Music Pass (11,450′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Music Pass (11,450′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Music Pass (11,450′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Music Pass is a east/west pass across the southern Sangre de Cristo range connecting the Wet Valley in the east with the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve on the western side. The road gets progressively worse as you near the trailhead, so without a high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle, you should park at the Grape Creek Trailhead and hike the last 2.5 miles to the Music Pass trailhead. The trail stats assume that you are beginning your hike at the Music Pass Trailhead. 

Reaching the pass, you have a stunning views of the Upper Sand Creek basin that includes 13ers Marble Mountain, Milwaukee Peak, Music Mountain, and Tijeras Peak.

The Sangre de Cristo range has a wide range of remote and rugged hikes, such as Lily Lake, South Colony Lakes, and Humboldt Peak

Elevation Map Pancake Rocks

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GPS Route with Elevation

 

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Trail Directions

From the parking area at the end of Music Pass Road the trail immediately enters a dense conifer forest as it begins climbing toward the pass. Initially you won’t see much but trees, but after about a mile the forest starts to become more open, giving you some great views of the Wet Mountain Valley on the east side of the Sangre de Cristo Range.

Finally, just before reaching the pass you will pass a sign indicating that you are entering the Great Sand Dunes National Preserve, an extension of the Great Sand Dunes National Park on the western side of the range. This point also marks the eastern boundary of the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness Area.

Trailhead Directions

Lily Lake (12,385′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Lily Lake (12,385′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Lily Lake (12,385′), Sangre de Cristo Range

This trail is one of the more beautiful in the state with lots of bang for your buck.  The trail starts out at 10,400 feet, hiking in an beautiful valley surrounded by huge mountain scenery, and is virtually flat.   So if you don’t want to make the climb up to Lilly Lake you still have amazing views and really great creek fishing with lots of good camping options on the valley floor.

If you make the hike up, you can see Mt. Lindsey, Mt. Blanca, Mt. Ellingwood, and the Iron Nipple from Lilly Lake.  From the Valley you can see all but Lindsey. Lilly Lake offers amazing views, an alpine environment just above treeline.

The Sangre de Cristo range has a wide range of remote and rugged hikes, such as Music Pass, South Colony Lakes, and Humboldt Peak .

Elevation Map Pancake Rocks

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GPS Route with Elevation

 

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Trail Directions

From the trailhead, follow clear signs to the Lily Lake Trail (there are no other trails at this TH). Head south and walk through a large meadow. From here, you can see the Blanca Massif straight ahead, with the Iron Nipple (13er) across the basin to its left. Hike one mile on mostly flat, clear terrain before coming to a trail junction with a sign for Lily Lake. Stay right (left will take you up Mt. Lindsey).

Continue up through the forest on excellent trail. You’ll continue to gain little elevation – just 1,500 ft over almost 3 miles from this point on. For most of the hike, Huerfano River will be on your left. At about 3 miles from the trailhead, at 11,600 ft, cross it and come to a large clearing with some boulders ahead and to your right. Loop up and back to your right, dipping briefly back into the forest. Just before the lake you come to a headwall just below the lake. Continue up and reach the lake at around 12,385 ft.

Trailhead Directions

Humboldt Peak (14,064′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Humboldt Peak (14,064′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Humboldt Peak (14,064′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Humboldt Peak is part of the Crestones in the rugged Sangre de Cristo mountain range. The Crestones are a cluster of 14,000′ peaks comprising Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle, Kit Carson Peak, Challenger Point, Humboldt Peak, and Columbia Point. Humboldt Peak is the least difficult hike (difficult Class 2). The rest of the Crestone Group is Class 3, 4, and 5 climbing.

As the trail winds up Humboldt Peak you pass the South Colony Lakes, the most popular back country camping site in the Sangre de Cristo Range.

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Trail Directions

The trail climbs the peak from the South Colony Lakes basin, accessed from the east side of the range. This basin is a popular site that is also the base for most climbs of Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle. You start the hike on a very rugged four-wheel drive road that was closed in 2009 as it follows the South Colony drainage.

Once near the lakes there will be Forest Service signs providing information on the area. Going NW (Humboldt Peak cutoff trail) at the junction, takes you to the Upper South Colony Lake.

The trail climbs steeply to the ridge from the upper lake. Once on the ridge stay to the center for the safest scramble to the summit. The northern side is treacherous with a steep drop for most of the remaining route.

Once on the false summit, head to the northeast to the true summit along large talus.

Trailhead Directions

Hayden Pass (10,709′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Hayden Pass (10,709′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Hayden Pass (10,709′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Hayden Pass road crosses the Sangre de Cristo Mountains between Villa Grove in the west, and Coaldale to the east. The road is most challenging and scenic when started from Villa Grove, on the southwest side. With grades up to 20%, great views of the San Luis valley below can be seen.

This is one of only two vehicle passes over the Sangre de Cristo range. The other vehicle pass being Medano Pass, on the southern tip of the range. This pass travels through the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

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Route Directions

Start by accessing Hayden Pass RD (FR 6) from Coaldale on the east side of the Sangre de Cristo mountains or from Villa Grove on the west side.

The pass is more difficult if started on the west side (Villa Grove) because you are climbing on a very rocky trail.

Hayden Pass summit is a large flat area after a continuous climb. The views from the road here are blocked by thick forest.

