(G & M: #417)
Comanche Peak is a Class 2 trail hike/climb in the Sangre de Cristo Range. Done alone, it is a moderate-length day, but can easily be combined with Spring Mountain and Venable Peak for a longer, three-peak, loop day that begins and ends from the same (Alvarado) trailhead. That trailhead is passenger car accessible. The scenery is classic Sangre de Cristo with lots of tundra, wildflowers and three beautiful alpine lakes.
Comanche Peak North Ridge Route
RT From Alvarado Campground TH:
From the main intersection in Westcliffe of State Highways 69 and 96, head south on SH69 for three miles to a turnoff on the right (west) for CR140, aka: Schoolfield Road. Continue west until you have to turn. Make a 90° left, drive a short distance south, then turn back right (west) again, still on CR140. The road begins to gain elevation through open forest with private homes on a series of five, 90° turns. A short distance after the fifth turn, go right on what is technically CR148 that leads more uphill to a trailhead parking area. The road passes through an open field and makes 4 switchbacks to the TH. For our proposed route that will take in Comanche, Spring and Venable, you will want Trail #1345, which crosses the Rainbow Trail in a short distance.
The Alvarado Campground is located just south of the trailhead parking area. This is a "full-service," national forest CG during peak summer months, however, on the San Isabel National Forest website, there is a notice that the campground is without a water supply on an indefinite basis. Plan accordingly. This is a very nice campground with well-developed sites for both tents and trailers. Most of the sites are spread out enough to afford some privacy. There are plenty of trees. The most current overnight rate is $22. There are vault toilets. Sites may be reserved at Recreation.Gov., but we have had some luck in the past with obtaining a campsite on a first-come, first-served basis. On summer weekends, plan on the campground being full, however.
As for other camping locations, the options are rather limited in this area because of all the private property.
N 38° 04' 43.83, W 105° 33' 44.80"
Click thumbnail to view full-size photo + caption
Year Climbed: 2009
From the SW end of the roomy parking area, walk up the trail #1345. The trail skirts the upper campground before turning more westward to cross the Rainbow Trail in a short distance. Continue on the Comanche trail. The trail leads through the drier, lower forest region and gradually ascends toward Comanche Lake, leading through forest all the way. The trail crosses a minor drainage that comes off Spring Mountain, turns south and ascends for a while much more steeply on a series of switchbacks up to a dividing ridge a little above 11,000 ft. From the ridge, it was well over another mile before reaching the lake at 11,640 ft. Dwarf conifers and willows provide some windbreak around the lake as morning winds sweep down from the pass. We took the side trail over to the lake to take some photos, mostly of the lake and the more dramatic, rocky NE face of Comanche Peak in the distance. It took us at least an hour and a half to reach the lake.
Back on the main trail and continuing SW from the lake, head on up the valley with the trail still being quite evident as it gains the SE facing slope through willows and switchbacks a few times to gain the final 1,200 feet to the pass. This last section is mainly open tundra hiking. From the pass, Comanche Peak is a short half mile south with another 500 feet of gain. Walk up staying near the ridge line and following various paths to the summit through mostly tundra with embedded rocks. It is easy hiking, though a little steeper than the trail further down. We arrived at the summit in about 3:15 from the TH. Admire the typical Sangre view of tilted, conglomerate beds sweeping in different directions and of the more rugged terrain to the south around the Crestones. From the summit, either retrace your route back to the trailhead or continue on to Spring Mountain.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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