Sheep Mountain (8,450′) | Viestenz-Smith Mountain Park
Loveland, CO |11/10/18 | 9.91 miles | 2,871′ gain
I feel an incredible need to hike every week, and since I’d missed the week before, I really wanted to get out this past weekend. I was a little worried about finding something without snow (because I didn’t feel like snowshoeing) but I found this website (https://www.fs.fed.us/r5/webmaps/SierraSnowDepth/) that shows current snow depths and honestly, it’s amazing and I have no idea how I had never heard of it before! It’s updated daily and appears to be extremely accurate, so you should definitely use it!
So I spent hours on AllTrails like I always do, trying to find a lower-elevation hike that isn’t extremely lame, and I happened upon Sheep Mountain. It didn’t have the best reviews, people were complaining that the views weren’t great, but I figured I’d give it a try. So I set out Saturday morning (alone, because my friends actually have lives outside of hiking) hoping for an enjoyable hike.
It only took me 50 minutes to get to the trailhead. That is literally unheard of. I am so used to driving 2 or more hours to get to anything worthwhile, so when I got to the trailhead in under an hour, I was seriously pumped. The trailhead was huge, with plenty of room to park, and was snow-free! (So far so good!) I did bring my microspikes with me just in case I hit any snow or ice, but I did NOT bring snowshoes, assuming the snow would be very shallow if there was any at all.
The trail started out past a gate on a gravel road. It steadily climbed in elevation through the forest. Shortly after setting out, a trail junction stated to take a left for the Summit Trail (to the summit of Sheep Mountain). Now off the road, a nice trail climbed higher and higher through the forest. The trail stayed very obvious and easy to find for the entire hike. Occasional interpretive signs talked about the native plants and geology. I found these to be very interesting and I enjoyed a quick break reading these. They also had mile markers which showed how far I’d come without having to pull out my phone to check Strava.
Occasionally the forest would break, and I’d catch a glimpse of Sheep Mountain or the surrounding landscape. As I climbed higher, there were frequent rock formations. (I thought these were really cool!) As I neared the summit, the wind picked up and I was pretty uncomfortable, so I quickly checked out the summit and headed back down. There was a large cairn and seating area on the summit, and a short loop trail with additional interpretive signs and a great view of the Mummy Range. (The summit itself is covered with trees, so you do have to follow the short loop trail to see the Mummy Range.)
I was surprised to find that this hike had incredible views, and I actually really enjoyed it (even though it wasn’t above treeline!). It was pretty hard with the constant elevation gain (and I was moving relatively fast) but I’d definitely recommend this hike as a training hike for 14er season!