Ute Mountain (or Ute
Peak or Sleeping Ute Mountain), is a peak
within the Ute
Mountains, a small
mountain range in the southwestern corner of Colorado.
is on the northern edge of the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation
The Reservation forms the southwestern corner of the state and of
Nomenclature for this peak and its range varies. The highest peak
is sometimes known as Sleeping Ute Mountain; the entire range is
also identified as one large mountain, called Sleeping Ute
Mountain, on some maps;and the range is sometimes called the
Sleeping Ute Mountains. All of these forms of the mountain's name
and of the range's name can be found on various USGS
maps, databases and
The Ute Mountains, with a collective profile commonly known as “The
Sleeping Ute”, are a dense cluster of peaks approximately in extent
and stand in isolation from other mountains. Despite being much
lower than Colorado's highest peaks
Mountain is the eighth most topographically prominent
peak in the
state, due to this isolation. It is also notable for its large
local relief in all directions, especially its rise of roughly
4,250 ft (1,295 m) over the Montezuma Valley
to the southeast.
The Sleeping Ute is said to resemble a Ute Chief lying on his back
with arms folded across his chest. The mountains were valued as a
sacred place by the Weeminuche Ute band. It is still a sacred place
to their descendants, the Ute
Mountain Ute Tribe
and still plays a role in their ceremonies
as indicated by the “Sundance Ground” on some topographical maps
nestled between The Knees and Horse Peak (ribcage).
Originally, the northern part of the mountains were outside of the
reservation boundaries as reduced following a series of treaties in
the late 1800s, but a trade of land now in Mesa Verde
National Park, approximately 15 miles
east, for federal land on the mountain, allowed the reservation
boundary to be extended north to McElmo Creek and encompass the
entire mountain range. In particular, this means that recreational
access to the range by outsiders is severely restricted. Few roads
or trails are found in the mountains, although radio towers and
water tanks have been built, and a road along Cottonwood Wash from
Towaoc nearly reaches the summit of Ute Peak.
A Ute Indian legenddescribes the Sleeping Ute as the sleeping form
of a “Great Warrior God” who fell asleep while recovering from
wounds received in a great battle with “the Evil Ones”. Various
other forms of the legend can be found.
recognized from many spots up to east or west (e.g. the Four Corners
Monument and parts of Mesa Verde National Park), the profile is best seen from somewhat north of
east of the mountains as in the accompanying
The Sleeping Ute Mountains viewed from
~20 miles east northeast.
Easily identified features of the profile include the following
(north to south):
- Head - the profile of Marble Mountain provides readily
recognized facial features while a feathered headdress can be seen
tapering north from Black Mountain and Marble Mountain..
- Crossed Arms – Ute Peak is the highest, the most prominent and
eastern-most peak in the Ute Mountains
- Ribcage – Horse Mountain to the east and the twin peaks Black
Mountain/Ute Mountain to the west form a recognizable ribcage.
- Knees – Hermano Mountain or “The Knees” are obviously the knees
of the figure.
- Toes –
- East Toe is a relatively small, sharp and prominent igneous
protrusion at the south-eastern end of the Ute Mountains
proportioned and perfectly placed to complete the figure from the
- West Toe, a second protrusion, has a very similar profile and
is perfectly placed to complete the figure from the west.
The illusion of a reclining figure is further reinforced by its
symmetry. The figure is nearly as complete seen from the west as
from the east.
Ute Mountain (U), just west of
Cortez, Colorado (red dot) and Mesa Verde National Park (MV), and
separated from Canyons of the Ancients National Monument (CA) to
the north by McElmo Creek.
Though on the southwestern fringe of the original Rocky Mountain
home of the Ute Tribe
, the Sleeping Ute is
the most prominent feature of the high-desert Ute Mountain Ute
Reservation. The only town on the Reservation, Towaoc, lies at the
feet of the figure and is home to most of the Reservation's
population. As the Reservation capital, Towaoc is the Ute Mountain
Ute tribal headquarters.
Cortez, the largest town in the area with a population of over
8000, lies outside the reservation miles east-northeast of Ute
Peak. The altitude of Cortez is and can be considered the base
altitude of the Ute Mountains.
The Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park adjoins Mesa Verde National Park
to the east of the mountains. The western boundary of Mesa Verde
National Park is east of Ute Peak. The Mesa and the Sleeping Ute
share equal prominence as regional landmarks.
Creek and Canyon Of The Ancients National
Monument form the northern terminus of the Ute Mountains and
The Ute Mountains were formed by intrusion of igneous
rocks at about 72 million years (Late
), concurrent doming, and
subsequent erosion. The most common type of igneous rock is
porphyritic hornblende diorite
rock types present range from gabbro
. Forms of intrusions include
, stocks, dikes
, and sills
dike extends north to McElmo Creek and can be examined at a
roadside there. The igneous rocks intrude a sedimentary section of
Jurassic and Cretaceous rocks and the youngest rocks intruded are
in the Point Lookout Sandstone.
intrusions are similar in form and rock type to those in other
Colorado Plateau mountain ranges,
such as the Henry Mountains and the
Range and the Abajo
Mountains, all nearby in Utah, but the intrusions at these
three Utah occurrences are about 20 to 30 million years in
age. The Ute Mountains and the similar Carrizo
Mountains, nearby in
Arizona, lie within a southwest extension of the Colorado Mineral Belt, but no ore
deposits are known to be associated with these igneous
Sedimentary units are listed below, from youngest to oldest:
- Formations of Cretaceous age
- Point Lookout Sandstone (the oldest formation of the Mesa Verde
- Mancos Shale
- Dakota Sandstone
- Burro Canyon Formation
- Formations of Jurassic age
In some areas the soft lower unit of the Entrada weathers into
characteristic rounded forms, commonly called hoodoo
. The underlying Navajo weathers into
rough, rounded surfaces, commonly pitted, and usually forms