(G & M: #365)
Coney Benchmark is an easy and uneventful Class 1 summit walk-up peak located off Carson Pass, south of Lake City. A 4WD with good clearance is recommended for the closest access. Much of the route to the summit can be driven on a 4WD track, but to keep things a little sporting, our route description begins from Carson Pass.
Coney BM South Slope Route
Short Day // A Wee Little Climb
RT From Carson Pass TH:
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
To keep things sporting, we have designated the trailhead for Coney BM to be just over the top of Carson Pass at the 4-way intersection where there's plenty of parking. For those who want to make it even more sporting, start from near the old townsite of Carson, walk to the top of the pass and the parking area just described, then follow this route:
From the 4-way junction, follow the 4WD track that heads down to the SE for a short distance, then turn left onto another 4WD track that heads back uphill ENE and takes you all the way to a saddle/flat area at 13,140 feet (SE). This is called the Heart Lake Road fork. For the unabashedly lazy, you could park here for the hike to the summit and be there in about 15 minutes. If you get bored with walking along the vehicle track, the surrounding terrain is all tundra and the Colorado/CD trail follows the road nearby. Once at the pass, which is almost directly south of the summit, hike the remaining half a mile and less than 200 feet of remaining gain to the nondescript summit. The only interesting quality of this summit is the more dramatic drop off on the west side. Depending on when you do this hike, you may be able to enjoy a nice variety of tundra wildflowers. The Colorado/CD Trail skirts this summit on the east side and continues toward UN 13,260 D, which we have sequenced with Coney.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
Mountain Handbook ›
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"If you burn your neighbors house down, it doesn't make your house look any better." Lou Holtz