Nipple Peak is one of the premier peaks in the Elkhead Mountains. Despite its low elevation, it is an impressive peak and quite challenging in winter and spring.
Nipple Peak is named for Maggie Baggs, whom Baggs, Wyoming is also named after. Maggie Baggs was known as the meanest and toughest ranch hand in the west, male or female! Even the gunfighters feared her. The cowboys used to make fun of her behind here back. One unfortunate cowboy made the comment that the peak looks like Maggie’s nipple, unaware that Maggie overheard him. She publicly horse whipped him before dragging him through town behind her horse. The peak became known as Nipple Peak, but there are actually some other Maggies Nipple’s in the area as well.
Several aspects of the Elkheads make this a rather unique mountain range in Colorado. It is certainly possible that the Elkhead Mountains are the least known of the major mountain ranges in Colorado. This is partially because the range is a long way from any metropolitan area, and partially because the Elkheads are fairly low by Colorado standards, as there are no peaks reaching 11,000 feet. There are also few lakes, so the range isn’t visited by fishermen. Despite their low altitude, the Elkheads receive much snow, and snow lasts into July on the higher peaks. Most of the peaks in the Elkheads see very few ascents, but Hahns Peak, the eastern-most peak in the range is a popular climb for residents of Steamboat Springs. The Bears Ears see quite a few ascents by Elkhead standards, because of their prominent shape and visibility from the Yampa River Valley. Black Mountain is also climbed fairly often because it is the highest point in Moffat County, and the popularity is on the increase with more county highpointing interest. Most of the rest of the peaks see few ascents, and one ranger has told me some of the peaks only have a few names in the registers since 1980. Sand Mountain must be a fairly popular (by Elkhead standards) climb as well, as there is a trail to the top, and as it is the first and only mountain in the range where I have ever met anyone. This was on Labor Day weekend, 2005, when we saw 3 other hikers. So, there are few hikers around, but hunting is another story. The Elkheads are very popular for hunting in the fall and contain large populations of deer, elk, bear, etc.
One thing unique about the range is that hiker use is overall actually decreasing, rather than increasing as it is in most places in Colorado. The summit registers (which the Forest Service keeps record of) on most peaks indicate that they have had more ascents in the 1960’s and 1970’s than they do now. Even before that, there were many summit logs from the 1930’s and 1940’s from sheepherders.
The Elkhead Mountains are made of old volcanic rocks 17-25 million years old. Nipple Peak itself is an old volcanic plug. One thing unusual is that the Elkhead Mountains run west to east as opposed to north and south as most of the ranges run in North America. It is impossible to describe the general forms of the peaks because they are all so different, but most of the peaks are isolated rises from a huge plateau which forms the bulk of the Elkheads.
Warning: The topo maps available don’t show the roads or trails on Nipple Peak accurately. The closest one that bears resemblance to reality is the Forest Service Map-Routt National Forest, but it is of a small scale. The USGS maps don’t show many of the roads in the areas, but seem to show roads and trails that don’t exist; at least not any more.
From Steamboat Springs, drive to the north end of town and to where County Road 129 leaves Highway 40. A sign marks
|Best months for climbing:||Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec|
|Nearest major airport:||Steamboat/Hayden|
|Convenient Center:||Steamboat Springs|
Thanks to Scott Patterson for adding this peak.
NOTE: Trip reports were previously called "Summit Logs" - same feature, new name
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