Combined with a circuit hike of Horn Peak and Little Horn Peak on the north and south ridges above the Dry Lakes, this makes a long day hike that follows easy trails and moderately easy ridges for outstanding views of the central Sangre de Cristo range.
Horn Peak to Fluted - North Ridge Route
X-Long Day // Dinner Will Be Late!
RT From End of Horn Peak Approach Hike with Horn Peak:
7.25 mi / 5,200'
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."
Via Horn Peak Approach Hike
RT: 2 mi / 280’
Horn Peak Approach Hike
Near the beginning of the Horn Creek Trail, there should be signage for the Rainbow Trail. From the Horn Creek TH, follow the trail for about 1/2? mile or so to a four-way junction. Take the right fork to intersect the Rainbow Trail, in the direction of Dry Creek. Overall distance is perhaps 3/4 mile to here. Follow the Rainbow Trail north for another third of a mile until it intersects the Dry Creek Trail. The climb for Horn Peak begins at this intersection.
At-large camping is available a little beyond the trail head where the road ends in a loop. At our last visit in 2000, there were no facilities at all here. Remember that if you camp here, you are very close to the Horn Creek Ranch so your campsite is not very private and private property is close by.
Open This Approach in a New Window
Class 2 / 3.25 mi / 4,300’ One-Way
Horn Peak East Ridge
Open This Route in a New Window
From the Dry Creek/Rainbow Trail junction, turn west up the Dry Creek trail and follow it for about 2 miles as it takes you along the stream. At 10,600 feet, the trail begins to pull up away from the stream on the north slope to gain altitude. At 10,900 feet, you should come to a trail intersection. The Dry Creek trail continues south, back toward the creek, while the old Horn Creek trail ascends steeply north to gain the east ridge of Horn Peak. Once on the ridge, continue hiking on the trail SW, then west up through the trees to treeline. In the higher tundra, the trail begins to dissipate. Just continue walking over Class 2 terrain of tundra, embedded rocks, and as you approach the summit, more rocks and rubble until you reach the actual summit. Admire the vast view of the Wet Valley below you to the east. It should be noted that this description is for what may be an older trail approach (which may be "closed") to Horn Peak and a newer route, preferred by the Forest Service has been introduced as indicated in this SummitPost report. That route takes you another 3/4 mile past the Dry Creek trail junction and then heads west, eventually crossing Hennequin Creek and gaining a NNE ridge of Horn peak at the elevation marker of 12,665 ft.
Year Climbed: 2000
From the summit of Horn Peak, head west along the connecting ridge to Fluted, dropping down about 600 feet in elevation. Descent will be on mostly rocks & rubble to the saddle. Some rock problems and short cliffs may force you off the ridge crest to the south side as you approach the saddle. Beyond the saddle, it's a pleasant tundra stroll and a regain of 500 feet to the 13,300 unranked point on the central ridge. Turn south at that point and continue walking the final 3/4 mile and 400 feet to the summit of Fluted over tundra, giving way to embedded rocks, rubble and boulders at the rocky summit. Soak in the expansive view of the central Sangres with Mt. Adams and the Crestone Group dominating the landscape to the south and North Crestone Lake directly below the Fluted summit to the SW.
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