The Legend of the Sleeping Giant

Elk Mountain stands out against the landscape of the Yampa Valley. It’s 8,744’ peak rises high above the Elk River below and it stands guard at the west end of Steamboat. Aside from it’s rather strange location plopped down right in the middle of the valley, it also is oddly shaped—to be honest, it looks like a person. And for those of you who have visited Steamboat before, whether it be during ski season or the summer, I am sure that you have been informed that it is referred to as “The Sleeping Giant.” Why, you ask? Like any good small town, we have our own legends and stories of how our town and our landscape came to be. This is the most well-known of all Steamboat tales—the legend of the Sleeping Giant.


There are many different tales of the Sleeping Giant. However, there has been one story that has been passed on for years that is said to be the true version of the Legend of the Sleeping Giant. Rusty De Lucia, a long-time local resident was told a story as a young girl by Charlotte Perry of Perry-Mansfield. It goes like this:

“Many years ago there lived a gentle friendly giant. He loved life and the people of the Yampa Valley and was always ready to protect anyone who lived here from any danger. The people knew he was their friend and would always take care of them.

As the story goes, the giant was told that he would be granted eternal life and always be allowed to live in the Yampa Valley as long as he never harmed another living thing.

One day a bad giant ogre came to the Valley and started to terrorize the people. The Giant was very worried about their safety and lured the Ogre up to Steamboat Lake where he fell into the quicksand.


The people were relieved and happy that the Bad Ogre was gone and the Giant had saved them.

But—because the Giant had broken his oath not to hurt anyone, even though it was a very bad Ogre, he had to be put to sleep.

The whole valley came out for a ceremony to put the Gentle Giant to rest. They surrounded the base of the giant with rattlesnakes so that he would not be disturbed.

To this day, the giant rests and the rattlesnakes protect his peace.”


Next time you are in the valley, look for the Gentle Giant in his permanent resting place at the west end of Steamboat. And if you really want to acquaint yourself with the Valley’s protector, visit him for great hiking from September 1st to February 28th.

Credit for the Legend of the Sleeping Giant: