LoJ: #558 (Pre-LiDAR #565) / 13,112' Bushnell Peak

Quadrangle › Bushnell Peak
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 38° 20' 27.55", W 105° 53' 20.54" (Not Field Checked)
Neighboring Peaks › Peak Icon Twin Sisters, North

Peak Summary

As with several of the Sangre de Cristo summits, there can be approach issues because of private properties that block access and approaches on the east side of the range tend to be longer anyhow. The closest trailhead approach from the east is the Kerr Gulch Trailhead. From there it would be possible to hike up and intercept the Rainbow Trail, hike south then turn SW up the Bushnell Lakes Trail to ascend Bushnell. A loop could be completed by hiking north along the ridge crest to Twin Sister, then descending back east to the Stout Lakes and following that trail back to the Rainbow Trail and then back to Kerr Gulch. Lidar measurements increased the elevation of Bushnell from 13,105 to 13,112 ft.

There is another approach option from the west side of the range, however. This requires a sturdy 4WD with good clearance and begins along Brook Creek. Much of this approach will follow an old roadbed. The overall hike classification is a fairly difficult Class 2. That is the route we present here.

Bushnell WSW Ridge Route

Class 2
Long Day // Back for Dinner
Climbed with Twin Sisters, North
RT From Brook Creek Trailhead - SdC: 5.5mi / 3,975'
  • Trailhead
    • Brook Creek Trailhead - SdC

      If coming from the south on US285, drive north from Villa Grove .8 mile to a turnoff on the right for County Road 57. Drive north on CR57 1.6 miles to an intersection with a road coming in on the left. This is County Road Nn56.

      If coming from the north over Poncha Pass, drive south from the pass and turn left onto County Road Nn56, which is signed. If you come to Villa Grove, you've missed the turn. Turn around, go back and use the south access. Assuming you find Nn56, drive east .8 mile to the intersection with CR57, then turn left (north).

      From the intersection of Nn56 and CR57, drive north 2.95 miles. The nicely graded gravel road will soon make a 90 degree turn east, then another back to the north. Continue north until you come to an intersection where you must go left or right. Turn right and immediately come to another intersection where you bear right. Shortly, the poorer quality road will come to another intersection where you should stay left. Proceed NE following alongside a small stream - Raspberry Creek, which is not very visible, and some obvious campsites in the cottonwoods on your right. At these coordinates, (N 38° 19' 26.67" W 105° 56' 48.76") turn right onto a single track road that will cross the creek and lead to a fence & gate. Go on through the gate & close behind you. If you miss this turn, you'll end up at a home with No Trespassing signs.

      Once through the gate, you'll intersect another road coming in from the right. You should arrive at these coordinates: N 38° 19' 23.52' W 105° 56' 44.72". If that checks out, you're on the right path which is FS985. It will now be another 1.7 miles to the trailhead on a very rocky, slow-going, barely visible at times track that passes through patches of scrub oak that will scratch up your vehicle. You may be better off walking considering how slowly you must take a vehicle through here. The USGS map indicates two roads heading to the same location. The northernmost of the two is in disuse and barely visible. Stay on the more southern track. Later on, the two come back together, but there's really only one track here that's usable. We drove this in 2005, then again in 2017. The Forest Service has not necessarily closed the road, but appears to be doing nothing to maintain it. The local resident with the property says the FS has closed it, so don't expect this access to become any easier over time.

      The road ends at these coordinates (N 38° 19' 40.15" W 105° 55' 48.04") which is marked on the USGS map as an elevation point of 9,143. If you don't have a vehicle capable of making these last 1.7 miles, then we would suggest trying to park and camp back along Raspberry Creek where there are some camp spots, and walking up what we hesitate to even call a road. We will warn you again - this road is very rough. If you don't have a 4WD with good to above average clearance, we would not suggest attempting to drive up. Also, your paint job will not be the same.


      There's a little bit of some level area where vehicles can be parked and a tent set up at the trailhead coordinates. Brook Creek can be easily reached for water supply by hiking south 100 yards through the trees.

      Campsite Locations

      Brook Creek TH › N 38° 19' 40.15", W 105° 55' 17.31"
      Elevation 9,140 ft.
    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info Bushnell WSW Ridge

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 2005

    From the Brook Creek Trailhead, continue walking east up the old roadbed. The berm that use to be here in 2005 has degraded some and it's possible to drive on up a short distance to another campsite on the left in the trees, but you won't be driving much further. Fallen trees across the road will soon block vehicle progress. The road begins with just modest gain and passes an old log cabin. Once past the cabin, the road takes a steeper angle. The road crosses to the south side of a north fork of Brook Creek, then later on crosses back to the north side and about 100 yards later crosses back to the south side. Once you're done with all this stream crossing, the road begins a series of switchbacks (about 9 or 10) to gain altitude. Following the old road is never difficult, at least at this time, but limited access to this valley will eventually lead to overgrowth on the road. (Our last visit here was in 2017.) The higher you hike, the more the road shows signs of disuse. Watch for some nice displays of Columbine along the way.

    Above the switchbacks, the road begins to break out of the trees. At about 10,600 ft., choose a place to begin ascending right up along the edge of the trees to the WSW ridge of Bushnell. There will be a lot of old, cut trunks. 800 feet of relentless elevation gain should bring you to the ridge. Turn left (east) and hike along the mostly tundra/grass ridge crest and open forest to the last trees at 12,100 ft. From those last trees, it's another 1,000 feet of gain on a combination of embedded rock, rock & boulder talus, some areas of tundra, etc. As you near the summit, you may want to veer from the ridge a little to the right (south) because of the rock. In 2005, it took us about 4 hours from the trailhead to gain this summit. Enjoy the views of the east side of the range where the activity of ancient glaciers is quite obvious. Once you've concluded your summit visit, it makes good sense if weather permits to hike on north to Twin Sister, which we have sequenced with Bushnell.

    Additional BETA

    Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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