Mount Ellen, Ellen Peak, Henry Mountains


By: Wynne Benti


Private Trip

East of the expansive country known as the waterpocket fold and north of the deep water-filled canyons of Lake Powell, lie the Henry Mountains, atop the Colorado Plateau. Before the building of roads across the plateau and through the canyons of that area in southeastern Colorado, the Henry Mountains were one of the most remote mountain ranges in the contiguous United States and thus gained the honor of being the last range in the lower forty-eight to be surveyed by the USGS. The high point of the range is Mt. Ellen (11,521'), and north along the same ridge is Ellen Peak (11,506'), the summit of which is covered with the remains of an old heliograph station dating back to the late 1880s.

From Capitol Reef, we drove northeast to the town of Hanksville and turned south on a road next to the post office, following the signs to the Lonesome Beaver Campground in Sawmill Basin, located below the peaks. We followed the road, which soon became dirt, across a broad desert plateau, to the mountains, the lower slopes of which were covered with pinyons and Utah Junipers. The road climbed steadily to higher ~ and forests of pine and columbine. Our final destination is Bull Creek Pass where we parked the car and walked north across the main ridge to the summit of Mt. Ellen, and then on to Ellen Peak which is the most unusual looking of the two summits. The broad, gentle ridges reminded me of the White Mountains, north of the Inyos. We discovered that both registers had been placed by Barbara Lilley and Gordon MacLeod. The views from both summits were spectacular. To the west were the canyons of the waterpocket fold; Canyonlands to the north; the Dirty Devil River gorge and Burr Desert to the east and lake Powell to the south.

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