I changed up my hiking scenery this past week. Instead of heading toward the Rocky Mountain foothills near Bailey, I ventured toward the foothills near Loveland, Colorado. Here, I hiked the trail to Stone Mountain.
What drew me to this trail during the early summer was the lower altitude which results in warmer weather and WILDFLOWERS! In addition, I read the view atop the summit is magnificent.
Location of Stone Mountain
The trailhead is located just off Highway 34. There is a decent sized parking area and pit toilets at the start. Hikers ascend a dirt road for a brief jaunt before turning left onto the trail which goes to Sheep Mountain.
The rocky trail is well maintained, includes mileage posts, and even a few signs about the surrounding nature. Normally, I don’t like such plaques, but these small signs were not obtrusive.
Tips About Hiking Stone Mountain
The important part to note about this trail is that it splits around the 3rd mile. A less traveled path hidden behind a tree veers to left. This leads to Stone Mountain with a view. Don’t miss the turnoff, as Sheep Mountain to which the more trafficked trail leads doesn’t have one!
I was looking for the turnoff for Stone Mountain and still missed it. I walked close to an extra mile prior to turning around, and my 8.5-mile day promptly turned into 10.5 miles. I should have looked closer at my All Trails map!
Another useful tip about this trail is to hike to Stone Mountain in the early morning. As I mentioned above, the trail begins at a lower elevation, approximately 5,600 feet. As a result, the hike can be rather warm, especially while gaining 2,200 feet over 4 miles in intermittent shade.
I was on the trail by 8:30am after a 1.25 hour drive from Denver, and I already felt the heat radiating off the southwestern terrain. While there is shade from scattered trees, the rocky trail doesn’t pass through the forest until the third mile when it levels out.
Instead, it switchbacks up the mountain past prickly pears, yucca, and many other colorful wildflowers. Eventually it reaches some rock formations, passes by a few aspens, and ultimately ends in the forest.
Stone Mountain Summit
Reaching the summit of Stone Mountain requires a short scramble over large boulders. At its base, the easiest path up is to the left. Having said that, my recently adopted pup, Annie, was too chicken to join me. As a result, I spent only a few minutes taking in the 360⁰ view, before I scampered back down to retrieve her from the tree where she was secured.
Fortunately, she did manage to navigate a few rocks to the right. Consequently, we enjoyed lunch with a curious chipmunk while taking in views of the snow-capped peaks to the west. Overall, the low altitude, moderate distance, the outstanding view, and variety of wildflowers makes Stone Mountain a great early season hike. ETB
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