Never Summer Mountains

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Never Summer Mountains
DSCN1823 nokhucrags e 600.jpg
Nokhu Crags, at the northern end of the Never Summer Mountains
Highest point
PeakMount Richthofen
Elevation 12,945 ft (3,946 m)
Coordinates 40°28′10″N105°53′42″W / 40.46944°N 105.89500°W / 40.46944; -105.89500
Length10 mi (16 km)north-south
Area25 sq mi (65 km2)
CountryUnited States
Counties Jackson, Grand and Larimer
Range coordinates 40°25′27″N105°53′56″W / 40.42415°N 105.898903°W / 40.42415; -105.898903 Coordinates: 40°25′27″N105°53′56″W / 40.42415°N 105.898903°W / 40.42415; -105.898903
Parent range Front Range, Rocky Mountains

The Never Summer Mountains are a mountain range in the Rocky Mountains in north central Colorado in the United States consisting of seventeen named peaks. The range is located along the northwest border of Rocky Mountain National Park, forming the continental divide between the headwaters of the Colorado River in Rocky Mountain National Park to the local-east and the upper basin of the North Platte River (North Park) to the local-west; the continental divide makes a loop in these mountains. The range is small and tall, covering only 25 sq mi (65 km2) with a north-south length of 10 mi (16 km) while rising to over 12,000 ft (3,700 m) at over ten distinct peaks. The range straddles the Jackson-Grand county line for most of its length, and stretches into Jackson and Larimer county at its northern end. A panoramic view of the range is available from sections of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. One of the northernmost peaks, Nokhu Crags, is prominently visible from the west side of Cameron Pass.



The rocks of Never Summer Mountains are younger than most of the surrounding mountain ranges. They, along with the Rabbit Ears Range to the west, were formed by volcanic and intrusive processes 24–29 million years ago [1] and consist mostly of igneous granitic formations along with preceding metamorphic formations. Most of the highest peaks in the range are granodiorite that was uplifted during the Miocene epoch. The range's highest summit, Mount Richthofen, is the remnant of an andesite volcanic plug. The Nokhu Crags in the north are mostly Pierre Shale dating from Cretaceous times. A large thrust fault underneath the Kawuneeche Valley thrust older Precambrian rocks on top of the younger Cretaceous rocks on the east side of the range. The southern peaks are Miocene-aged granite, and finally Precambrian-aged biotite gneiss and schist. [2] [3]

Beginning two million years ago, glaciers began carving the jagged peaks of the Never Summer Mountains. Successive waves of glaciation continued to reshape the mountains until the Pinedale Glaciation ended twelve-thousand years ago. [4]

The peaks are enormous weathered masses of granitic rock heavily covered with green and orange lichens surrounded on all sides by large fields of talus shed from the original peaks. Many alpine lakes are nestled amongst the peaks. Most vegetation is low-growing and stunted. Few trees grow at the higher altitudes and Krummholz abounds.


In 1879 prospectors discovered silver on Mount Shipler, starting a small mining rush. A mining town was platted and given the name Lulu City, located at 40°26′44″N105°50′53″W / 40.44556°N 105.84806°W / 40.44556; -105.84806 . Other small settlements were founded in the area, including Dutchtown, located high in Hitchens Gulch. The population swelled as high as 5,000 miners and business owners catering to those miners. However, low grade ore, combined with difficult transportation and lack of a local smelter to process the ore, conspired against the boom. By late 1883 the mining rush ended and the miners moved on. The last miners in Dutchtown left by 1884. [5] Today remnants of the towns and mines are accessible by hiking trails.

In 1890 a project called the Grand Ditch began. The ditch is a 16.2-mile long (26.1 km) water diversion project. Streams and creeks that flow from the highest peaks are diverted into the ditch, which flows over La Poudre pass, delivering the water into the Atlantic Basin for the use of eastern plains farmers. The ditch wasn't completed until 1936. The ditch diverts between 20 and 40% of the runoff from the Never Summer Mountains and significantly impacts the ecology in the valley below. [6] In May 2003 a 100-foot (30 m) section of the ditch breached causing the water to cascade down the slopes and into the Colorado River. The flood left a visible scar on the mountainside.[ citation needed ]

In 1914, members of the Arapaho tribe were brought to the region in a trip sponsored by the Colorado Mountain Club. The tribe members spent their youth in the area and were asked to offer the Native American names for the various peaks, lakes and other geographic features in the area. They called the range Ni-chebe-chii, which translates to Never No Summer. Locals eventually settled on Never Summer Mountains for the range. [7]

Many of the peaks in the range are named after cloud types, such as Mount Cirrus and Mount Cumulus.


