From the junction of Highway 40 and 13 in Craig, turn north on Highway 13. Drive north for about 13.5 miles and turn right off the highway onto County Road 11 which is posted for Freeman Reservoir. The turnoff is right near mile marker 103. Follow County Road 11 for 9.2 miles to Freeman Reservoir. The trailhead is at the parking lot on the east end of the reservoir, right at the shoreline. The road is gravel and good for all cars between mid-June and September or October. With a 4wd, you can usually drive the road until around Thanksgiving weekend because of hunters using the road.
This trail is not shown on the topo map, but is marked on the map Routt National Forest
. The trail is used fairly often, but not often enough to be cleared of deadfall on a regular basis. Expect to climb over quite a bit of fallen trees.
From the trailhead, the route follows the lakeshore for a short distance before joining another trail and heading east. Turn right and follow the trail up Little Cottonwood Creek. After .5 miles from the trailhead, the trail crosses a bridge and continues north to where it crosses the Bears Ears Trail/Trail 1144. If you want to make a traverse of the mountain, and a loop hike, see the route description for Trail 1144
. Turn left on Trail 1144 and follow it a very short distance. Turn right on Trail 1185 (Black Mountain Trail). The trail heads through the aspens, and when covered with snow, you may have a tough time finding it. If the trail is snow covered, use a map and compass to head towards the ridge that contains Point 10,690, if not it is pretty easy to follow. In late September the Aspens are spectacular.
The trail eventually climbs to and then passes over the lower ridge and to the north and a boulderfield. (I mistakenly thought that talking the ridge directly might be easier in the snow, but it proved to be rather challenging. The ridge is very steep and covered with boulders, and when it is also snow covered, it is rather challenging on snowshoes. If you do take the ridge route, it gets a bit easier after Point 10,690, but is still not a walk in the park). If you take the trail through the boulderfield, it stays north of the ridge and switchbacks up to the summit plateau.
Once on the plateau, there is a sign that points to the north and to a spur trail leading to the “raptor viewing area”. This is probably the best viewpoint on this side of the mountain. After enjoying that viewpoint, head back to the junction and then west to point 10,815. There is a sign at this summit, but the true summit is really about 1.2 miles to the southeast. There is a faded trail along the flat summit plateau and to the true summit. The round trip distance to the true summit is 9.2 miles with about 2100 feet elevation gain. If you just wanted to visit Point 10,815, the round trip distance is only 6.8 miles. The east summit has the best views on the mountain and is an extra three miles round trip from the west summit.
Enjoy the fantastic views. To the south is the Yampa River Valley and the Flat Tops; to the east are the other peaks in the Elkheads and the Park Range and Mount Zirkel Wilderness. Wyoming and the Medicine Bows are to the north and northeast, and Utah can be seen way out to the west.
Black Mountain from Freeman Reservoir.
A good pair of boots is needed. A map and compass (or GPS) is a must, although the trail itself is not marked at all on the topo map.