Colony Baldy is a fairly long Class 2 day-hike from the Horn Peak trailhead on the east side of the Sangre de Cristo Range, a little southwest of Westcliffe. About half of the route is trail hiking, followed by some forest bushwhack and then a long open ridge hike to the summit. The trailhead is accessble by passenger vehicles. This route offers great views of the Crestone group of peaks and the Wet Valley.
Colony Baldy NE Ridge Route
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
RT From Horn Peaks and Fluted TH:
12.2 mi /
From the town of Westcliffe, drive south on HWY 69 for approximately 4.5 miles and turn south onto CR119. In just over one mile, turn west onto CR130. Follow this road west for nearly 5 miles where the paved Horn Road veers to the left while the unpaved Little Horn Road continues west. Do not continue straight on Little Horn Rd. Follow CR130 (Horn Road) south, then turn right to avoid going into Horn Creek Ranch and follow the road around west, then south to the TH to a circle parking area with some trees and possible camping. The road will change from paved to graded dirt on this last section. The USGS Horn Peak quad does not show this last stretch of road to the trailhead. If using our CalTopo map provided, it's best to convert from the USGS view to the FS Topo 2016 view to accurately see where the trailhead actually is. There is a vault toilet at the TH, but nothing else.
Alternate route: Drive south from Westcliffe on HWY 69 3.4 miles and turn right (west) onto Schoolfield Road (CR140). Go one mile, then turn back south onto Macey Lane and drive south for two miles to Horn Road and then turn right (west) and drive 3.5 miles to Horn Creek Ranch. At a signed junction by the ranch entry, turn right again and drive another quarter mile to the TH.
In the past, we have been able to camp right at the trailhead, or in the circle parking area past the TH, but keep in mind that Horn Creek Ranch and other properties are very close by and there are no facilities at the TH other than a vault toilet. Also, regulations may have changed since we were there. The camping is certainly not "private."
Click thumbnail to view full-size photo + caption
Year Climbed: 1995
G&M propose a route for Colony Baldy that utilizes the Rainbow Trail to the Macey Lakes Trail, takes you up to one of the higher, southern lakes, gains a saddle west of the Colony Baldy summit, then finishes with a ridge walk east to the summit. We won't argue the factors that make this a good route. It has the advantage of more trail access and an opportunity to visit the beautifully set Macey Lakes. The main advantage our route has is a more direct approach thus reducing the overall mileage and time a little. The main disadvantage is the required bushwhack.
From the trailhead, take the path that leads SW and connects with the Rainbow Trail #1336 in just under one-half mile. Cross Horn Creek on a handy bridge and follow the Rainbow Trail south to the Macey Lakes Trail #1341, another 2.6 miles, crossing minor drainages and rounding various ridges. Cross Macey Creek on another good bridge and continue on the Rainbow Trail another 2000 feet with some uphill gain to where it contours around the northern branch of the NE ridge of Colony Baldy. Use these approximate coordinates: N 38° 01' 21" W 105° 31' 58" elevation 10,200 ft. Most all of the hiking to this point is forested. It will take a little over an hour to reach this point. Mountain bikes are allowed on the Rainbow trail. We turned off the trail in an area of lodgepole timber where the trail makes a turn to the south.
Head up the forested NE ridge of Colony Baldy. In 1995, we did not find this bushwhack to be too bad, however, pine beetle kill may have altered that to some degree. Besides game trails through here, there's also evidence of human trails. Usually it's best to try to stay on the ridge crest. Once you reach treeline, you can either continue on the ridge or follow game trails over to the left into a gully. The choice doesn't matter much. On our way up we saw a large group of bighorn sheep and several ptarmigan. The hiking will be on mostly tundra. As you gain elevation, the tundra becomes more sparse with smaller, embedded rocks and small talus. It's generally easy hiking to the summit with a couple of false-summits along the long ridge. It took us 4:20 to arrive at this summit from the trailhead with our kids in tow. On this particular climb,we had to contend with steady winds of 40 mph and gusts approaching hurricane force that would almost knock us over. Typical Sangre de Cristo conditions!
The view from the top of Colony Baldy is certainly worth the effort with the entire Crestone group of peaks visible to the SW. The rugged spires and dramatic cliffs are quite impressive from this vantage point. Return as you came unless you want the additional mileage, in which case, you could descend the west ridge and drop down to the Macey Lakes to pick up that trail which will lead back to the Rainbow Trail.
"The greatest use of life is to use it for something that will outlast it." William James