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 were later exposed by erosion. 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 hard 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.
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)
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.
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.
The Spanish Peaks are stocks, which are not volcano’s.