The Sleeping Ute: The Little-Known Mountain with An Incredible Story
Whenever asked about my experiences in the wilderness, I get asked one question more than any. “What was the coolest view you ever got?” The answer is the picture above. Looking across Fry Canyon towards the Ute Mountains, you can see the full beauty of the Sleeping Ute. The Ute Mountains elevate to nearly 10,000 feet and span approximately 5 by 9 miles (8 by 19 kilometres) The Ute Mountains are very rarely mentioned on any travel websites, recommendations, or even hiking magazines, but I never understood why this was. After all, the Ute Mountains are not only naturally beautiful- they hold an incredible story as well. Take a look at the full mountain range:
The Sleeping Ute has a natural beauty to it that simply cannot be explained without being there yourself, and that’s why I absolutely think any road-trip should include a visit the the Ute Mountains. In person, the vast size of the Ute Mountains will awe you. On top of all the natural beauty of the Sleeping Ute, there is an added bit of history and mythology that makes the Ute even more impressive. But first, let’s take a look into the past.
The Ute People
The Indigenous people of the Ute tribe lived in sovereignty in the regions of what is now Utah and Colorado, until European settlers came and colonized their land. After early interactions with European colonists, the Ute people began to create trading relationships. These trading relationships eventually led to the Ute people acquiring horses from said trading relationships. Having the access to horses, the Ute people had somewhat of a revolution, leading to a certain prestige among the Ute people that was centered around equestrians, including their equestrian skills and how many horses they had. A little-known fact about the Ute people is that the entire state of Utah was actually named after them!
The Legend of The Sleeping Ute
Like I mentioned before, the natural beauty of the Sleeping Ute is not the only thing that drew me into a full-blown obsession with the Ute Mountains. There is an incredibly magical Native American legend that goes along with these earthy treasures. The legend of The Sleeping Ute goes a little like this: in very olden days, the Sleeping Ute was a Great Warrior God. He came to fight the Evil Ones, which became a tremendous battle. As the Great Warrior God and the Evil Ones fought, they stepped hard into the earth and formed the mountains and valleys. The Great Warrior God was hurt, and he laid down to take a nap. He quickly fell into a deep sleep, and his blood turned into living water for all the creatures to drink. Anytime that the Great Warrior God changes his blankets, the seasons change. When they see a green blanket, everyone will know it is spring. The dark green blanket means summer, a yellow or red blanket means fall, and a white blanket means winter. It is said that the Great Warrior God will rise again in order to help his people fight their enemies.
Now that you understand the legend of the Sleeping Ute, let’s look at the picture of the Ute Mountains again:
On the right side of the photo you can see the top of the Native American headdress that the Great Warrior God wore. Move a little to the left, and you can see his nose. The largest peak in the Ute Mountains is where the Great Warrior God’s arms are crossed. Keep moving to the left, and you will find the Warrior’s knees and eventually his toes.
To help anyone still struggling, here’s a diagram showing some of the features of the Ute Mountains and how they correlate with where the Great Warrior God was:
Once these details are pointed out to you, you start to see the clear image of the Warrior laying on his back, waiting for the day to come to wake up once again and fight for his people.