The Never Summer Mountains are a mountain range in the Rocky Mountains in north central Colorado in the United States. The range is located along the northwest border of Rocky Mountain National Park, forming the continental divide between the headwaters of the Colorado River in Rocky Mountain National Park to the east and the upper basin of the North Platte River (North Park) to the west. The range is small and tall, covering only twenty-five square miles with a north-south length of 10 miles while rising to over 12,000 ft at over ten distinct peaks. The range straddles the Jackson-Grand county line for most of its length, and stretches into Jackson and Larimer county at its northern end. A panoramic view of the range is available from sections of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. One of the northernmost peaks, Nokhu Crags, is prominently visible from the west side of Cameron Pass.
The peaks are enormous weathered masses of granitic rock heavily covered with green and orange lichens surrounded on all sides by large fields of talus shed from the original peaks. Many alpine lakes are nestled amounst the peaks. Most vegetation is low growing and stunted. Few trees grow and the higher altitudes and Krummholz abounds.
In 1890 a project called the Grand Ditch began. The ditch is a 16.2 mile water diversion project. Streams and creeks that flow from the highest peaks are diverted into the ditch, which flows over La Poudre pass, delivering the water into the Atlantic Basin for the use of eastern plains farmers. The ditch wasn't completed until 1936. The ditch diverts between 20 to 40% of the runoff from the Never Summer Mountains and significantly impacts the ecology in the valley below. In May 2003 a 100 foot section of the ditch breached causing the water to cascade down the slopes and into the Colorado River. The flood left a visible scar on the mountainside.
In 1914, members of the Arapaho tribe were brought to the region in a trip sponsored by the Colorado Mountain Club. The tribe members spent their youth in the area and were asked to offer the Native American names for the various peaks, lakes and other geographic features in the area. They called the range Ni-chebe-chii, which translates to Never No Summer. Locals eventually settled on Never Summer Mountains for the range.
Many of the peaks in the range are named after cloud types, such as Mount Cirrus and Mount Cumulus.
The range is frequented by hikers and backpackers in the summer, and skiers and snowshoers in the winter. The area sees some mountaineering activity, but the rock tends to be rotten and the routes are dangerous. The Colorado River Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park has trails that lead to the Grand Ditch and remains of Lulu City. Trails from Cameron Pass lead to the Michigan Lakes, Lake Agnes and the Nokhu Crags area. Trails in nearby Routt National Forest lead to the Never Summer Wilderness on the western and southern edges of the range.