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Legends and Folklore in Steamboat Springs

You can’t seem to get Steamboat Springs out of your mind, can you? You’re enchanted by the area’s natural beauty, authentic hospitality, and endless opportunities for adventure. The town’s rich history and year-round outdoor activities are practically begging you to return. You feel an unexplainable connection to this charming town, where many of your happiest memories were made.

A local saying captures this mysterious feeling perfectly: “come for the winters, stay for the summers.” This quip embodies the otherworldly charm of Steamboat Springs, drawing visitors back season after season, year after year. People return not just for a luxurious escape, but for the intangible magic that meanders through the valley, whispering tales of “come back soon.” 

This mystical allure has been dubbed the ‘Yampa Valley Curse’ whereby those who visit Steamboat Springs are bound to return, enchanted by its natural beauty and Western hospitality.

But, is this just a legend? Or could there be something more to this intriguing folktale?

What, or Who, is Behind the Yampa Valley Curse?

The breathtaking view from Elk Mountain

The mountains that surround Steamboat Springs have compelled many to turn to storytelling and mythology to explain their legendary allure. One such remarkable legend evolved from the tales of Ute Natives… a legend which is still heard today.

Once, the Yampa Valley was the dwelling place of a gentle giant.

He loved the people who lived in the valley, and spent his days protecting them. The people loved the giant, so they granted him eternal life and promised he could live peacefully in the valley as long as he promised to never harm another living thing.

If he broke this promise, he would be cursed to eternal rest.

Many years passed and the giant lived with the people in peace… until a vicious ogre made its way to the valley and attacked the people.

The giant, so stirred by love to protect his friends, enticed the ogre to Steamboat Lake where it fell into quicksand and perished.

Yes, the people were saved, but the giant had broken his promise. Sure enough, he laid down never to rise again.

Out of devotion and care for the giant, the people surrounded the giant’s resting place with rattlesnakes to protect him. Many say this is why you’ll find rattlesnakes at the bottom of Elk Mountain to this day.

Could the mystery of the Yampa Valley Curse be attributed to this unfortunate giant? The best way to find out is to visit Elk Mountain yourself.

Where to View Elk Mountain

View of Elk Mountain from downtown Steamboat Springs

The Sleeping Giant lies to the northwest of Steamboat Springs and can be easily seen from most places throughout the city. Excellent views of the mountain can be enjoyed on Lincoln Avenue (U.S. Route 40), or from Mount Werner.

Take a Hike on Elk Mountain

A woman hiking on Elk Mountain

The next time you travel to Steamboat Springs, take a moment to look up at Elk Mountain. You’ll see how it resembles the shape of a giant man sleeping… this inspiration behind Steamboat’s most heartbreaking legend.

If you want to take your folktale investigation one step further, it’s possible to hike up Elk Mountain. The trail is perfect for experienced hikers who are excited by the challenge of unpaved routes and tricky terrain.

When to Hike:

  • The mountain is usually only open for hiking from Sept 1st – Feb 28th each year.
  • Access is from sunrise to sunset during these dates.


  1. From Steamboat, head west on HWY 40.
  2. After about 9 miles, immediately after crossing the Elk River, take a right (north) on County Road 44.
  3. Travel about 2.5 miles on CR 44 until you reach the intersection with County Road 46.
  4. Turn left on CR 46 and go up the hill to one of the two pullout areas.
  5. Look for gates on your right, which are the access points.

Access Requirements:

  • You must have a Colorado Habitat Stamp (or fishing license) for access.
  • Your use of the mountain must be for a “wildlife related activity,” which includes “wildlife viewing” (hiking for wildlife viewing is acceptable).

Trail Details:

  • The trail up The Sleeping Giant is not a well-defined trail. It’s more of a bushwack straight up to the ridge.
  • At the ridge, you can walk east and north to the summit cairn.
  • The trail is very low traffic and not maintained, so it can be difficult to find at a few points.
  • Expect to see signs of hunting, mountain bikes, and horses at higher elevations.
  • Wildlife tracks, such as moose or elk, may be visible lower down.

Trail Conditions:

  • The trail goes through areas affected by wildfires, resulting in several trees being over the road.
  • There are downed trees along the path, but they are easy to navigate over, under, or around.


  • The views from the top are fantastic, including Granby Ranch, Lake Granby, Winter Park, and many other sights.
  • It’s a moderately steep climb through a meadow to the summit, offering magnificent views in all directions.

Enjoying the Hike:

  • Hiking boots are recommended, especially if there is snow or water on the path.
  • Embrace the challenge of the hike, especially the difficult last 1/2-mile to the summit.
  • Pack essentials like water, snacks, and appropriate gear for the conditions.
  • Enjoy the opportunity for wildlife viewing while hiking.
  • Remember, always check online for updated trail conditions, weather forecasts, and any additional regulations or closures before heading out on your hike!

Responding to the Mountains’ Call

There’s no doubt about it, the mysterious allure of Steamboat Springs is calling you back for your next vacation. It doesn’t matter how many times you ski Steamboat’s slopes, indulge in authentic Western cuisine, or experience bucket-list encounters with wildlife… you want to return again and again.

Our founders were drawn to create The Astrid as an answer to Steamboat’s unexplainable pull. Here at The Astrid, your family has the opportunity to establish roots in this historic town, creating a luxurious home-away-from-home that you can return to as soon as you hear the mountain’s call.

Our team is on a mission to redefine adventure by creating a unique community where you can immerse yourself in the most luxurious, convenient, and personalized vacation experiences, from the comfort of your very own mountainside oasis.

To find out more, we warmly invite you to join our exclusive mailing list to gain access to insider information, behind-the-scenes content, and a highly personalized email experience reserved only for members of The Astrid community.

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