Sheep Mountain A
appears to be an easy stroll from the parking lot (parking lot is located about 1 mile east from the summit of Stony Pass, just past the Continental Trail
and Colorado Trail
), but once you reach a very large sub summit, there is a nice little exposed ridge walk to the actual summit.
There are not many descriptions in the guide books or on the internet. Guide to the Colorado Mountain
edited by Randy Jacobs with Robert M. Ormes
briefly mentions that for Sheep Mountain or Greenhalgh Mountain descend 1 miles east down from the Stony Pass, and go up Sheep's easy west slopes.
The road to 12,588 foot Stony Pass provides access to the "Bend" area of the Continental Divide. If one checks the map of the Continental Divide. Trail, it does make a big nearly U or V shape towards the west and then returns back. Continental Divide (also Colorado Trail) are very popular with hikers.
Colorado Rank: 407
Line Parent: Canby Mountain
Sheep and Greenhalgh Mountains
"Could Be" 1.4 miles
Why Sheep Mountain A? There are several mountains names Sheep > 13,000 feet, and all are located within San Juans.
Wildflowers - Stony Pass Stony Pass
Sheep Mountain A as seen from the Continental Divide Trail
is accessible from Silverton
(shorter and much easier) and from Creede
/Rio Grande reservoir (a really long road in a very bad shape as of 9/2015). I drove the road in both directions and was amazed in what condition we found it heading towards Creede (tough sections start way pass the turn off for Beartown). Lots of water damage, huge potholes (more than 40 cm deep) - I would not take my car again all the way to Creede this way. The road from Silverton however is nice, only narrow at places making passing vehicles in the opposite direction difficult.
High clearance 4WD vehicle is necessary.
From Silverton drive north east past the courthouse and veer right onto County Road 2. On some maps this road is marked as #110. Pavement ends after a couple of miles. Around 4.2 miles you reach Howardsville (mostly some mining buildings). Turn here onto FS Road 589 - it is signed for Stony Pass/Cunningham Gulch. Shortly you come to an intersection - one to the left is signed for Old Mine Tour, the other one close to the creek continues straight. It does not matter which one you choose, both reconnect after 1-2 miles, and neither is technically challenging. There is more traffic on the Old Mine Tour fork of the road. Soon, you have to leave Cunningham Gulch and start your climb up the Stony Pass - FS 737. It is again marked and hard to miss. The road will begin to degrade some and high clearance 4WD is needed here. The road is steep at some sections and exposed and at other sections making passing other vehicles difficult. Mid July to August there are amazing wildflowers.
Stony Pass is a popular destination with ATVs and other off road vehicles. You are standing at 12,590 feet without any physical work!
A small parking spot for hiking Green Mountain A is located on the north side of the road, about 1 mile east from the summit of Stony Pass. It is unsigned. There is a little campfire (no woods nearby - you need to bring your wood if planning a fire) at the parking lot and it is a good spot to spend a night if needed.
Continental Divide Trail and Colorado Trail are located just above this unsigned parking area - about a couple hundred meters higher.
Sheep Mountain A - nice little ridge walk below the summit
West ridge of Sheep MountainWest Slopes
- follow the easiest path to gain west slopes of Sheep Mountain. There is no established trail, but you will find crossing grassy slopes easy. Ascend gradually west slopes, admire views in all directions. There are a few nice cairns along the way. Soon you will reach a very large plateau, you may think you reached the actual summit, but no, keep going west until you see a narrowing ridge climbing to the actual summit. There is an exposure on both sides and some loose rocks. Watch your footing. Nothing really technically difficult. The actual summit is along the ridge, not very large. Cairn marks the spot and a glass jar serves as a summit register.
If you decide to continue further along the ridge towards Greenhalgh Mountain, expect a more loose terrain. The ridge gets more narrow and finally you have to drop down to the saddle between Greenhalgh and Sheep Mountain A. I found this to be the most dangerous part - the slope is not very steep, but I caused a few rock slides on this very loose terrain. I felt better going by myself on this section and not worrying about rock avalanches caused by others above me.
Views along the hike and summit views
There are no fees to drive the 4WD road to Stony Pass, hike, or camp along the road. The area is pretty remote, but during the peak season expect a lot of ATVs and 4WD vehicles on the road. You will be passing popular hiking trails: Continental Divide Trail and Colorado Trail.
You can park/sleep/camp at a small parking lot just below Stony Pass (about a couple hundred meters below above mentioned trails).
Sheep Mountain as seen from the Continental Divide Trail - nice autumn colors
When to Climb
As mentioned above, the peak is very remote and hard to get to during the times when rough 4WD road is closed, which is from June to October. Travel during the winter adds extra mileage (at least 6 miles each way) and involves crossing avalanche dangerous area.
There is primitive camping available right at the trailhead, otherwise anywhere along the FS road 520.