Ascent of Zenobia Peak on 2019-07-07

Climber: Dennis Stewart

Date:Sunday, July 7, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Zenobia Peak
    Elevation:9005 ft / 2744 m

Ascent Trip Report

I am not sure why I have national monument highpoints on my bucket list. So many of them are located at the monument's boundary and are not even on a summit, but the highest point in Dinosaur National Monument, Zenobia Peak, is different. It is a prominent peak on the far eastern side of the Monument. The problem is how to get there. I stopped at a visitor's center in Utah near Dinosaur National Monument when I saw a park ranger standing beside his truck. I hoped to receive some valuable directions, but I was very wrong. I have never encountered a federal park ranger who was so dismissive at my information request. He treated me like a trespasser and told me all the land on the east side of Zenobia Peak is privately owned and the park has to do many helicopter rescues for people trying to access the peak from the west. I explained I was an experienced climber and had ascended the highest point in every state, but it did no good. I left our brief conversation quite discouraged. Soon afterwards I reached a visitor's center in Dinosaur, Colorado managed by an elderly gentleman, who claimed to have lived in the area all his life. I questioned him about access to Zenobia Peak and he told me there is a public road all the way to the summit on the east side. This turned out to be incorrect and the road requires a high-clearance vehicle with 4-wheel drive a plus, but my brother, Mitch, and I did have summit success by luck. Fortunately, my brother was driving his jeep and I left my Ford Focus at the visitor's center in Dinosaur with the permission of the manager. The route is drivable in a passenger car for a very long way, but it eventually deteriorates and becomes extremely rough. It was a very long drive to the summit. We took Hwy 25 north to Hwy 10 then west to Hwy 116 where we fortunately met a very friendly man in a pickup who stopped to talk to us. He informed us that access to Zenobia Peak on the east side does indeed cross private property, but he saw my disappointment and he volunteered to call the landowners. We were quickly given permission to drive across the private property. The friendly man in the pickup even called the watchman in the fire lookout tower on top of Zenobia Peak to inform him of our arrival, since we were told he doesn't like unannounced visitors. Before we left, however, we were warned it would take 2 hours to get there, even though it was only 20 miles away. We continued on Hwy 116, which could have easily been driven in my car until about 5 miles from the summit where the road greatly deteriorated and I was sure glad we hadn't driven my car. Finally we reached a locked metal gate 100 feet below the summit that was not posted. I passed around the gate and reached the summit in 3 minutes where I met a friendly watchman, Daniel, who informed me, to my surprise, that there are still over 300 manned fire lookout towers in the west. His shift is 10 days on and 4 days off. The views from the summit were, of course, excellent and I found a benchmark east of the tower. My brother and I left the summit at 7:09 PM and did not reach a motel in Dinosaur until 10:35 PM, which fortunately still had vacancy. A few miles from the summit we met a lady driving a pickup who was one of the landowners we had gotten permission from. She was quite friendly, but I do not know if her disposition would have been the same if we had not gotten her permission first. I am sorry I cannot give out phone numbers to call for permission. Those were kept from me. If you are really hungry to bag this summit, I suggest bringing a book to read and park along Hwy 116 waiting for a landowner to pass by. Hopefully you will have the same luck my brother and I did. I honestly can't recommend you drive to the summit without permission. You will pass several posted signs and you will not see any homes to ask permission along the route. All the residences are not visible from Hwy 116, although you will pass one very nice looking hunting cabin that looks like a home.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike

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