The range is frequented by hikers and backpackers in the summer, and skiers and snowshoers in the winter. The area sees some mountaineering activity, but the rock tends to be rotten (or choss) and the routes are dangerous. The Colorado River Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park has trails that lead to the Grand Ditch and remains of Lulu City. Trails from Cameron Pass lead to the Michigan Lakes, Lake Agnes and the Nokhu Crags area. Trails in nearby Routt National Forest lead to the Never Summer Wilderness on the western and southern edges of the range.

Mountain Peaks

  1. Baker Mountain
  2. Bald Mountain
  3. Bearpaws Peak
  4. Blue Ridge
  5. Bowen Mountain
  6. Braddock Peak
  7. Cascase Mountain
  8. Fairview Mountain
  9. Flat Top Mountain
  10. Gravel Mountain
  11. Green Knoll
  12. Howard Mountain
  13. Iron Mountain
  14. Jackstraw Mountain
  15. Lead Mountain
  16. Little Yellowstone
  17. Lulu Mountain
  18. Mineral Point
  19. Mount Cindy
  20. Mount Cirrus
  21. Mount Cumulus
  22. Mount Mahler
  23. Mount Nimbus
  24. Mount Neota
  25. Mount Richthofen
  26. Mount Stratus
  27. Never Summer Peak
  28. Nokhu Crags
  29. Parika Peak
  30. Porphyry Peak
  31. Radial Mountain
  32. Red Mountain
  33. Ruby Mountain
  34. Seven Utes Mountain
  35. Shipler Mountain
  36. Specimen Mountain
  37. Static Peak
  38. Teepee Mountain
  39. Thunder Mountain

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Nokhu Crags

Nokhu Crags is a rock formation and mountain summit in the Never Summer Mountains range of the Rocky Mountains of North America. The name is derived from the Arapaho language, Neaha-no-xhu, meaning "Eagles Nest." The 12,490-foot (3,807 m) peak is located in State Forest State Park, 2.5 miles (4.0 km) south of Cameron Pass in Jackson County, Colorado, United States. The summit lies just northwest of the Continental Divide and Rocky Mountain National Park, near the headwaters of the Michigan River. The peak is prominently visible from State Highway 14 and can be seen throughout the southern North Park basin where it is known also known as "the Crags" or "Sleeping Indian" for its resemblance to the form of a supine chief. To the east lie the shallow basins of Snow Lake and the Michigan or American Lakes; to the north lies a snow filled couloir; to the west the mountain descends directly into the deep waters of Lake Agnes; and to the south lie Static Peak, Mount Richthofen, and the remainder of the Never Summer Mountain Range.

Weminuche Wilderness Protected area in southwestern Colorado, US

The Weminuche Wilderness is a wilderness area in southwest Colorado managed by the United States Forest Service as part of the San Juan National Forest on the west side of the Continental Divide and the Rio Grande National Forest on the east side of the divide. The Weminuche Wilderness was designated by Congress in 1975, and expanded by the Colorado Wilderness Acts of 1980 and 1993. It is located 4 miles (6.4 km) southeast of the town of Silverton, 17 miles (27 km) northeast of Durango, and 8 miles (13 km) west of South Fork. At 499,771 acres (2,022.50 km2), it is the largest wilderness area in the state of Colorado. Elevation in the wilderness ranges from 7,700 feet (2,300 m) along the Animas River to 14,093 feet (4,296 m) at the summit of Windom Peak.

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Mount Richthofen

Mount Richthofen is the highest summit of the Never Summer Mountains range of the Rocky Mountains of North America. The prominent 12,945-foot (3,946 m) peak is located 5.6 miles (9.0 km) northwest by west of Milner Pass, Colorado, United States, on the Continental Divide separating the Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness in Rocky Mountain National Park and Grand County from Routt National Forest and Jackson County. The mountain was named in honor of pioneering German geologist Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen, apparently by Clarence King's 1870 survey team.

