The Legend of Sleeping Giant
All around Steamboat Springs, there is folklore about the mountains and the Springs. One of the most widely talked of legends is that of the Sleeping Giant.
The mountain—now better known as the Sleeping Giant—actually does resemble one, with a long blanket draping the flanks and top profile that looks very similar to a slumbering giant. Strong and imposing, this standalone mountain dominates the skyline and can be seen from almost everywhere in town.
Every town has a few legendary tales about past incidents and former residents (and maybe even current ones) that seem to continue being shared for generations. These stories indeed incite curiosity and wonder in all who hear them. However, there are various versions to every story, each with a twist of its own. This story is based on the shape of Elk Mountain, as it looks like a person is asleep to the west of Steamboat.
One Story From Native Utes
According to the oral history of the original settlers here, the Utes, the 8.744-peak Elk Mountain, is actually a sleeping giant that silently guards the Yampa Valley against any potential dangers from the west. It seems that its presence provides a sense of protection to those who call Steamboat Springs home.
An Ogre on the Mount: Another Ute & Earlier Furrier Settlers’ Take
This folklore likely began around the arrival of the first European fur trappers and, along with tales from Ute Natives, this concept evolved.
The story goes like this:
Long ago, there was a friendly and gentle giant who lived among the people of the Yampa Valley. He adored the valley, the people who lived here, and he staunchly defended both from any threats. Inhabitants knew the giant would shelter them, so they granted him eternal life and a home in the valley as long as he never harmed another living being.
But an ogre came to the Yampa Valley to attack the people that lived there. The giant felt that it was his duty to protect the people he loved, so he enticed the ogre to go to Steamboat Lake, where the ogre fell into quicksand and perished. The people were saved, but the giant had broken his oath, so he was cursed to eternal rest. To protect his resting spot, all of the people of Yampa Valley surrounded him with rattlesnakes, so no one was able to disturb him and to ensure he would be left alone and at peace. That’s why there are rattlesnakes at the base of Sleeping Giant today!
More Snake Lore
The Sleeping Giant was considered sacred to the Utes during their time living in the valley. Once the Europeans began settling en masse, the Natives were scared their sacred lands would be destroyed. Hence, this is why they hunted down the rattlesnakes and set them loose on the Sleeping Giant to keep outsiders away.
These are just a few legends of Elk Mountain, so make a trip and talk to locals to learn more about the rich history of Steamboat Springs, Colorado.