles, boots, long-sleeve shirt, hat etc.). Weather can change rapidly in Estes Park (mountain valley). Though fortunately, you also have the ability to watch it spill over from the divide and get down promptly or take shelter if need be.
In terms of elevations, this is not a particularly high mountain (for Colorado) but severe weather can still take hikers unawares. So be prepared.
The private property makes accessing some of these areas a bit difficult. Though there are only two real areas to climb anyway with two more minor spots. These areas are located on the southeast side within proximity of the hiking trail. Most of the routes are sport, a few trad options exist and most are difficult (upper 5th). These spots are: The Thumb, The Needle, The Fin and The Thimble. Below is a small sampling of ‘classics.’ See the Mountain Project link for further details.
▪ Zig Arête- 5.10c (The Thumb)
This route is located on a north facing wall. It starts off steep and stays vertical.
This route is one pitch, sport and has 6 bolts.
▪ Momentary Lapse of Ethics- 5.11b (The Needle)
Considered a classic line on the Needle, this is a super short, crimpy sport line.
The exposure is decent with five bolts. This route can be top-roped.
▪ Blocky Arête- 5.7 (The Thimble)
There are multiple variations up this fractured and wide route. The climbing can
at times drop into difficult 4th scrambling and suddenly rear up to a mid 5th move, pending route choice. This is a short trad climb.
For more detailed information, check out the Mountain Project link above. You’ll definitely find solitude on these routes. Plus it’s off the beaten path!