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Hiking & Walking: Colorado > White River National Forest > Eagle Ranger District

Quick Facts

"W" Mountain Trail

Beginning Elevation: 10,000 Feet (3117.2 Meters) approx.
Difficulty: Moderate
High Point: 11,600 Feet (3616.0 Meters) approx.
Length, One-way: 8 Miles (13.33 Kilometers)
Usage: Moderate
USGS Map: Sweetwater Lake; Trappers Lake




Satellite and Topo Map




General Description

The "W" Mountain Trail begins at the end of Forest Road 616, off the Derby Mesa Road, north of Dotsero and west of Derby Junction. The "W" Mountain Trail is a 17 mile long route which eventually ties into Trail 1814 east of Trappers Lake in the Blanco Ranger District. The trail is rated easy and for nearly ten miles it wanders through meadows of the Flat Tops Wilderness. The trail grows faint at times in the meadows but the wilderness traveler can easily stay on track by watching for the rock and pole cairns which mark the route through the parks. The toughest section of the trail comes in the first 2.5 miles during the ascent to the rim of the White River Plateau.

Hikers and horsemen on "W" Mountain have numerous options once they reach the rim. Five miles from the trailhead the trail intersects with South "W" Mountain Trail #2060, which leads the traveler to Sweetwater Lake via the Ute Trail, #2032. Another 3.3 miles of travel takes one to the junction with Trail #2269, which leads to Mackinaw Lake, one mile to the northeast. By following the South Derby Jeep Road, Forest Road 613, to the east, one can make a round trip back to Big Spring. A southwesterly turn at Trail # 2269 will lead the traveler to the Shingle Peak area and intersections with Upper (#2042) and Lower (#1832) Turret Creek Trails which lead to Sweetwater Lake.

Whichever turn is taken, the traveler should remember that most of his trip on the "W" Mountain Trail will be in the Flat Tops Wilderness. Camping and traveling in the wilderness requires extra skills and precautions to protect both yourself and the wilderness. Please practice "Leave No Trace" ethics at all times.

Many of the streams in this area dry up during the summer. The traveler should carry at least one full day supply of drinking water. Always treat any unknown water before drinking.

Directions from Eagle: The "W" Mountain Trail begins at the end of Forest Road 616. To reach the trailhead, drive west of Eagle on I-70 for 12 miles to the Dotsero exit. Follow the signs for Sweetwater and Burns to the Colorado River Road. Turn right onto the River Road and follow this road for 20 miles to Derby Junction. Turn left onto the Derby Mesa Road (County Road 39) and follow it five miles. Turn left onto South Derby Mesa Jeep Road (Forest Road 613). From this point onward, only high clearance vehicles can negotiate the road. Follow Road 613 4.3 miles to the intersection with Forest Road 616 and turn left. Road 616 dead ends in 2.4 at Big Spring and the trailhead for "W" Mountain #1817, and the Ute Trail #2032. The "W" Mountain Trail is the one on the right.

Directions from Vail: The "W" Mountain Trail begins at the end of Forest Road 616. To reach the trailhead, drive west on I-70 for 43 miles to the Dotsero exit. Follow the signs for Sweetwater and Burns to the Colorado River Road. Turn right onto the River Road and follow this road for 20 miles to Derby Junction. Turn left onto the Derby Mesa Road (County Road 39) and follow it five miles. Turn left onto South Derby Mesa Jeep Road (Forest Road 613). From this point onward, only high clearance vehicles can negotiate the road. Follow Road 613 4.3 miles to the intersection with Forest Road 616 and turn left. Road 616 dead ends in 2.4 at Big Spring and the trailhead for "W" Mountain #1817, and the Ute Trail #2032. The "W" Mountain Trail is the one on the right.

Directions from Beaver Creek: The "W" Mountain Trail begins at the end of Forest Road 616. To reach the trailhead, drive west on I-70 for 34 miles to the Dotsero exit. Follow the signs for Sweetwater and Burns to the Colorado River Road. Turn right onto the River Road and follow this road for 20 miles to Derby Junction. Turn left onto the Derby Mesa Road (County Road 39) and follow it five miles. Turn left onto South Derby Mesa Jeep Road (Forest Road 613). From this point onward, only high clearance vehicles can negotiate the road. Follow Road 613 4.3 miles to the intersection with Forest Road 616 and turn left. Road 616 dead ends in 2.4 at Big Spring and the trailhead for "W" Mountain #1817, and the Ute Trail #2032. The "W" Mountain Trail is the one on the right.



Current Conditions & Trip Reports
Updated: 2001-06-26 14:37:00.0


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Filed By: Alan (Avon, CO)
Length of Time: 3 days
Difficulty: Moderate
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: This trail as described, will take you as far as you would like to go across the Flat Tops Wilderness. The longer the trip, the deeper you go into this area, the better! My trip was a loop from Sweetwater Lake, over W Mt., to Shingle Peak, back down to Sweetwater Lake. W mountain has expansive views. Camping can be done on top, with little water available at the top of the falls to Turret Meadows. Camping in the meadows below Shingle Peak is beautiful, with sightings of elk and heards of Coyotes at night! Water up before the travelling back to Sweetwater as the top of Turret Pk area is dry with sparse ponds.
Conditions: High meadows for miles, waterfalls, wetlands, to dried up watering holes at end of Summer. WATCH OUT FOR WIDOWMAKERS- standing dead trees from beetle kill. Don't camp near them as they may fall at any time!
Water Availability: Take a topo map and know how to find intermittant streams. You may have to take a bearing to find a nearby lake through the trees.
Recommended Clothing: Lower elevations found in the Flat Tops are milder for late season camping. Highest elevations are 11-12000'



Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Backpacking
Yes
ICON Hiking & Walking "W" Mountain Trail
Yes
ICON Horseback Riding
Yes
ICON Viewing Scenery This trail offers some spectacular scenery and photography opportunities its entire length.
Yes



Related Activities
Island Lake Trail (east end) - The Island Lake Trail (#1842) begins at Stump Park, northwest of Burns. It leads past Island Lake before linking with several other trails in the Flat Tops Wilderness.

Turret Creek Trail - Beginning in the Sweetwater Lake area, this trail provides good access to the Flat Tops Wilderness, and is popular for foot or horseback travel.



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