From the junction of Highway 40 and 13 in Craig, turn north on Highway 13. Drive north for about 13 miles to north of mile marker 102 until you see a sign posted for County Road 27. The road is posted for “Forest Service Access” and “Black Mountain”. Drive County Road 27 through private lands for 10 miles which is where you reach the Route National Forest boundary. The road becomes FR 110. Stay on the main road for another mile or so and park where there is a sign clearly marking Trail 1144. This is about 11 miles from the highway. The road is gravel, but any car can make it, at least between July and September or October.
The main reason for using the Trail 1144 route is to use it as a connecting trail in order to connect the Southeast Ridge and Freeman Reservoir routes into one big loop traversing the mountain. The loops can be hiked in either direction, but for the purpose of the pages, it will be assumed that you ascend the Freeman Reservoir Route and descend the Southeast Ridge Route.
Once you climb over Black Mountain from the Freeman Reservoir and descend the Southeast Ridge Route, you will need to follow FR 110 (forest road) down and to the southwest for 2.8 miles and to the small parking lot and sign that marks Trail 1144. The trail crosses the road on either side, but the trail you want is (obviously) the one on the west side of the road. This trail is also known as the Bears Ears Trail.
(Note: Maps show an alternate starting point for trail 1144 to the south, but it seems to be mostly faded away, at least near the junction with the main Trail 1144.)
Trail 1144 doesn’t seem to get much use, but is fairly easy to follow. From the trailhead next to the road, follow the trail to the west. It descends down the slope at a steady but gentle grade. Unless the trail has been cleared recently, there is much fallen timber to climb over and in early summer, there are several marshy/muddy sections of the trail as well. The trail passes many beaver ponds and marshy areas, as well as some beautiful meadows. One stream/marsh crossing is on a good bridge, but the rest of the steam crossings are un-bridged. Most of them aren’t a problem, but the one over Little Bear Creek (about 1.4 miles from the 1144 trailhead) can be a challenge in early summer. Just before Little Bear Creek and near a beaver pond, there is another trail that crosses Trail 1144 in either direction. We hiked both forks off the main trail, but these seem to fade away after a short distance. The one that heads south supposedly reaches a 4wd road; at least it does on the topo map. The one that heads north seems to fade away at a huge beaver pond. Continue on the main trail (straight) and cross Little Bear Creek. Not too long after that, the tral crosses Falls Creek (1.8 miles from TR 1144 trailhead)and then the trail climbs steadily and gains altitude with some good views of Black Mountain along the way. The trail crosses Taylor Creek at mile 3.4 and then continues through meadows and the forest before descending again. At mile 4.1, the trail crosses Little Cottonwood Creek, and at mile 4.5 you will reach a junction with another more-used trail. This is the trail you used to climb Black Mountain from Freeman Reservoir. Turn left here and follow the trail down to Freeman Reservoir .8 miles). The total length of the connecting trail from FR 110 to Freeman Reservoir is about 5.3 miles. The total length of the loop hike from Freeman Reservoir, over the summit of Black Mountain, down the Southeast Ridge, down FR 110 to Trail 1144, and then back to Freeman Reservoir is about 15.7 miles. This is a very long day hike, but it could be done easier in two days, and there are some nice campsites along the way.
A good pair of boots is needed. A walking stick can be useful for the creek crossings in early to mid-summer. A map and compass (or GPS) is an absolute must since the trail is faded in places. This trail is the only one of the three that is marked fairly accurately on the top map.