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

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

Looking back at the ridge during the scramble to the top

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 (a 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.

  • Trailhead: Upper or lower South Colony Lakes Trail
  • Round trip: Upper TH (high clearance vehicles) – 13 miles / 21 km
  • Lower TH ( passenger cars) – 18.5 miles / 30 km
  • Elevation: Upper TH 9,950′ – 14,064′ (4,114′) / 3,033m – 4,287m (1,254m)
  • Lower TH 8,800′ – 14,064′ (5,264′) / 2,682m – 4,287m (1,605m)

Elevation Map   (select to enlarge)

GPS Route with Elevation

Video Tour

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

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

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

Looking back west shortly after the trail starts climbing

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.

Destination: Hayden Pass
Rating: Moderate
4×4 Road: Forest Road 6 Coaldale to the east or Villa Grove on the west
One-Way: 16 miles / 26 km
Elevation: 7,986′ – 10,709′ (+2,723′)/ 2,434m – 3,264m (+830m)

Area: Hayden Pass
County: Saguache
Agency: U.S. Forest Service
Nat’l Forest: San Isabel

Elevation Map (select to enlarge)

Trekking Colorado made the first jeep crossing over Hayden Pass in 2020 (May 23rd)

GPS Route with Elevation

Video Tour

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

View of the dikes radiating out from the summit

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.

Destination: West Spanish Peak
Trailhead: West Peak Trail (Cordova Pass)
Round trip: 7.5 miles / 12 km
Elevation: 11,276′ -13,625′ (2,349′)/ 3,437 m – 4,153 m (716 m)

County:
Agency: U.S.
Nat’l Forest:
Nat’l Wilderness:

Elevation Map (select to enlarge)

GPS Route with Elevation

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.

Video Tour

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.

Destination: South Colony Lakes
Trailhead: Upper South Colony Lakes
Round trip: 9.2 miles / 14.8 km
Elevation: 9,816′ -12,123′ (2,307′)/ 2,992m-3,695m (703m)

County: Saguache
Agency: U.S. Forest Service
Nat’l Forest: San Isabel

Elevation Map (select to enlarge)

GPS Route with Elevation

Video Tour

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

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. It covers 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.

StatsRoute DescriptionDirectionsNotes
  • Trailhead:       High Dune
  • Round trip:     2.3 miles / 3.8 km
  • Elevation:        8,175′-8,700′ (+525′) / 2,492m-2,652m (+160m)

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.

The sand can be incredibly hot in the summer.

Elevation Map

GPX Track

Video Tour

Trail Pictures

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

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

The Zapata Falls Recreational Area is approximately three miles south of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve entrance. The falls are located inside a cave and have a 30 foot drop that freezes in the winter months. Even in winter, water can still be heard flowing deep underneath the ice.

StatsRoute DescriptionDirectionsNotes
  • Trailhead:        Zapata Falls
  • Round trip:      1 mile / 1.6 km
  • Elevation:         9,035′-9,250′ (+215′) / 2,754m-2,819m (+66m)

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.

The falls have a 25′ drop

Elevation Map

GPX Track

Video Tour

Trail Pictures