Stone Mountain (7,625′) | Viestenz-Smith Mountain Park
Loveland, CO | 12/16/18 | 8.67 miles | 2,192′ gain
I’m a little late in writing this post since I did this hike almost 2 weeks ago, but sometimes life happens and the blogging gets forgotten. I do want to make sure to share about it though because it has quickly become a favorite!
About a month before, I had hiked Sheep Mountain. (You can read about it here.) And while I enjoyed that hike, I knew I needed to come back because Stone Mountain was off the same trail and I hadn’t been able to do it last time I was in the area. When my friend Abigail FINALLY had a weekend off and wanted to go hiking, we narrowed it down to Stone Mountain. And we were so glad we did! Well, I was, but I think she had fun too.
We met up early in the morning and made our way to the Round Mountain Trailhead west of Loveland. To climb Stone Mountain, you follow the Summit Trail that goes to the top of Sheep Mountain for about 3.6 miles, then cut left at a small cairn, following a faint, rarely used trail through the forest.
I use AllTrails to find most of my hikes (at least the ones that are below 13,000′) and based on the reviews for Stone Mountain, everyone who reviewed it did the wrong trail. I didn’t know that beforehand, however, so I was following reviews saying things like “no views” and “not that great”. But I don’t tend to care about others’ opinions TOO much, I like to see for myself what a trail is all about. (Honestly I like every trail that gets me out of civilization, so it really doesn’t matter.)
The only thing I really knew going in, was that we needed to turn LEFT at the cairn and leave the main Summit Trail. I wasn’t sure if there would be a trail to follow or any markers, but I knew approximately where we were going. (Yes, I’m that person who actually LOOKS at maps/trail photos/etc. before heading out, so no, I was NOT a person who climbed the wrong mountain LOL!)
Once we went off the main trail, we noticed a faint trail, which we followed along the contour of a mountain which I thought was Stone Mountain. (I knew we needed to walk 0.7 miles from the turnoff to the top, but that doesn’t mean my eyes know what 0.7 miles actually looks like.) The forest was absolutely gorgeous, and felt nearly untouched as it was obvious people rarely head this direction. But we kept walking, passing by the mountain that I thought was Stone. I began to think we weren’t on the right trail after all and I had just done bad research. Just as I was about to tell Abigail we should turn around, we hit a break in the trees and SAW it. It. Stone Mountain, in all it’s tiny glory. But I KNEW it was Stone, because I could see the top and it was just what I envisioned. Rocks and boulders and stones, ready for me to climb up. And it was close and easy. So we hurried on.
Very soon after I took that photo, surprisingly soon, maybe just 20 minutes, we reached it. The summit block/s. I had wanted a scramble and boy did I get one. Did I mention I’m not experienced at scrambling and yet was leading someone else AND two dogs? (Oh yeah, Bob & Sally tagged along with us.) This was going to be fine…probably.
Looking at the final pitch, I knew that as I got closer, a route would become clear. These things are usually easier than they look from afar, but it was definitely a lot more vertical than what it looks like in the photo! I told myself that it didn’t matter how long it took, we would figure out a way to get to the top. At this point I knew all of the reviews were wrong. There WERE views, I could SMELL them! (But mostly I could see that the rock was higher than the surrounding trees, so we’d be able to see out.)
We slowly picked our way to the top. I was surprised to find that Bob had a bit of difficulty in places, as he normally is quite the mountain goat. He’d stop and cry and I’d have to go back and show him a way that he could go. Really unusual for him, but it forced me to slow down and look for a route that everyone could complete. (Practice, practice, practice. Maybe one day I’ll be a mountain climber.)
I can’t actually explain how excited I was to get to the top. Knowing that the reviewers on AllTrails were wrong and that there would be views…I was so excited to summit and SEE what they didn’t get to see! And just like that, I reached the top. Abigail was a little ways behind me since she was coming up after both dogs, but I shouted down to her that there were VIEWS!!!
We hung out at the top for quite a while, enjoying the perfect weather and gorgeous views. We had the summit entirely to ourselves, and relished the feeling of being alone in the wilderness. Abigail even found a summit register, which we obviously had to sign. Not many have signed in over the years!
The descent from the summit was interesting. We couldn’t find the orange rock we remembered passing on the way up, so I ended up descending a slightly more difficult way. Once I got down a little bit, the ascent route became obvious and the dogs and Abigail came down that way. The rest of the trail was uneventful. It’s a gorgeous forest but the switchbacking through trees makes it seem like the trail goes on forever. The last 4 miles felt like 10. But eventually we made it back to the car, where the dogs promptly passed out for the ride home.