Colorado, Colorado Hikes, Colorado Summits

Colorado Summits: Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain

Let’s begin by answering the obvious question: it’s pronounced mess-tah-HAY.

Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain is named for a Cheyenne woman who was also known as Owl Woman. Owl Woman was married to William Bent, a white settler, trader, and co-founder of Bents Old Fort trading post on the plains of Colorado in the 1800s. Their marriage was considered one of the key factors in maintaining peaceful relations between Natives and white settlers at Bents Old Fort for so many years. Additionally, Owl Woman served as a translator, negotiator, and manager during her time at the Fort.

Mestaa’ėhehe is actually the new name for this mountain; it was chosen in consultation with the local Cheyenne (Tsétsêhéstâhese) and Arapaho (Hinono’eiteen) tribes and officially adopted in 2021. Some older sources may still show it as Squaw Mountain. While there is some debate about the origin of this word, the general consensus is that today it is considered a disparaging and offensive way of referring to a Native American woman. There has been a push in recent years to rename the many US landmarks with this name; I’m glad this effort was successful. There’s just no good reason to have a mountain with a derogatory name.

On a Saturday in April, Chelsea and I set out to climb 11,431 foot (3484 m) Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain. It had been on our list for a while, and this mild, sunny spring day presented the perfect opportunity. It was warm, not too windy, and the path was well-travelled and packed down. So off we went. There is a service road up to the summit. In the summer, you can drive most of the way and walk the rest. In the snow, it’s best to just park at the bottom of the road and walk the entire way… especially when you drive a sedan (which I do).

The road is wide, easy to follow, and not terribly long or steep. The entire hike was only 3.7 miles (5.9 km) round-trip with 800 feet (245 m) of elevation gain.

Up the road we go
Almost to the summit

With such a short hike, I don’t have all that much to say about it. It was worth the time and effort, though. The summit is just above tree line and home to a fire tower which is no longer used for fire-spotting purposes but can be rented out for overnight use. I imagine it would be a cold and windy night, but it would also be beautiful!

The interior is small and fully surrounded by windows; the view is excellent in all directions. There are no shades or curtains and therefore absolutely no privacy; signs at the base ask hikers not to climb the stairs to the tower. Ordinarily, we would abide by these signs and respect the privacy of the occupants… but on the way up we encountered the people who had just departed the tower, so we knew it was empty and took advantage of the opportunity to take a look.

Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain fire tower
There are other buildings and many radio towers on the summit as well

But even without climbing up to the tower, we were treated to gorgeous views of Mount Evans to the west, Denver to the east, and, because it was a clear day, we could see south as far as Pikes Peak and north all the way to Rocky Mountain National Park!

The most distant mountain, just left of center, is Pikes Peak
Looking west to Mount Evans
Mount Evans
Looking northwest
Looking north over the Indian Peaks, with distant views of the mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park
Looking northeast toward the Denver area

And then we headed back down to the car, enjoying the sunshine on our faces and the crisp white snow shimmering beneath the bright blue Colorado sky.

Mountain views on the descent

The Important Stuff:

  • Getting there: Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain Lookout Trail is located off CO Route 103 about 10 miles (16 km) south of Idaho Springs, Colorado; park at the base of the service road or, with the proper vehicle, drive up as far as you can make it and park in a dirt pullout
  • Fees and passes: none
  • Hiking: from the base of the service road, round-trip distance is 3.7 miles (5.9 km) with 800 feet (245 m) of elevation gain
  • Where to stay: this is best done as a day hike from the greater Denver area; to spend the night at the summit, reserve the fire tower in advance
  • Other: the road/trailhead is not well-marked and cell service is limited in the area, but if you drop a pin in your maps app in advance, navigation shouldn’t be an issue. If you end up at Chief Mountain Trailhead, you’re about 0.3 miles (0.5 km) too far west

21 thoughts on “Colorado Summits: Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain”

  1. Glorious views from the top! Nice to see the renaming of this mountain explained in your blog. I’m proud of the efforts of governing bodies to remove names that may be offensive and honor names that are respectful of native peoples who lived here. As I imagine you know, Mt Evans is next; Clear Creek County has approved Blue Sky after discussion with native groups from the area.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’m glad as well. I have heard of the new name for Evans… I believe it’s slated to be approved in September. That’s the mountain I look up at every day, so it will be nice for it to have a name not associated with so much horrible history.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Looks like a beautiful hike! I find it nice to mix in some less strenuous hikes, sometimes it’s all about getting outside in the sunshine and fresh air. Although I don’t have as pretty of views here in NY on my easy hikes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You know back in NC I climbed almost all of the Sauratown Mountains (That is where we went and climbed Moore’s Knob and talked to the rangers), except Sauratown Mountain itself. That is the one that although it is not the tallest in the range, (Moore’s Knob is) it’s the one that got saddled with all the radio, TV and cellphone towers. I understand the concept of finding a high place and extending the signal but man I wish they would leave the beautiful mountains alone!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, the towers did interfere with the view. But the nearby mountain has a similar view from the summit that’s unobstructed, so it’s nice that they clustered all the towers on one mountain rather than putting a couple on each.


  4. Excellent story and photos as always Diana! I’ve had this one penciled in for some time now, might just have to check it out. I have ventured up Chief Mt. I wonder if that will be renamed soon? I’m all for the renaming. Thank you again for all the places you take us!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve done Chief Mt as well and really enjoyed that hike too! They views from the summits are certainly similar. I don’t think there is any plan to rename that one, as I believe it’s named for a Native American chief already. The mountain between Chief and Mestaa’ehehe is called Papoose Mountain, so now we have all three mountains in a row like a family.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think it’s great that places are reclaiming their names from Native American culture and history (considering that the US has far been a great country given the reparations they still owe for the tribes, but that’s another story)– plus, Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain has a better ring to it than Squaw Mountain!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Glad to hear that indigenous naming protocols are also happening down your way, Diana. So much more meaning than the name of a white explorer who discovered the mountain, well after it had already been discovered. The views are tremendous for sure. Not sure how I would feel about renting the fire tour for a night. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love the story behind the name of the mountain and about the Owl Woman. I had to use Google to see what she looked like in real life and was pleased to find out that she was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame due to her efforts to aid relations between the Native Americans and the white man. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

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