(G & M: #322)
Pole Creek Mountain
Bent Peak is an easy Class 1 walk-up from Carson Pass, but getting to the pass located south of Lake City requires 4WD. Most stock type 4WD vehicles should be able to make it to the pass where the summit of Bent will be a mere 1025 feet in elevation above the pass to the west. An old mining road leads most of the route to the summit.
Bent Peak East Ridge Route
Short Day // A Wee Little Climb
RT From Carson Pass TH:
2.2 mi /
Most of the 13er summits on the Pole Creek Mountain quad and the Finger Mesa quad can be most easily accessed from one of two trailheads, both off of County Road 3, south of Lake City and Lake San Cristobal. The first TH is Carson Pass at the head of Wager Gulch. This access requires 4WD with good clearance. The drive in is followed by walking the Colorado/Continental Divide Trail west. There is minor elevation gain and loss and no more than 4 miles of hiking/backpacking. The other trailhead is accessible to passenger cars, but requires more elevation gain (2,500 ft.) on foot. That access utilizes the Cataract Gulch Trail from near "Sherman." It's about a 4.5 mile hike/backpack up to Cataract Lake for a base camp. We used the Wager Gulch/Carson Pass access, hence our trip reports will be based on that as the start point. Peaks accessed in this manner include: Coney BM; UN13,260 D; Bent Peak; Carson Peak; "Tundra Top;" Cataract Peak; Half Peak; UN13,674(Quarter Peak); UN13,581; UN13,580 A; UN13,660; and Pole Creek Mtn. For information regarding the Cataract Gulch TH, you can find that by searching for that trailhead. We have never actually hiked that trail except in the vicinity of Cataract Lake. Our route descriptions for many of these peaks should be usable regardless of which TH you choose with the exception perhaps of Bent, Coney BM and UN 13,260 D.
Wager Gulch/Carson Pass
From the Town of Lake City, drive south on SH149 and then turn right onto CR3 (BLM 3306) to Lake San Cristobal. Trails Illustrated labels this road as CR30. The road is paved past the lake then turns to graded dirt, passable for all passenger cars. About 2 miles past the Williams Creek campground, watch for a road turning off to the left (south) for the old townsite of Carson. This road is identified on maps as either BLM3308 or FS568. it's also called the "Wager Gulch" road. From this point on, 4WD is advisable.
Head up the road through aspen and conifer forest. At times, the road climbs steeply, but generally is not too rocky or in very poor condition. Along the drive up, there are a few primitive campsites. See coordinates below for what we consider to be the best primitive camp area. The road is fairly easy driving to the old townsite of Carson. Beyond there, it works its way up to Carson Pass through areas of willows and becomes quite rocky in stretches. We drove this summer of 2018 and found that a lot of the willows had been cleared away and though rocky in stretches, the road was easily passable in our Toyota Tundra. If you're not comfortable with driving this last part, park down near Carson and walk this last mile. From the summit of the pass and the coordinates provided above, you can begin your hike or backpack. In previous years, it was possible to continue driving south on a 4WD track for another half mile to where you would actually connect with the Colorado trail. Those coordinates are: N 37° 50' 52.67 W 107° 22' 06.06". Elevation here is 12,150 ft. so you've dropped down from the pass a little.
There are designated, Forest Service campgrounds at Lake San Cristobal, Williams Creek and Mill Creek (which is past the Wager Gulch turnoff). On the drive up Wager Gulch, we observed a few nice, primitive sites at some level locations. The best location was just a little before reaching the road that turns off for Carson. There is some open meadow on either side of the road and a good cam area on the west side. Be advised though that the beetle kill all through here is heavy and there are numerous dead trees around this camping location. See coordinates below.
Carson Primitive Site ›
N 37° 52' 46.78", W 107° 21' 49.41"
Elevation 11,240 ft.
Click thumbnail to view full-size photo + caption
Year Climbed: 1992
From the multiple track junction just over the summit of Carson Pass, head west on the 4WD track that goes almost directly west, cutting a swath through willows. In 1992, it was possible to drive all the way up to another intersection at about 12,800 feet where the road forks. It may still be possible to drive to that elevation, but if you want to keep things sporting at least, start from Carson Pass. Most healthy hikers should be able to make the summit in an hour. At the intersection at 12,800 feet, follow the right fork which will eventually play out into a vague trail that will lead through rubble to the summit. You could also just ignore the road and hike directly up the ridge to the summit from where the roadbed clears the willows. The summit had several cairns and stone structures to break the wind.
Enjoy a pleasant view looking back down to the pass and surveying any number of other 13ers located close by, such as Carson, connected by ridge to the west, or Coney BM to the east, across the pass. This is all typical San Juan scenery. You may also want to consider following the connecting ridge on over to Carson. There are no difficulties in doing so if you hike on the south side of the ridge crest. We have Carson written up as part of a backpack trip into the Pole Creek headwaters above Cataract Lake. If you do include Carson with Bent from Carson Pass, the one-way mileage over to Carson is 1.5 with 675 feet of additional gain, and then the return trip will add 3.3 more miles with an additional 200 feet of gain. This assumes dropping south off Carson to the Colorado/CD Trail and following it back to the pass.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
Mountain Handbook ›
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