(G & M: #483)
Bennett Peak is a long drive for many Front Range or West Slope peakbaggers, but the trailhead is accessible to most passenger cars with a little extra clearance and the short mileage hike provides a trail all the way to the summit that passes through all tundra terrain with abundant wildflowers. This makes a very good family hike if you don't mind the drive. Even though they are not neighbors, combine Bennett with other summits in the South San Juan area for a few days of generally easy hiking - climbing. We rate Bennett as a Class 1 hike.
Bennett Peak South Slopes Route
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
RT From South Fork Rock Creek:
From the intersection of US 285 and US 160 in Monte Vista, CO, drive south on CO 15 for 2.5 miles and turn right (west) onto a road with three possible designations. Locally, this is "2 South West," aka: CR "R," or "The Rock Creek Road." Drive 2.5 miles west on paved road which will then make a sharp left turn back to the south. Continue 4 more miles with the road veering SW for a distance before heading back south. It will cross the non-designated Rock Creek at a local ranch where it turns to gravel, continues another half mile or so, then turns right (west) to roughly follow on the south side of Rock Creek. By this point, you are now on County Road 28 which eventually becomes a Forest Road of the same designation. You will be following this road to its end. After a few more miles crossing open prairie and ranch land, the road enters forest & canyon, climbs briefly over a low pass of sorts, then drops back down to pick up and follow the South Fork of Rock Creek. The road will pass two campgrounds as it continues up stream. The first will be the Rock Creek Recreation Area followed by the Comstock. These two campgrounds are just under three miles apart. Both are first-come, first-served. Neither has water but both have vault toilets. They can be open much of the year depending on snow conditions.
From the Comstock CG, continue along the South Fork of Rock Creek. The road will cross from the north to the south side of the creek and go up a switchback. It then will gain quite a bit of elevation as it winds around and makes another switchback, then heads NW to the trailhead. From the trailhead, the "trail" drops down to cross over the South Fork again. At the same TH, an ATV track continues NW above the creek. Both will eventually get you into the basin SE of Bennett.
There are two National Forest campgrounds on the drive to the end of CR/Fr 28 as mentioned above. While several other roads that turn off from FR 28 could take you to a possible primitive camp location, we recommend using either of the two NF campsites because there is a lot of cattle grazing in this area and private land. Please respect private property.
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Year Climbed: 2010
The day before we did this hike, we had done South River Peak. We were more than glad to find Bennett Peak to be such an easy day following the previous days 17 mile slog fest. The South Rock Creek trail #702 that continues up valley begins from the trailhead by first dropping down to the creek, which is not difficult to cross, (unless during early season runoff) and then ascends up the valley staying on the north side of the drainage. This trail goes all the way to Blowout Pass by joining Trail #700 (Dry Creek Trail) or another fork (Frisco Trail #704) heads directly over the summit of Bennett. You may easily hike up #702 passing an abundance of both cows, cowpies and flowers. The trail is really more of an ATV track and appears frequently used. For an area that commercially grazed, we were surprised to see such a nice display of wildflowers along this hike. It's not long before you will break out of the forest and into more open, timberline terrain where numerous cattle may be grazing. (So much for a "wilderness" feel.) As the trail heads in a more southwesterly direction, we left it and walked uphill through lush grasses to another pass at the southern foot of Bennett. A fence line with a gate cuts through here and you can plainly see the trail/ATV track heading up Bennett. From here to the summit, it is just a moderate stroll amid may wildflowers.
Not feeling particularly hurried, we dallied around taking various photographs of the myriad wildflowers. There were lots of Old-Man-On-the-Mountain. We spotted a timberline, dwarf variety of a blue delphinium and later on a type of paintbrush we had never seen before with red/maroon petals and cream accents. By 10:30 AM, (after a late morning start because of overnight rain) we had arrived at the summit with dark clouds swirling about us and in the distance. At the summit, we found a large 5 or 6 foot pile of rocks with a makeshift, wooden cross embedded in the top. This made for some unique photographic opportunity so we took a number of photos of the cross and the brewing storm clouds above. The only really distinguishable feature of Bennett is the east face, which drops off fairly precipitously into the San Francisco Lakes below to the ENE. We were back at the south saddle by 11:30, following the same route back down basically. As we walked back, one of our party members stepped in a nice, juicy cowpie and we shared several laughs and remarks about that. By about 1:00 PM, we were not only back at the trailhead, but also our Comstock campsite. It's nice to have an easy tundra stroll every now and then.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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