Follow directions to the Courthouse trailhead and continue driving (4WD) south on the extremely rough Cow Creek Road another 3.2 miles. Look on the left for a faint road in a grassy meadow leading uphill to a post and a hiker/horse Travel Management sign about 100 yards off the road. This is the trailhead. Park along the road.
ATTRACTIONS AND FEATURES:
The Stealey Mountain Trail leads to a very remote and beautiful section of deep forest wilderness. It can be used as a lengthy loop trip via Courthouse Trail back to Cow Creek Road, or as a one way trip to the West Fork Road or the Owl Creek Pass Road.
The trail begins with several steep switchbacks through scrub oak to the Uncompahgre Wilderness boundary at 0.3 mile. Looking west you can see a massive rock wall on the far side of Cow Creek and a sheer rock cliff on the trail above. The trail levels and enters a subalpine fir forest at 0.5 mile, descends to a stream crossing, and climbs again to a small ridgeline at 1.1 miles. At 1.3 miles the trail crosses another stream and almost disappears in a grassy, aspen meadow (look for blazes). It crosses another stream at at 1.4 miles; then look for an autographed aspen, "LV 9-30-90" at 1.6 miles. An unknown trail enters from the left at 1.7 miles. Turn right toward the corral.
If time permits (appx. 15 min. round trip), an interesting side trip can be taken. Continue straight past the corral to the east; follow a steep horse trail down to a streambed and back up the hill to a small ridge at 10,000 feet. From that point, there is a great view of Wetterhorn Peak.
From the corral, some route finding is required to continue on the main trail. Go along the left (west) side of the corral and pick up the trail in the trees. Continue up the grassy meadow (faint to no trail) northeast of the corral to the top of the meadow where the trail again begins to be well defined. At the top of a grassy hill at 2.6 miles there is a campfire ring and unique views of Courthouse Mountain and the Sawtooth/Needle peaks to the north. Downhill, off the ridge, an unknown trail forks uphill to the right. The main trail continues downhill to the left at 2.7 miles, crosses a stream at 3.4 miles and continues along the west side of the stream. At 3.6 miles deadfall has created problems, but then the trail crosses to the east side of the stream at 4.0 miles and comes to the Red Creek drainage at 4.3 miles--a scenic spot for a lunch break.
A trail continues downstream along the north side of Red creek--this is NOT the trail! The Stealey Mountain Trail starts downstream and then heads steeply uphill--you can see where horses have cut the trail and bypassed an old switchback. The trail disappears on the bench to the right, but proceed to the right across the bench to the grassy meadow and head uphill looking for a cairn on the left side near the top. The trail become obvious at 4.4 miles, goes downhill and back up to a ridge and crosses the north fork of Red Creek at 4.8 miles. Ascending another ridge, the trail is again blocked by deadfall. There is an alternate trail to the right around the trees that you can follow downhill (5.1 miles). Once again the trail reaches a grassy meadow and disappears. Go straight up the meadow to the top where there is an old post with rusty bolts. This is the south junction of the Courthouse Trail at 5.4 miles. Take the left fork to complete a loop trip to the Courthouse Trailhead on Cow Creek Road (another 3.4 miles). Take the right fork to reach the West Fork (Cimarron) Road (another 2.7 miles).
Route finding at the corral, north of Red Creek and through grassy meadows is required. Also, considerable deadfall exists making this a trail not recommended for inexperienced hikers.
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