Grand Ditch United States historic place

The Grand Ditch, also known as the Grand River Ditch and originally known as the North Grand River Ditch, is a water diversion project in the Never Summer Mountains, in northern Colorado. It is 14.3 miles (23.0 km) long, 20 feet (6.1 m) wide, and 3 feet (0.91 m) deep on average. Streams and creeks that flow from the highest peaks of the Never Summer Mountains are diverted into the ditch, which flows over the Continental Divide at La Poudre Pass at 10,175 feet (3,101 m), delivering the water into Long Draw Reservoir and the Cache La Poudre River for eastern plains farmers. The water would otherwise have gone into the Colorado River that flows west towards the Pacific; instead, the Cache La Poudre River goes East and through the Mississippi River discharges into the Gulf of Mexico.

Lulu City, Colorado United States historic place

Lulu City was a transient mining town in eastern Grand County, Colorado, in the Kawuneeche Valley in what is now Rocky Mountain National Park. The town appeared after silver was discovered in the area in 1879 by prospector Joe Shipler, and was built primarily by the Middle Park and Grand River Land Improvement Company in 1880. The company was backed by Benjamin F. Burnett of Fort Collins and Fort Collins rancher William Baker. The town was named after Burnett's daughter. By 1881, there were forty cabins and a number of business establishments. By this time it was apparent that the silver ore was of low grade, and that high transportation costs made mining in the area marginal, and the town began its decline. It was abandoned by 1885, except by Shipler, who lived there for thirty years.

Dutchtown, Colorado United States historic place

Dutchtown was a mining community high in the Never Summer Mountains of what is now Rocky Mountain National Park. The ghost town lies just below the timberline, and comprises the ruins of four cabins. The site was inhabited by squatters who were made unwelcome in Lulu City, in the Kawuneeche Valley a couple of miles to the east. Dutchtown existed to work the same silver deposits mined by Lulu City residents, but existed as a suburb of Lulu City to accommodate Dutch miners who were run out of town after a drunken affray in Lulu City. It existed from about 1879 to about 1884.

Static Peak (Colorado)

Static Peak is a mountain peak in the Colorado State Forest State Park in the Never Summer Mountain Range. It is located in a chain of peaks and lies between Nokhu Crags to the north and Mount Richthofen to the south. To the east lies the shallow basins of Snow Lake and to the west the mountain descends directly into the deep waters of Lake Agnes.

Lake Agnes (Colorado)

Lake Agnes is an alpine lake in the Colorado State Forest State Park occurring within the Never Summer Mountain Range. The lake lies within glacial tarn surrounded by a cirque consisting of Nokhu Crags, Static Peak, Mount Richthofen, Mount Mahler, and Braddock Peak. It is the deepest lake in the Colorado State Forest State Park. Lake Agnes is named after Agnes Zimmerman, the daughter of John Zimmerman, a homesteader in the area and the proprietor of the Keystone Hotel in Home, Colorado.

Kawuneeche Valley

Kawuneeche Valley, also known as Kawuneeche or Coyote Valley, is a marshy valley of the Colorado River near its beginning. It is located on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. The axis of the valley runs almost directly north to south. Kawuneeche means "valley of the coyote" in Arapaho language and there is a Coyote Valley Trail head by US Route 34 in the western half of the park. Coyotes still live here, as do wapiti (elk), mule deer, moose, and mountain lion.

History of Rocky Mountain National Park began when Paleo-Indians traveled along what is now Trail Ridge Road to hunt and forage for food. Ute and Arapaho people subsequently hunted and camped in the area. In 1820, the Long Expedition, led by Stephen H. Long for whom Longs Peak was named, approached the Rockies via the Platte River. Settlers began arriving in the mid-1800s, displacing the Native Americans who mostly left the area voluntarily by 1860, while others were removed to reservations by 1878.


  1. "USGS, America's Volcanic Past, Rocky Mountains". Archived from the original on 2013-03-02. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
  2. Geologic map of the Mount Richthofen quadrangle and the western part of the Fall River Pass quadrangle, Grand and Jackson Counties, Colorado, J.M. O'Neill, U.S. Geological Survey, 1981.
  3. USGS, North Park-Medicine Bow Mountains Project: Task 3: Neogene landscape evolution
  4. Harris, Ann G., Esther Tuttle and Sherwood D. Tuttle, Geology of National Parks, Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 6th ed., 2003, ISBN   978-0-7872-9970-5
  5. Rocky Mountain National Park: A History, C. W. Buchholtz, (University Press of Colorado; 1983) ISBN   0-87081-146-0
  6. Effects of the Grand Ditch, National Park Services, 2004.
  7. High Country Names, Louisa Ward Arps and Elinor Eppich Kingery, (Rocky Mountain Nature Association; 1994), p. 115 ISBN   1-55566-133-5