We're Powered by Donations. Will You Join the Cause? Donate Now
×
Vallecito Trail Update

We have recently visited the Vallecito Trail in the Weminuche Wilderness from the trailhead near Kite Lake, across Hunchback Pass, down to where Sunlight Creek comes in, then up the Sunlight drainage. New and/or revised information has been posted for the Kite Lake/Hunchback trailhead and the associated approach segments including field-verified GPS waypoints for key campsites and the stream crossings to reach the upper basin of Sunlight Creek and Sunlight Lake. 

×
  • Hunchback Pass to Nebo Creek  Moderate | RT: 5.5 mi / 1,900’

    This "approach" is part of a sequence of approaches that utilize the Vallecito Trail beginning near Kite Lake and above the "Beartown" site. The trailhead is located at: N37° 42' 44.57"  W 107° 31' 04.97". Use the "Beartown/Kite Lake/Hunchback trailhead information for instructions on how to drive to the TH.

    The trailhead is actually within the Rio Grande National Forest. The TH number is #813 on both the San Juan and older Rio Grande National Forest maps and is a part of the "Continental Divide Trail" at this location and segment. Once the trail crosses Hunchback Pass, it crosses over into San Juan National Forest and becomes #529, continuing south all the way to Vallecito Reservoir. If using Trails Illustrated #140, they identify this as the Continental Divide Trail and use the #813. Walk south from the TH and follow the easy gradient through open terrain with some willows to Hunchback Pass. The trail first sweeps SE, then makes a gradual turn SW, then west to the open, tundra-covered pass with about 900 feet of gain over just under a mile. Coordinates for the pass are: N 37° 42' 16.62"  W 107° 31' 12.37". Hunchback Mountain is west along the divide and can be easily climbed by those interested in bagging all the 13ers. You can drop your pack, stroll to the summit and return in under an hour.

    From Hunchback Pass, continue south heading straight down an unnamed fork of Vallecito Creek (or could perhaps be considered an unnamed fork of Nebo Creek.)  The trail cuts trough plenty of willows in this section and stays on the west side of the drainage until a little before the trees. Because of the numerous willows, plan on getting pants & boots drenched if it has rained recently. Also, as a general point, the Vallecito Trail is utilized regularly by pack horse groups so you can expect to see and experience some of the typical trail damage done by horses. The trail then turns to the SE and comes to an intersection. A newer trail (#813) that does not show on the 1964 USGS map heads east up Nebo Creek, crosses the Continental Divide and goes to West Ute Lake. That is the continuation of the Continental Divide Trail. The Vallecito Trail continues south and west from this intersection. Near the trail intersection, there is a very large and good campsite on a prominent knoll above Nebo Creek on the NW side. The campsite makes a good base camp for 13ers off the CD trail including Mt. Nebo, UN13,110, UN13,230, and UN13,169, all of which can be done in a single day from the campsite. See "Camping info" for more details.



    Camping

    The Nebo Campsite sits near the intersection of the Vallecito Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. This camp site is not to be confused with another located about a mile farther down the trail where Nebo Creek is actually crossed. The elevation is appx. 11,400 ft. Coordinates are below. These coordinates have been field checked. The campsite is right off the main trail. Because of the beetle kill damage to the old growth trees here, the original camp area has seen some ground vegetation moving back in. There is still one, good, main tent site with fire ring as of 2018, a smaller but usable tent site just off to the NW from the fire ring and 50 yards south, there is a potential camp site located on the grassy knoll. Water may be obtained from Nebo Creek which will lie east of and downhill from the campsite. 


    Campsite Locations

    Nebo Campsite N 37° 41' 10.9", W 107° 31' 14.7"
    11,400 appx. elevation
  • Nebo Creek to Trinity Creek  Moderate | RT: 2.5 mi / 1,000’

    This "approach" is part of a sequence of approaches that utilize the Vallecito Trail beginning near Kite Lake and above the "Beartown" site. The trailhead is located at: N37° 42' 44.57" W 107° 31' 04.97". Use the "Beartown/Kite Lake/Hunchback trailhead information for instructions on how to drive to the TH.

    From the Nebo Creek campsite and the trail junction of the Continental Divide Trail #813 and the Vallecito Trail #529, head south, then SW down the Vallecito Trail. The trail swings to the west through forest, staying above Nebo Creek and then makes an abrupt turn back to the north to cross the unnamed fork of Vallecito Creek that originates near Hunchback Pass. Watch carefully for this minor crossing. Then, the trail continues down and generally west to SW. Along this next stretch there is one small campsite we've noticed on the south side of the trail that has some slope and could accommodate one tent. This is what we would call a "do-in-a-pinch" type of site. Continue down trail to the WSW to a switchback that will drop you to Nebo Creek (which by this point has been joined by the aforementioned unnamed fork and now carries a lot more water). Just below this switchback, there is a not-too-noticeable trail that heads off to the SW which we believe to be an alternate route into Stormy Gulch. When you arrive at the crossing of Nebo Creek, we have usually found this crossing to be a little difficult and somewhat intimidating. The water is swift and nearby the stream heads over the beginning of a waterfall. Sometimes there are logs you can walk across and other times, there's little help. You may have to wade. You can also explore upstream where you may find a better crossing place with rocks that allow hopping over the stream. In our July, 2018 visit, the water was so low, crossing anywhere was easy. Before crossing, if you follow the stream up, there are some good campsites with as many as four possible tent sites. Beyond the last tent site there is a picturesque waterfall. 

