Colorado: Your grandmother’s fourteener

Kim Fenske strolls up Mt. Sherman

The rounded ridge to the summit of Mount Sherman lies beyond ruins of the Hilltop Mine, 1.5 miles up the trail, at 12,900 feet.

Story and photos by Kim Fenske

SUMMIT COUNTY — At 14,036 feet, Mount Sherman is one of the more modest fourteeners in Colorado, ranking forty-fifth in height. With an easy walking trail from about 12,000 feet in elevation, Sherman is your grandmother’s fourteener —  good beginner trek or afternoon sprint mountain. Even flatlanders visiting from lower elevations should be able to walk up to the summit of Sherman in a few hours.

Mount Sherman lies in the middle of the Mosquito Range. The mountain forms a narrow rib between two river valleys, the Arkansas and Platte. Sherman is southeast of Fairplay, Alma, and Breckenridge, with Leadville in sight to the west. The summit can be approached from Leadville, via Lake County Road 2 east to Iowa Gulch. However, the most popular approach is on dirt roads from Fairplay, along Fourmile Creek.

Fourmile Creek Road approaches Mount Sherman, 14,036 feet, from the Platte River Valley east of the Mosquito Range.

To reach the trailhead, look for Fourmile Creek Road (Park County Road 18), about 1 mile south of Fairplay and head west for about 12 miles to the trailhead at 11,9oo feet. There are dispersed campsites located six miles from Highway 285 on the creek at the junction between Fourmile Creek Road and the offshoot to Browns Pass.

At 6.5 miles, Horseshoe Campground provides a more developed option for camping, along with Fourmile Campground, which is located a mile farther along the dirt road. Due to the roughness of Fourmile Creek Road, the drive to the trailhead takes about an hour. Despite a few bumps and potholes, the road to the trailhead is passable with a low-clearance vehicle.

On my approach, I parked a half-mile below the trailhead gate at a pullout where a dispersed campsite had evolved with a campfire ring beside a field of willow brush. I hiked past the ruins of the Dauntless Mine that rest at 12,300 feet and decided to hike up a rough-hewn path directly to the Hilltop Mine tower that stands at 12,900 feet, about a mile and a half from the trailhead. The standard route follows the main mining road on a more gradual ascent to the mine.

Clouds meet the snowfield on the Mount Sherman ridge.

After taking a break for lunch at the mine, I continued my ascent to the saddle between Mount Sheridan and Mount Sherman on a series of switchbacks that vanished into a snowfield on the upper part of the slope.

My hike across the crusty snow covering the ridge was cold and windy. I reached the summit after only about two hours of hiking and enjoyed views of Mount Massive and Mount Elbert in the distant west as well as La Plata Peak southwest across the Arkansas Valley. After a brief pause to absorb the scenery, I completed the five-mile hike and headed home before darkness settled over Park County.

Kim Fenske on the summit of Sherman.

Mount Sheridan, 13,748 feet, rises from the saddle south of the ridge on Mount Sherman, with Twin Lakes and La Plata Peak, 14,336 feet, in the distance to the southwest.

Kim Fenske is a former wilderness ranger, firefighter who has hiked thousands of miles in the Colorado mountains. He has served on the board of directors of Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area.

Fenske has authored several hiking books filled with hundreds of photographs of Colorado wildlife, wildflowers, and scenery. His books are enjoyed by thousands of outdoor enthusiasts. His current electronic book titles are published on Amazon for Kindle, as well as Barnes and Noble for Nook. Search for these titles: “Greatest Hikes in Central Colorado,” “Holy Cross Wilderness Area,” and “Eagles Nest Wilderness Area.”

Kim’s winter 14er series:

Autumn hikes:

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