Sunday, March 4, 2012

Red Mountain Open Space Exploration: Table Mountain and Pt. 7178

Red Mountain Open Space:Bent Rock Trail
Table Mountain (7074')
Pt 7178


The changing of February into March means the re-opening of Red Mountain Open Space, which is closed seasonally from December through March. I hadn't made it up there yet -- it's a solid 25 miles north of Fort Collins -- but was eager to do so. I pointed Nick at the nearby peaks on the Table Mountain quad, and we decided to go have a look.

As we made our way up north on dirt roads, the city scene gave way to a positively pastoral landscape of ranches and rock. The closer we got to our destination, almost at the Wyoming border, the more impressive the surrounding terrain became. Unfortunately, the wind was Wyoming-like, as well.

Our first goal was to check out Table Mountain, a prominent mesa just south of the Open Space:

Table Mountain is a steep but manageable walkup. Unfortunately, it was miserable in the wind, and it was absolutely howling down below on the west side of the hill. Downclimbing wasn't a good idea, since there were times while hiking or running when a quick, surprise gust would blow your leg or body in an unintended direction. We tried to discuss a plan, but you couldn't even hear a person talk. Then, the wind picked up some more, so you couldn't even think, as your thoughts blew away before you could even think them.

So we went back down to the trail, and decided to stay low and run around a bit.

Of course, as such things happen, it wasn't that bad once we had retreated to the valley, so we discussed options, and decided to head back south again and then toward 7178'. The wind was still bad, but at least on stable trail and dirt tracks, it was more manageable and enjoyable. The climb up 7178' is actually fun, with a steep grind up a dirt road, surrounded by red rock terrain giving way to a forest of pines.

With renewed vigor, more running, and less wind, we headed north for further exploration. As we saw a tilted slab of pink sandstone topping out above the trees, we instinctively headed towards it, thinking it was another ranked summit. After more significant work getting towards it, and climbing higher through the trees for a better view, we realized that it wasn't just any gulch in our way; rather, the steep, sheer 500' walls of Boxelder Creek.
Photo courtesy of Nick Clark

This meant that we had no choice but to descend safely to the East, parallel to the canyon, and that we wouldn't have time to head further north, but the spectacular views of the canyon were worth it. We then dropped down next to a sheer drop that was obviously worn smooth by water, with a dry bowl at the bottom -- although completely dry, this was clearly an intermittent waterfall, shown on the map, which would be quite impressive during the spring.

Heading back East, we were impressed by more bright red rock -- how exquisite to have something like this so close to Fort Collins! It is more reminiscent of Fruita, Moab, or Vernal, than typical Northern Colorado scenery. Sure, Red Rocks Park and GotG are impressive, but desecrated by concrete and gapers.

We finished up with a bit more running on the trails.
The scenery along the Bent Rock trail alone -- short and non-technical -- is definitely worth a visit for anyone.

Just be mindful of the wind -- it can get so bad at times, it can rip your hide right off!
Photo courtesy of Nick Clark


  1. Really interesting terrain. Reminds me of Elephant Rocks near Del Norte. That kind of sparse almost desert-like terrain is fascinating to me, maybe because it's so different from the leafy Midwest I grew up with.

    Ah yes, always comforting to see animal carcasses while you are running. Especially alone.

  2. If that last picture is any indication, you really need to increase your caloric intake, Dude.

  3. Au contraire...Those were the remains after we got hungry!

    BTW, Red Mountain Open Space/Bent Rock Trail is a legit nominee for "Fort Collins Best-Kept Secret"