Montrose County High Point Trip Report
Castle Rock on USGS quadrangle Castle Rock (11,453 ft)
Date: June 23, 2002
Author: Gary Swing
From Leon Peak (Mesa County highpoint), we drove to Montrose where we made a meal of minuscule
portions of mediocre pasta at Sicily's Italian Restaurant. Then we headed south on I-25 and west on
Buckhorn Road from Colona to the free campground at Buckhorn Lakes. We picked out a campsite at the
southern end of the northern Buckhorn Lake. The campground was dilapidated, trashed out, and infested
with mosquitoes, but it was worth what we paid for it. The campground has nice views of the lakes and the
Sawtooth Rocks for those who can tolerate being outside among the swarms of mosquitoes long enough to
appreciate the scenery.
Castle Rock would have been an excellent climb, if not for the mosquitoes attacking us everywhere.
On a Sunday morning, we continued up the Buckhorn Road about a mile from the campground to an unmarked
road on the right. The written directions in the guidebook identify this as FT 232 while the map in the
guidebook shows it as FT 223. We parked near this junction and walked south for a little over a mile up this
dyslexic forest road. In a relatively flat area a bit above 10,400 feet, we started bushwhacking west through
the woods past a tee-pee frame littered with trash. We encountered a dry wash and followed this uphill,
generally to the west. It became a steep gully with some loose rock. We followed it past a couple of dramatic,
crumbling rock outcroppings on the left. Then it petered out and gave way to some steep scree
and grassy steps, leading up to Cimarron Ridge. On Cimarron Ridge, we hiked south up faint, sometimes
steep trails through the woods. Part of the way, we walked along the rocky edge of dramatic cliffs on the
east side of the ridge. There was a nice breeze here that diminished the mosquito population. The cliff edge
also afforded us excellent views to the west. The ridge leveled out substantially as we crossed over Storm King,
with a slight dip before finished the ascent of Castle Rock. There are TV antennas on a shack at the
summit surrounded by piles of garbage and huge battery packs. A little bit to the south is a hollowed out
stump with a summit register. If you continue a few more paces to the south, there is an airy rock catwalk
to test your nerves. Despite the elevation of Castle Rock, this mountain rises high above the valley to the
west and dominates its immediate vicinity. The summit register contained a "who's who" listing of Colorado
For the return route, we followed a combination of forest paths and cliff edges north until we were just
south of the gap between Cimarron Ridge and the southern Sawtooth Rock. We bushwhacked generally
west through uneven depressions to intersect a side road, which we followed downhill to rejoin the dyslexic
forest road we began on.
On the way back to Denver, we debated whether or not the water at Curecanti National Recreation Area
was too cold to take a dip in. To settle the question, we stopped at a lakefront beach where I walked in up
to my neck and ducked my head under. Later, I was wearing thermal tights and a wool sweater in the car to
get warm while the air conditioning was on so the others could stay cool.
Trip Statistics: 5.2 miles round trip, 1,433 ft elevation gain.