Sheep Mountain (8,450 feet) offers a mild grade hike to an uninspiring summit; however, its nearly 5 miles of singetrack wends its way though several ecologic zones and its nearly 3,000 feet of elevation gain from the floor of the Big Thompson canyon offers excellent views of the plains to the east and the peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park
to the west.
This mountain makes for a good spring reintroduction to dirt and rock after a winter spent on skis or snowshoes, it would make a fantastic trail-runner’s area, and its typical foothill-style boulders provide ample opportunity for off-trail scrambling.
This gnarly class 3 face seperates the meadow from the summit of Sheep Mountain. The class 1 trail bypasses these stones, but they are there for the scrambling, if a hiker were so inclined.
Sheep Mountain seems to share many features of the Boulder Group
and its northern neighbors Greyrock Mountain
and Horsetooth Mountain
, and this should come as no surprise as the mountain is situated directly between them in the foothills of the Front Range. The gnarly rock formations on its flanks are reminiscent of those that are so lustily climbed on the slopes near Green Mountain
, South Boulder Peak
, and Bear Peak
, while the lumpy, high-forehead look of the patchwork of treeless slopes matches the feel of any typical Ft. Collins-area scramble.
The mountain is one of a pair of named, forested peaks along the south side of Hwy 34 as it passes through Big Thompson canyon between the Dam Store and Drake. The other is Stone Mountain (7,655), almost 1,000 feet Sheep Mountain’s junior.
Point 7709 as seen from the grassy saddle between it and Sheep Mountain. Directly on the other side of this point is another saddle and the area's other named peak, Stone Mountain (7,655).
The path of least resistance to the top of Sheep Mountain is the 4.75-mile “Summit Adventure Trail” that begins at the trailhead next to the highway. While this trail offers little in the way of adventure, and leads to less than a summit than one might like to see at the terminus of a summit trail, the route does take the hiker through a high desert of yucca and prickly pear; a ponderosa pine forest; a mile of wicked granite boulders; a pleasant grassy meadow; and finally a fir, spruce and pine forest to a man-sized cairn that marks the peak.
The uninspiring summit of Sheep Mountain. Incomprehensibly, there is a steel summit register tube lodged in this cairn.
Unbelievably, in this cairn is lodged a steel summit register tube. The “Summit Adventure Trail” is marked “Round Mountain Pack Trail” on USGS maps, though my version shows this trail terminates at the meadowy saddle between Sheep Mountain and Unnamed Point 7709.
From Loveland, drive west on Hwy 34 roughly a dozen miles to the Round Mountain trailhead, which is on the south side of the road, and difficult to see when traveling east-to-west. From Estes Park, travel east on Hwy 34 and begin looking for the trailhead once you have passed the hamlet of Drake. The trailhead is close to midway between the Dam Store and Drake on Hwy 34.
The trailhead is a joint venture of the City of Loveland and the Forest Service. After a few minutes of walking on the trail, the hiker enters Roosevelt National Forest, so FS rules apply here. There are no fees to park or hike.
Camping is permitted in Roosevelt National Forest. Please follow FS rules. No camping is permitted at the trailhead.
You will only need standard summer hiking kit. In winter, after a tremendous snow dump, it is conceivable that one could cross-country ski this trail, though it would go off as a Nordic black diamond I’m guessing.