#251 / 13,507' Eureka Mountain

Quadrangle › Rito Alto Peak
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 38° 04' 43.62, W 105° 38' 25.17" (Not Field Checked)
Neighboring Peaks › Peak Icon Hermit Peak

Peak Summary

Note: Eureka Mtn. and Hermit Peak can be climbed together (as will be described here) from the same trailhead described for Peak of the Clouds and Spread Eagle Peak, or you can park on the Hermit Pass Road at these coordinates ( N 38° 05' 36.30"  W 105° 38' 38.45") on a tight curve where the road turns sharply from heading south to the NW just above Horseshoe Lake. Mileage and elevation gain for this report will combine Hermit Peak and Eureka Mtn.

Eureka Mountain is a relatively easy Class 2+ hike from the Hermit Pass Road either by heading along the central ridge over Hermit Peak or taking a lower route by Horseshoe and Eureka lakes. This summit can be part of a four or five summit day if weather allows.

Eureka Mtn NW Ridge Route

Class 2+
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
RT From Hermit Pass Road: 5.5 mi / 2,400'
  • Trailhead
    • Hermit Pass Road Trailhead

      From the Town of Westcliffe and the intersection of Highways 69 and 96, drive south on 69 a few blocks (about .3 mile) and turn west onto Hermit Road (CR160). Drive 6 miles to an intersection where you should stay left. From this point, it's about 9 miles to the summit of Hermit Pass if you can make it. The road quickly becomes a rough 2WD for the next 1.25 miles and then degrades even more to 4WD, high clearance advisable if not required. The higher you go on this road, the rockier it becomes with a section or two near and above tree line that crosses through talus slopes of rubble. For our suggested climb, park at the coordinates provided which will be a wider spot in the road at about 11,970 ft. elevation and directly below a saddle to the north that lies between Pt. 12818 and Pt. 12,671. There will be a few remaining trees here.

      A little history here: In November of 1989, we drove this road to climb Rito Alto and found the road to be in surprisingly good shape. We breezed right up it. We returned in 1996 to find that it had degraded some, but still managed to drive it with no problems in a Jeep Cherokee Sport. Our next visit to here was not until 2009 - 13 years later. In that time, the road had degraded extensively. It had become a very slow seven miles of driving on what seemed like endless rock of varying sizes. That same trip, we also drove the South Colony Lake Road all the way to its end. Between that road and the Hermit Pass road, I had to replace the complete set of shocks on our Toyota T-100! Those two roads had wiped them out. Moral of this story - drive this road at your own risk. It grants access to a large number of 13ers, but you'll have to decide if the potential price is worth it.


      Once the Hermit Pass Road gets onto national forest land, there are several primitive, campsite locations all along the drive up, especially at the lower elevations. The nearest designated campground with facilities is the Alvarado CG a little further to the south out of Westcliffe. On weekends, because of close proximity to the Front Range, competition for campsites makes it more difficult to find an open spot.

    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info Eureka Mtn NW Ridge

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 1996

    The word, "eureka" is a direct transliteration of a Biblical Greek word, "eurisko." "Eureka" is the 1st person singular in the Perfect tense and would literally translate, "I have found!" Perhaps this peak was named by an excited miner who found whatever treasure he was looking for.

    From either of the two possible parking locations, walk on up the Hermit Pass road to the pass summit. That will be about the easiest 1.3 miles of your day. From the pass, walk up and over Hermit Peak. That will count as a ranked 13er summit. It will only take about 15 - 20 minutes from the pass to reach Hermit's summit about 330 feet uphill.

    From Hermit Peak, proceed SSE descending the steep and rocky ridge to a saddle at 12,700 ft. where rock gives way to a broad tundra-covered meadow. Either contour around or go directly over the unranked Pt.13,005 to yet another tundra bench/meadow. Then begin the final approach to Eureka on an ever steepening slope where tundra will give way to almost all rocky rubble. Once on the main summit ridge, you'll find two summits of nearly equal height separated by a short stretch of rocky ridge. We hit both high points just to be sure, but to us, the western summit appeared to be the highest, even though Google Earth seems to indicate the easternmost is highest. It certainly won't hurt that much to tag both since there's only a little bit of scrambling in between.

    From the summit of Eureka, you may want to scan the distant Unnamed 13,054 to the SW. If climbing all the 13ers is on your wish list, then that's a summit you'll be pursuing some day. There's some very remote country in those basins and valleys to the west. For a descent of Eureka and return to your vehicle, we dropped back down the north ridge of Eureka to the tundra meadow between Eureka and Pt. 13,005, then walked over to the eastern edge of the meadow and began a rugged descent down through broken cliffs and rocks to steep, tundra-covered and flower-laden slopes further down as we neared Eureka Lake. After you've stopped to admire the beautiful lake, follow a mostly tundra bench to the north and Horseshoe Lake, at one point having to cross a boulder field, where a trail that connects the two lakes may disappear for a while. From Horseshoe Lake, make the quick ascent back up to the road and your awaiting vehicle.  This loop hike of Hermit Peak and Eureka Mtn., could be completed in about 2.5 to 4 hours.

    Additional BETA

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