The road on the east side of the pass is better maintained and not as rocky.

Trailhead Directions

West Spanish Peak (13,625′), Sangre de Cristo Range

West Spanish Peak (13,625′), Sangre de Cristo Range

West Spanish Peak (13,625′), Sangre de Cristo Range

West Spanish Peak (13,625′) and East Spanish Peak (12,684′) have world class geological features that made the two peaks a National Natural Landmark in 1976 and designated as a Wilderness Area in 2000. The peaks rise 6,000 ft from the edge of the eastern plains, and were used as a navigation aid for centuries for people heading west.

The Spanish Peaks are world class examples of “stocks” and “dikes”. Stocks are large masses of igneous (molten) rock which forced their way into seams of the sedimentary rock which eroded more quickly over time. East Peak is a nearly circular stock about 5.5 miles long by 3 miles wide while West Peak is a stock about 2.75 miles long by 1.75 miles wide.

The other structures, hundreds of dikes which radiate out from the two mountains, were formed in the same way, but instead of a large pool of molten rock, the magma filled cracks in the soft sedimentary layer. Erosion wore away the softer sedimentary rock leaving dikes (walls) of granite rock up to 100′ high, 100′ wide, and 14 miles long. This scenic combination of two stocks (West Spanish Peak and East Spanish Peak) and hundreds of unique dikes is second to none with it’s size, diversity and beauty.

While in the area, just a short drive west on Hwy 160, is another geological wonder, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Zapata Falls, which lies just outside the park, is also a favorite.

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While the Spanish Peaks are categorized as belonging to the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range, the are not geologically part of a chain of mountains, having been formed independently by different processes.

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Trail Directions

The trail is fairly level as it meanders through forests and meadows for about 2 miles (3.2 km) to treeline. At treeline there is a massive cairn signaling the beginning of the steep section of the trail. There is a rough path on talus (scree) up the southwest ridge of the peak for the 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of steep climbing. When in doubt stay to the left and close to the ridge, the climbing is on more solid footing.

Gaining the false summit, the actual summit comes into view, not far away and on much more even terrain. There is a cairn and large branch on the summit.

Trailhead Directions

South Colony Lakes (12,000′), Sangre de Cristo Range

South Colony Lakes (12,000′), Sangre de Cristo Range

South Colony Lakes (12,000′), Sangre de Cristo Range

The South Colony Basin lies in the heart of southern Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Range, home of the South Colony Lakes. Surrounded by Crestone Needle (14,197′), Humboldt Peak (14,064′), and Broken Hand Peak (13,573′), the basin is one of the most beautiful alpine settings in the Southern Rockies.

It was once possible to drive a vehicle to within a half-mile of the lakes, where most climbers set up a camp. Today, low-clearance vehicles park at the lower trailhead and walk 2.75 miles up the road to the upper trailhead. It’s another 2.5 miles from there along the closed road to the old trailhead, where the trail heads into the basin.

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Trail Directions

The trail follows the permanently closed old 4×4 road. At about 2.6 miles from the upper trailhead you reach a trail junction and turn right, leaving the road and continuing west along a single track trail. After a mile on this trail, you reach tree line and continue through willows to the north of the creek and Lower South Colony Lake. Follow the trail northwest up the hillside above to the upper lake and take in the views.

Trailhead Directions

Great Sand Dunes National Park (8,700′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Great Sand Dunes National Park (8,700′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Great Sand Dunes National Park (8,700′), Sangre de Cristo Range

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve contains the tallest sand dunes in North America, rising about 750 feet (230 m) from the floor of the San Luis Valley at the western base of the Sangre de Cristo Range. The dunes  cover about 19,000 acres (7,700 ha).

Researchers estimate that the dunes started forming less than 440,000 years ago, which is recent in geological times. A Visitor Guide by the park provides plenty of ideas for activities while in this unique area.

While in the area, Zapata Falls lies just outside the park and is worth the small excursion.

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Trail Directions

Medano Creek is within a 100 feet of the parking lot and is a popular destination because it has the characteristics of an ocean beach in the spring. Cross the shallow creek and continue toward the dunes.

The first part of the hike is easy because it travels across flat, thick sand. The hike quickly transitions from an easy beach walk to a vertically challenging dune climb as the angle increases. Walking up along the ridges provided the path of least resistance.

Trailhead Directions

Zapata Falls (9,250′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Zapata Falls (9,250′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Zapata Falls (9,250′), Sangre de Cristo Range

This popular short hike to Zapata Falls is located 3 miles south of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, off of Highway 150. Simply driving to the trailhead provides an excellent view of the entire dune field and San Luis Valley. Drive (east) onto a rough dirt road marked by a large sign, and drive 3.5 miles to the trailhead. To view the falls, hike 1/2 mile, and wade into a crevasse where the 30 ft. high falls cascade onto a ledge. Even in winter, water can still be heard flowing deep underneath the ice.

Directions

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Trail Directions

From the Great Sand Dunes Visitor Center, drive south about 8 miles, then turn left (east) onto a dirt road. Drive the remaining 3.5 miles to the trailhead.

To view the falls, hike about 1/2 mile, cross the creek, then scramble up the rocks and stream into a crevasse where the 30 ft. high falls cascade down.

Trailhead Directions