Sawmill Creek Peaks (12,170', 12,386', 12,390')
There are three special mountains that sit at the head of Sawmill Creek in the Medicine Bow Mountains. The approach to the peaks is gentle, the skiing and snowboarding is fantastic, and there is the opportunity to ski multiple peaks in one trip. Sawmill Creek is in the southern portion of Colorado's share of the Medicine Bow Mountains. The east side of the range is in Roosevelt National Forest’s Rawah Wilderness, and the west side is in Colorado’s State Forest State Park. Sawmill Creek is accessible via Highway 14 and Cameron Pass west of the City of Fort Collins.
The three Sawmill Peaks form a line running from the south to the north. Peak 12,170’ has a clean northeast facing line that drops from the pyramid-shaped summit. Peak 12,386’ lies in the middle and is the most moderate face of the three peaks. Peak 12,390’, also called Sawmill Headwall, is the furthest north and has a short but steep southeast face that is guarded by cornices. If you move fast enough, you could ski all three Sawmill Creeks in one trip or combine with Clark Peak to the north.
Shared Approach to Sawmill Creek Basin (10,750’)
Park at the Blue Lake Trailhead on Highway 14 east of Cameron Pass. Walk about 0.2 miles west on the highway and cross Joe Wright Creek. On our right is a sign and gate for Sawmill Creek. Turn off the highway here and follow the Sawmill Creek trail. You will be following the blue diamonds of the Sawmill Creek trails for most of the ascent through the forest. The trail is an old logging road. At the first major turn to the left you can leave the road, ski straight uphill, and short cut a large switchback. If there is no snow, don’t take the short cut and stay on the road. Continue 1.7 miles to a fork in the road marked with 4 blue blazes and arrows. Two point right and two point left. Go left and follow the wide and old logging road through several switchbacks and then west to tree line at the base of the basin between the 12,710’ and 12,386’ Sawmill Peaks. It is about 3.25 miles from the trailhead to this area.
1 - Peak 12,170'
- Rating: II D8
- Season: Spring
- Exposure: Northeast
- Vertical: 1,170’
- Approach Elevations: 9,485’– 12,170’
- Approach Distance: From Blue Lake Trailhead: 4.75 Miles
- Top of Route Waypoint: 40.5715, -105.916
This line faces northeast and receives sunlight at dawn. The chute drops from the summit and to the skier's right of the triangle-shaped face. This is a high quality ski line in a beautiful position above Sawmill Creek. There are several ascent options. One is to climb 12,170' East Ridge, another is to climb the chute itself, and the third is to climb the sub-peak 12,184’ between 12,386' and 12,170' and then south.
2 – Peak 12,386'
- Rating: II D5
- Season: Spring
- Exposure: East
- Vertical: 1,600’
- Approach Elevations: 9,485’– 12,386’
- Approach Distance: From Blue Lake Trailhead: 4.6 Miles
- Top of Route Waypoint: 40.5814, -105.9245
Peak 12,386' is the middle of the three Sawmill Creek Peaks. The east/southeast slope is wide and begging for big ski and snowboard turns. There are two options to climb this peak. The first is the blunt east ridge rising from the basin below the face. The second is to gain the saddle between 12,386’ and 12,390', and then climb south to the summit. The second option is best if you first ski 12,390', the northern-most Sawmill Creek Peak.
3 – Peak 12,390', Sawmill Headwall
- Rating: II D11
- Season: Spring
- Exposure: Southeast
- Vertical: 1,640’
- Approach Elevations: 9,485’– 12,390’
- Approach Distance: From Blue Lake Trailhead: 5 Miles
- Top of Route Waypoint: 40.5912, -105.9262
Peak 12,390' is the northern Sawmill Creek Peak and has its own sub-basin that is separated from the other two peaks. This southeast-facing peak is lined with a sizable cornice, and this can be avoided on the skier's right entrance. The ski lines on this peak are steeper than the other two Sawmill mountains. Ski north into this basin, and then gain the south saddle between 12,386' and 12,390' and climb north to the summit.
Blue Lake Trailhead (9,485’)
Blue Lake Trailhead is located approximately 63 miles west of the City of Fort Collins. The trailhead is a large paved parking lot on the north side of Colorado Highway 14. Long Draw Road is just across the street. The Sawmill Creek Trail is about 0.2 miles west on Highway 14 on the right.
+ MAPS & PICTURES
Below we have included a link to a Google interactive map and a curated list of photos of the mountain.