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A cool summit route that ends with spectacular views in every direction of the Fossil Ridge Wilderness.


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Map Key

5.6

Miles

9.0

KM

Out and Back

12,670' 3,862 m

High

10,057' 3,065 m

Low

2,611' 796 m

Up

2,612' 796 m

Down

18%

Avg Grade (10°)

53%

Max Grade (28°)

Dogs Unknown

Features Fall Colors · Geological Significance · Views · Wildlife

Overview

Some on trail and some off makes this route an awesome "choose your own adventure" till you reach the summit and the incredible views of the Fossil Ridge Wilderness all around you.

Description

Start at the Gold Creek Campground at over 10,000 feet. Stay right at the early junction to enter the Fossil Ridge Wilderness. The trail starts with a gradual incline in a beautiful pine forest.

About 1.8 miles in, leave the trail for Fossil Mountain on your right. Look for a small cairn or your GPS. There is no trail, so bushwhack your way to the ridge. And if you feel like jumping on the ridge at a different point, again, it's up to you.

First, you'll navigate some steep rock or just steep loose hillside, depending on your route. I do recommend trekking poles for navigating the scree.

Once you get to the ridge, just continue along it. You hike through fields with sparse trees before getting to a Class 2 rocky section before the summit. You might be able to find some signs of faint trails, follow them if you want, otherwise choose your own adventure.

The summit block can be taken head on with potentially a couple of easy Class 3 moves, or you can go around it to the right, either way will get you to the summit.

The tippy top of Fossil Mountain (12,749') offers great views of all of the Fossil Ridge, including Mill Lake, Square Top Mountain and even Fairview Peak out to the east.

You're unlikely to share the summit with anyone, but perhaps a pika. This is not a heavily trafficked area so if you're looking for solitude, this is a great place to be.

There are supposed to be marine fossils visible in the Fossil Ridge, that's how it got its name, and I would presume on Fossil Mountain there would be some, so if you are into that sort of thing have a look around!

Round-trip distance will be about 6.5 to 7 miles with 2,700' of elevation gain.

Again, choose your own adventure to get back to the trail from the ridge.
Once you get back to the main trail, you can continue down the way you came on the trail to head back to your car or if you continue on up the trail, you'll end up at Mill Lake which you had just seen from above.

History & Background

The limestone ridges in the Fossil Ridge Wilderness contain the fossilized remains of numerous prehistoric sea creatures.

Shared By:

Ashley Peterson

Trail Ratings

  4.0 from 2 votes

#4020

Overall
  4.0 from 2 votes
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#521

in Colorado

#4,020

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Photos

Mill Lake as viewed from Fossil Mountain.
Sep 28, 2023 near St. Elmo, CO
The ridge before Fossil Mountain summit.
Sep 28, 2023 near St. Elmo, CO
The rocky slope before the summit.
Sep 28, 2023 near St. Elmo, CO
A couple of options on the summit block.
Sep 28, 2023 near St. Elmo, CO
Northeast view from the summit.
Sep 28, 2023 near St. Elmo, CO
A good spot to turn right off the main trail and head up.
Sep 28, 2023 near St. Elmo, CO

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