Mount Cumulus 12,725'

Mount Cumulus from the east.  Photo: Rob Writz

Mount Cumulus stands in the center of the Never Summer Mountains. This is a good peak for a Never Summer ski mountaineer newcomer. The mountain is, for the most part, directly above the Colorado River Trailhead, and along with Mount Nimbus it is one of the more directly accessed peaks. These peaks are accessible, but you need to plan for a round trip of 10 to 12 miles.

The East Bowls of Cumulus stretch for nearly 0.65 miles, and the terrain is very manageable. There are a lot of options to choose from on Mount Cumulus. The ski and snowboard terrain is plentiful, and you and your friends will probably be by yourselves. If you put the effort into climbing this far in, consider climbing Mount Nimbus as well.

On the approach your goal is to access the Grand Ditch. The Grand Ditch ports water from Grand County and the west side of the Continental Divide to the Cache La Poudre River and the east side of the Divide. This road parallels the east side of the Never Summer mountains and serves as a major thoroughfare for Never Summer ski mountaineers.


  • 1 – East Bowls
  • Rating: III D3 – D9
  • Season: Spring, Summer
  • Exposure: East
  • Vertical: 2,485’
  • Approach Elevations: 9,005’ – 12,725’
  • Approach Distance: From Colorado River TH: 6 Miles
  • Top of Route Waypoint: 40.4103, -105.9022

The large bowls descending the east side of Mount Cumulus are Never Summer classics. This expansive area catches the eye of every ski and snowboard mountaineer that drives across Trail Ridge Road in the early summer. These bowls are begging for big turns! The terrain stretches north to south for over a half-mile, so there are a lot of options to choose from. The bowl is steepest at the northern end, and gentler to the south. There is a cornice that runs the length from near the summit to the North Face.

Find the trailhead signs at the north end of the Colorado River Trailhead parking lot. Follow the trail north 0.4 miles to a junction with a sign showing the Poudre Pass Trail and Red Mountain Trail junction. Go left to follow the Red Mountain Trail. This trail will quickly cross the Colorado River on a bridge and then into a clearing. If it is light at this time you can look up and see the slide path on Red Mountain. You will want to aim for this during your approach.

Cross the clearing and follow the trail southwest and then south to cross Opposition Creek. If you are approaching in June this should be clear of snow. In April or early May there are hopefully snowshoe and ski tracks guiding you to a small bridge crossing the creek. It is tempting to go straight up Opposition Creek and Hells Hip Pocket. This gorge is very steep and difficult to ascend and descend.

Continue a climbing traverse on the trail 0.25 miles past the Opposition Creek crossing and small bridge. If you are on the trail in the summer then continue to follow it miles to the Grand Ditch (3.2 miles from the Poudre Pass Trail junction). If you are here earlier and there is snow cover, look to break off the trail at approximately 9,300’ and 0.25 miles past the Opposition Creek crossing’s small bridge. Look for a more open area in the aspens and rocks and skin uphill to the west. It is hard to follow the trail in snow above this elevation anyway. Climb west up a mellow slope and then up one steep slope. Head north on flatter terrain to Opposition Creek. Turn west and follow Opposition Creek to the intersection with the Grand Ditch at 10,240’. Alternatively, you can continue straight uphill from 9,300’ to intersect the Grand Ditch below Red Mountain.

At the intersection of Opposition Creek and the Grand Ditch, follow Opposition Creek to the west. At this point the terrain around Opposition Creek is gentle. Ski or hike 0.4 miles from the Grand Ditch to a large clearing below the northern slopes of Red Mountain. At this point you have two ascent options. The first is to cross Opposition Creek and climb directly to the East Bowls. The second is to follow the approach to Mount Nimbus and climb the South Ridge.

To get to the East Bowls directly, cut west across the clearing and through the forest to Opposition Creek and the base of a steep slope. Climb the steep slope to tree line and where you are below the chutes that descend from Mount Cumulus’s East Ridge. Ski up the valley and climb the moderate and snow covered East Ridge. This path will join the South Ridge at approximately 1.5 miles from the large clearing. Continue north to the summit.

To get to the South Ridge, leave the path, climb uphill to the south of the large clearing, then west, and then northwest to regain Opposition Creek again. This avoids a steep gorge. Continue following the mellow valley 1.8 miles from the clearing to the base of the saddle between the Northeast Slopes of Mount Nimbus and the South Ridge of Mount Cumulus. Gain the South Ridge of Mount Cumulus via the saddle and climb the easy ridge north to the summit.


Colorado River Trailhead (9,005’)

The Colorado River Trailhead is 9.9 miles north of Rocky Mountain National Park’s Grand Lake Entrance and Kawuneeche Visitor Center on Highway 34 (Trail Ridge Road). There is a daily fee for entering the park. The Kawuneeche entrance is 1.5 miles north of the town of Grand Lake. [40.4018, -105.8488]

If you are here before June then you will see the road closure when you arrive at the trailhead. There is a road to the left that drops down to the Colorado River Trailhead. The trailhead has ample parking and bathrooms.


Below we have included a link to a Google interactive map and a curated list of photos of the mountain.

Clicking on map above will open interactive Google map website

Clicking on map above will open interactive Google map website