The Platte River Mountains rise more than 3000 ft from the valley bottom of the North Fork of South Platte River. Coming from Denver on US 285 they look like a huge green wall. On its western side most of the range is separated from Kenosha Mountains by Craig Park - an expansive intramountain valley. On its Western side (with the exception of the Twin Cone Peak Group) the Platte River Mountains only rise a couple hundred feet from the valley bottom.
Only the Twin Cone Peaks see lots of traffic, all other peaks of this ridge are rarely visited and guarantee absolute solitude.
Typically summits of the Platte River Mountains are forested almost all the way to the top, the summits covered with meadows. This ridge does not offer spectacular rock formations like other parts of the Lost Creek Wilderness and most of the summits are hard to distinguish from the valley bottom - with one exception: Shawnee Peak.
Enter Bailey on US 285 coming from Denver and the craggy East Ridge of Shawnee Peak is towering right in front of you to the left high above the valley -really can't miss it. Thousands see this mountain every day, but few would be able to tell you its name and even fewer have ever stood on top of it.
Getting There - Route description
There are two trailheads for Shawnee Peak - both within 1 mile of each other and about 50 miles west from Denver.
Drive on US 285 West past Bailey and Shawnee.
BILL TYLER GULCH:
Parking lot is right next to US 285 (left side) about 1 mile after Shawnee. There is no sign. Do not block the gate into the National Forest when parking. No one ever parks here.
BEN TYLER GULCH:
1 mile further along US 285 heading west right next to the road (sign). Space for a couple cars - very busy parking spot especially on weekends.
Both trailheads can be combined to a loop, one only has to trudge along USD 285 for about 1 mile to get back to the car from either trailhead.
Making a loop is a perfect way to see all sides of the mountain.
If you start at Ben or Bill Tyler Gulch depends on if you prefer to bushwhack uphill or downhil as there is no established trail via Bill Tyler Gulch - I prefer it uphill.
ROUTE FROM BILL TYLER GULCH:
Walk around the gate and hike on a dirt road up Bill Tyler Gulch. Goal from here is to get to the North side of Point 11281 - the terminus point of Shawnee Peaks East Ridge. A large talus field extends on the North side of the East Ridge all the way up to the summit which is a preferable route to bushwhacking it up instead on the South side of the East Ridge.
Follow the dirt road into Gibson Gulch. In Gibson Gulch the forest is reclaiming this old logging road , you will have to climb over several fallen trees and soon the road simply dissapears into the undergrowth. Keep on hiking straight up along the right side of the valley through pine forest in direction of Point 11281 (which you will only get a glimpse of once or twice - you need to have a good sense of direction)- following the creek up would be a lot longer. Once below Point 11281 swing to its north side and hike up to the summit. One should also be able to bushwhack it straight up from Bill Tyler Gulch itself. I stumbled below Point 11281 over the remains of another logging road - also ended pretty soon higher up, but might still lead all the way down to Bill Tyler Gulch.
Staying straight on East Ridge itself offers Class III to V climbs.
From the summit one has two options:
Either hike straight down to Craig Park until you hit Craig Park Trail - trail does not see much traffic and can be pretty indistinctive. Hike on Craig Park Trail upvalley until you hit Ben Tyler Trail. Lots of options for camping in Craig Park.
Or follow the ridge line to the north and hike over two more nameless summits. Drop down to Craig Park from point 11 941 and join Craig Park Trail.
Turn right on Ben Tyler Trail and the trail will get you back to US 285. You will hike through an expansive aspen grove on your way down -site of a major forest fire in 1905. From Ben Tyler Trailhead it is one 1 (long)mile along US 285 back to the trailhead at Bill Tyler Gulch.
The vast majority of the route is within the Lost Creek Wilderness - please abide to all wilderness regulations.
Best place to camp is Craig Park with lots of nice places to pick from. There are not really any good spots up from Bill Tyler (too steep) and only a handful of good spots along Ben Tyler Gulch.
sturdy boots are all what you need for this trip
The mountain can be climbed all year long, trail will be not completely snow free before early June.
Bushwhacking it up via Bill Tyler Gulch in deep snow will be very hard to impossible
Ben Tyler Trail sees lots of traffic even in winter, but the last leg via Craig Park might be still quite a workout