Southeast Ridge via Brown’s Pass

Page Type
Colorado, United States, North America
Route Type:
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Time Required:
Most of a day
Class 1 walk-up, some route-finding

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Southeast Ridge via Brown’s Pass
Created On: Jun 24, 2008
Last Edited On: Oct 9, 2017


Horseshoe Mountain from just below the summit of Sheep Mountain F
Horseshoe Mountain from just below the summit of Sheep Mountain F
7 June 2008
Roundtrip Mileage: 8.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,590 ft.
USGS Quad: Fairplay West
Trail Illustrated Map: #110 Leadville Fairplay

This Class 1 hike on mostly solid footing requires little more than stamina and perseverance combined with basic navigation skills. Navigation is required for a short wooded section where the trail peters out between what is posted on-scene as Forest Service jeep road 176A and what is identified on maps as Forest Service motorized route 691.

Note that while the forest service has designated 691 as a motorized route, only a skilled dirt biker with plenty of patience and a willingness to travel slowly could/would travel the higher altitude reaches of this route in a motorized fashion. During an early June visit the only signs of humanity we witnessed between Browns Pass and the summit of Sheep Mountain F were ski and snowshoe prints.

This is a primarily south-facing route on a 12er sitting somewhat in the snow shadow of the peaks to the immediate west. As a result, this hike is a good early shoulder-season option when routes up other peaks are blocked by soft snow.

This route features a hike through a ghost tree and krumholtz forest and, once above timber-line, wide-open views as far as the eye can see for a solid mile or more of the hike.

Getting There

  • From Fairplay, follow Hwy 285 south for approximately 6 miles.

  • Turn right on County Road 658. (This road may not be marked as CR 658. The turnoff is about 4 miles south of Fourmile Road and two miles north of Weston Pass Road. If, after turning off Hwy 285, you see a Forest Service sign for Brown’s Pass, you are in the right place.)

  • Set your odometer back to zero.

  • At approximately mile 3 veer right on FS 176. (Shortly after turning onto FS176, if you stay right, you’re on 179.  Go left to stay on 176.)

  • Follow the signs to Browns Pass. At approximately mile 5, you will reach the Forest Service gate. (2x4 vehicles park here.)

  • Shortly after the gate you will encounter a water crossing that is likely to be shallow by quite wide. Use solid judgment in determining whether to take the water crossing on foot or by vehicle.

  • Standard 4x4s: Go as far as comfortable (that is, proceed as far as the capabilities of the vehicle and driver allow); find parking. Note that once the road begins steep uphill climb to the west at about 10,900 feet the road becomes considerably steeper and rougher and parking becomes very limited.

  • Customized or small-wheelbase (e.g. Jeep) 4x4s with powerful 4-low or ATVs: Park at Brown’s Pass summit.
Westward from the southeast ridge of Sheep Mountain F
Looking westward from the southeast ridge of Sheep Mountain F
7 June 2008

Looking south-southeast down the summit ridge
Looking south-southeast down the summit ridge
7 June 2008

Route Description

  • From the summit of Brown’s Pass head due-north on a wide ATV trail marked as 176A.

  • Quick eyes may pick up a faint trail and tiny cairns to their right, but many hikers will continue on 176A until it peters out at an ATV turnaround.

  • Continue to navigate through timber, heading north or north-northwest, until coming upon trail 691 (unmarked). Member update:  There is now a plexiglass sign and steel entryway of sorts indicating the beginning of trail 691.

  • Note that the trail may appear to be “on again, off again”, at least with deep snow drifts present.

  • As the trees thin, ahead of you will be a bulky plateau with a false summit peering out behind it. Skirt this plateau to the east.

  • Around 12,100 ft. the last stand of trees gives way to bare rock and the climb begins in earnest.

  • Follow the primary trail to approximately 12,500, then depart trail 691 to strike out northwesterly across the rocks and tundra of the broad summit ridge.

  • A final push to the west brings you to the 12,818 ft. summit of Sheep Mountain F.

Click on map for larger view

Essential Gear

Looking through a ghost forest toward Sheep Ridge
Looking through a ghost forest toward Sheep Ridge
7 June 2008
For safety and comfort, the following are recommended:
  • Long pants to protect tender legs during the brief bushwhack.

  • Topographic map

  • Compass

  • GPS

  • Colorado Atlas and Gazetteer (for back road navigation)

  • Trekking pole(s)

  • Sturdy hiking boots with grippy soles and stiff ankle support

  • More water than you think you will need (limited water is available on the lower reaches of this route)

  • First aid kit

  • Other standard backcountry essentials

External Links

Pike & San Isabel National Forests
Pike National Forest Recreation Map

Southeast Ridge via Brown’s Pass

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