South Ridge via the West

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Colorado, United States, North America
Route Type:
Time Required:
Most of a day
Class 2

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South Ridge via the West
Created On: Oct 17, 2005
Last Edited On: Sep 7, 2009


Drive Highway 13 either north of Craig or south of Baggs to between Mile Markers 115 and 116 (this is about 25.5 miles north of Craig). Turn east on County Road 38 and follow it to Forest Road 109. The Forest Service boundary is about 9.7 miles from Highway 13 (after this point I took a wrong turn, so don’t have odometer readings).

Stay on FR 109, ignoring all the named roads that branch from it. Before the Forest Service boundary, make sure to stay right at an unmarked junction. If you start heading away from the mountains, you are on the wrong road. After the Forest Service boundary, stay left at two junctions, while staying on FR 109. The second left is labeled “Willow Creek/Trail 1144”. Follow the road to a locked gate. The trail begins here on the east side of the road/parking lot.

Route Description

From the trailhead sign (marked for Willow Creek/Trail 1144), follow the trail east. (The trailhead is not marked on the map, but I believe it is near the "B" in "Bears Ears Trail" on the 7.5 minute quad). The trail is in very good condition by Elkhead Mountain standards and there were only a few logs to climb over in October 2005. The stream crossings are even bridged.

From the trailhead, the trail descends through the forest to Willow Creek, at which there is a bridge. Continue along the good trail through the forest. It will eventually switchback and climb east to the saddle between Mount Welba and Mount Oliphant. This is about 1.75 miles from the trailhead.

From the saddle, the trail descends east, but don’t take the trail. Instead, leave the trail and climb north along the ridge towards Mount Welba. There is no trail and there are some steep sections, but the ascent is easy. Once you reach the summit plateau, the route becomes less steep, but there are many logs to climb over.

From the summit plateau, head NNW towards the highest summit of Welba, staying close to the top of the cliff on the west side of the summit plateau. You will descend from the first highpoint and climb steeply over another false summit before the highest summit is reached.

The trees on the summit are stunted, but the summit is still just below timberline. The summit is marked with a cairn and there is a glass jar that is the summit register (though the paper was wet). Enjoy the fine views before returning via the same route.

The round trip distance to the summit and back is 5.5 miles with 1800 feet elevation gain (including the reascent to the trailhead).

Essential Gear

A good pair of boots are needed. Make sure to have the Routt National Forest map to find the trailhead. The 7.5 minute quad map and a compass are useful for the hike itself.

South Ridge via the West

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