Colorado's Yampa Valley is rich in history, starting with stories from the Ute Indians who were the first to live in Steamboat Springs. One legend that originated from the town's first settlers is that of the Sleeping Giant.

The Sleeping Giant is also known as Elk Mountain. This mountain was considered a sacred destination by the Utes. They believed the Sleeping Giant guarded the valley from the west.

According to the Ute Tribe, the friendly gentle giant once protected Yampa Valley. The story continues with the giant being told that he would be granted eternal life and allowed to live in the valley, as long as he never harmed another living thing. However, one day a bad ogre came to town and began terrorizing the tribe. Worried about the safety of his people, the gentle giant lured the villainous Ogre up to Steamboat Lake where he fell into the quicksand.

While the people of the valley were relieved that the bad ogre was gone, the giant had still broken his oath not to hurt anyone. Because of this, the story says that the gentle giant had to be put to sleep. The whole valley came out for a ceremony to put the Gentle Giant to rest. Native Americans surrounded the base of Elk Mountain with rattlesnakes, so the giant would not be disturbed. To this day, the giant rests and the snakes protect his peace.

By Jeffrey Beall - Own work, CC BY 4.0,
By Jeffrey Beall - Own work, CC BY 4.0,

Photo: Elk Mountain by Jeffrey Beall via Wikipedia/ CC BY 4.0 DEED 

Another side of the story explains that the Ute Indians placed rattlesnakes on the mountain to protect its sacredness and prevent fur trappers from destroying the land.

Some say the Giant is responsible for the “Yampa Valley Curse,” which makes people yearn to return to the valley.

Locals also refer to Elk Mountain as the Sleeping Giant because it resembles the profile of a person sleeping. The summit is easily seen from the city, especially from along Lincoln Avenue in downtown Steamboat Springs. The Sleeping Giant stands alone and is not distinctly linked to other peaks or ridges.

Whether or not the stories are true, the Routt County mountain still has a reputation for being infested with rattlesnakes. Hikers are warned to be aware of these slithering reptiles as they make their way up the 8,744-foot peak. Much of the seasonal trail also requires bushwhacking.

10 of Colorado's Most Popular Myths and Legends

If you are on the hunt for myths and legends the good news is you will not have to go far to find them in Colorado. All four corners of the state are filled with their own local legends and eerie encounters.