    After crossing Nebo Creek, continue downhill, through a series of switchbacks and at 1.25 miles from the Nebo campsite, you should come to an open meadow on the right (west) side of the trail and see a secondary trail heading over to a crossing of Vallecito Creek, below where Trinity Creek comes in. This meadow area is often used as a camp spot by various groups, though it tends to be a little lumpy. From this location climbers can reach The Guardian, Mt. Silex, Storm King, and Peaks Seven, Eight and Nine as day hikes/climbs by heading up Stormy Gulch. But if you're willing to lug your pack back uphill, read about other higher elevation campsites under the "approach" for those peaks.  If hiking back up to the Nebo Creek camp or back over Hunchback Pass to the trailhead, this section from Trinity Creek back to Nebo Creek is the steepest part of the return hike gaining about 1,000 feet in elevation. It is also possible to hike all the way up Trinity Creek and cross the ridge that separates the Trinity Basin from the Vestal Basin and access the Vestal Creek summits.



    Camping

    An easily identifiable trail turns west off the main Vallecito Trail and leads over to where you can cross Vallecito Creek, downstream from where Trinity Creek comes in. This trail leads across an open meadow that is frequently used as a camp location. See approximate coordinates below. The trail that leads west across the meadow can be rather faint. The best campsite will be a few yards north of that trail (see field checked coordinates), and there's another campsite in some younger trees 50 yards south of the trail. 


    Campsite Locations

    Trinity Creek N 37° 40' 33.01", W 107° 31' 30.7"
    Elevation 10,560 ft.
  • Trinity Ck to Storm King Pass  Difficult | RT: 5.5 mi / 2,300’

    The Trinity Creek Trail is generally an easy trail to follow up to treeline. From the campsite just west of the Vallecito Trail and below where Trinity Creek joins Vallecito, the place to wade across is obvious and the trail can be seen on the other side of the Vallecito. Fortunately the Vallecito is not as deep or swift here as it is further down where you cross for Sunlight Creek, nevertheless, it's a frigid wade across, especially in the early morning hours. By the end of a long day of hiking, you may find the wade rather refreshing.

    Once across Vallecito Creek, the trail heads up along Trinity Creek staying on the south side and mostly in conifer forest. This is not a maintained trail and does not show on ANY of five maps we have of this area including the USGS and Trails Illustrated. You can expect typical trail conditions for an unmaintained trail. At about 11,000 ft., the trail crosses to the north side of the creek and continues gaining elevation through open forest and grassy meadows. Above where the creek draining Silex Lake comes in, there are some usable campsite locations if you search around. It's also possible to continue on up to Trinity Lake and set up a base camp there, particularly if interested in climbing Peaks One, Two and Three from here.

    If heading on up to what we have called "Storm King Pass," you'll need to continue up the trinity trail to about 11,400 ft. elevation, then turn toward the south to begin an ascent into the basin that holds Lake Silex. On our last visit here in 2005, there was an intermittent trail that headed up into the basin that led up through the steep tundra slopes and ramps with rocky outcrops on the NW side of the drainage from Lake Silex. If you can't find this trail, there's still more than one way to get up here. Where the creek that drains Lake Silex comes out near Trinity Creek, there's the tongue of a rock glacier/talus field that you want to make sure you are west of in an open area that sits at the foot of a steep, mixed tundra & rock slope. If you have access to Google earth, there are three photographs that illustrate to some degree the route/trail up through here, or check out our approximation on the Google Earth view provided. If you manage to find the trail, it will first take you to a rocky bench area at about 11,860 ft. On this bench, you may be able to spot the trail passing through a gravel area if you've still not found it.

    The trail then continues up through mostly rubble and scree to a higher tundra/rock bench about 300 feet above the lake and WNW of it. From there, continue contouring around into the valley west of Lake Silex.  (If climbing Mount Silex and/or The Guardian, you'll need to veer off here and contour south and east around and above the lake as best you can to access a steeply angled couloir that allows access to the SW ridge of Silex.)  Walk west on up the valley to the pass between Storm King Peak and Peaks Eight and Nine. This is what we're calling "Storm King Pass." This last stretch up the valley will be on mostly broken rubble, scree, talus, etc. Before mid-July, you may get lucky and find enough snow patches you can string together to ease the hiking on the rubble. We've also seen some very friendly mountain goats in this area. Keep an eye on your equipment. They'll run off with anything salty. From the pass, you'll be positioned for Storm King, Peaks Eight and/or Nine or Seven. It's also possible to continue hiking WNW from the pass heading down toward a couple of small tarns that provide a good high camp location. See our map.



    Camping

    Best camping locations are at about the 11,400 ft. level along Trinity Creek and near the base of the tundra/rock slopes that lead up into Silex Basin. There's also above tree line camping near Trinity Lake and a smaller lake below Trinity Lake. We've also seen Outward Bound groups camped about 300 feet above Lake Silex along the faint trail to Storm King Pass and then there's better camping opportunities west of the pass near two small tarns that lie on a shelf above Balsam Lake. That section of basin is much less rocky and lush in places with vegetation and wildflowers.
Warning! Climbing peaks can be dangerous! By using this site and the information contained herein, you're agreeing to use common sense, good judgement, and to not hold us liable nor sue us for any reason. Legal Notice & Terms of Use.
x
Donate to Climb13ers.com ›