#67 / 13,923' Gladstone Peak

Range › San Juan Range
Quadrangle › Mount Wilson
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 37° 50' 42.4674", W 107° 59' 2.9394" (Not Field Checked)
Neighboring Peaks › Peak Icon Lizard Head

Peak Summary

Gladstone sits perched between three of Colorado's most impressive 14ers. Rough & loose, this peak is easiest to climb when snow conditions can aid the laborious traverse across the rock-filled basins surrounding the peak. An approach from Rock of Ages Trailhead or Bilk Basin are the most expedient options. Bilk Basin provides access to Gladstone's norther slopes, which hold snow later into the year and may help cut off a portion of the long, exposed ridge traverse.

North Ridge Route

Class 3
Long Day // Back for Dinner
RT From Sunshine Mesa: 12.5 mi / 4,320'
RT From Campsite @ 11,060' : 6 mi / 3,040'
From Campsite @ 11,060': 3.00 mi / 3,040' (One-Way)
  • Trailhead
    • Sunshine Mesa TH

      From CO 145 (the highway up the canyon to Telluride from Sawpit), turn south on South Fork Road (FR 625). This turn is 100 yards west of mile marker 71. Follow this road 2.2 miles as it heads east, then south into a valley to the townsite of Ilium.

      Look for a sign for Sunshine Mesa (FR 623) and turn right to cross the South Fork of the San Miguel River. Climb south up this maintained dirt road for approximately 2.5 miles before encountering a series of switchbacks through the aspen forest that wind you through numerous parcels of private land. After the 5th switchback, the road will fork with a sign indicating Sunshine Mesa to the left. Follow this fork and the easily identifiable road until arriving at the trailhead 7.7 miles from the turnoff at CO 145. Immediately before the trailhead, you will emerge into a large meadow with several old mining buildings. Bear left into a grove of trees where ample parking and several campsites exist.


      There are a few "at-large" spots available for camping near the trailhead. There is a great deal of private property around this area, so be sure to adhere to any no trespassing signs and respect any marked boundaries.

    Approach Map Photos
    • From Sunshine Mesa TH via Campsite @ 11,060'

      From the Sunshine Mesa trailhead, follow the well-defined and relatively flat trail for approximately 3/4 mile until the junction with the Wilson Mesa Trail. Motorbikes can use the trail up until this point.

      Continue on the still flat trail as it heads further west, then south into the Bilk Creek drainage to a creek crossing at 10,080. The trail gains almost no elevation for the next mile as it contours around the lower flanks of Sunshine Mountain until it climbs gradually for the last 1/4 mile to reach the creek. In 2019 this section of trail had numerous downed trees and avalanche debris. While this section of trail is open to mountain bikes, we found it not worth the hassle of having to dismount the bikes and lug them over all the timber. If the trail is ever cleared of debris, riding this section may again help shave time off of the approach.

      At 10,080' the trail enters a rock field and crosses the creek shortly after. Other trip reports indicate a good crossing via a log jam at this point. In July of 2019 the high water flow appears to have broken up this jam to an extent that would prohibit crossing via the logs. We crossed via a snow bridge left over from an avalanche, but wading across the creek may be the most likely method of crossing in the future.

      Once across, locate the Lizard Head Trail and follow it south as it winds it's way up the valley. Along the way, you'll be treated to views of an impressive waterfall as Bilk Creek tumbles down from the upper basin. The well-defined trail switchbacks comfortably through this section as you gain the upper basin around 11,000'.


      For those looking to camp, there are few—if any—campsites available in the trees until a single, primitive spot is encountered at 11,060'. This spot is just large enough to house a 2-person tent and is located immediately off the trail on the S/SE side just before it drops slightly to re-join the creek. Above this point there has been extensive avalanche activity. Any other camping would best be had on a small knoll near the lake above 12,000' higher up in the basin.

      Campsite Locations

      Primitive 2-Person Tent Site 37°51'18.2"N, 107°57'36.6"W

      Open This Approach in a New Window
    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info North Ridge

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 2019

    From 11,060' in Bilk Basin, put any maps you have away. They will steer you wrong as nearly all maps of this region show the Lizard Head Trail incorrectly from this point. Your eyes will be your best guide. It may be helpful to study this area using satellite views on Google Maps to orient yourself correctly.

    From the last trees, the trail drops slightly and crosses a brief area of rock as it lowers closer to the stream. Do not cross the creek, as most maps show. Instead, the trail stays on the north side of the creek as it begins switchbacking up the south slopes of Wilson Peak toward a small lake at 12,063'. In high snow years or early season, this part of the trail may be covered in snow. If that's the case, pick your best line somewhere to the right of the main drainage as you make your way up toward the bench with the small lake.

    From the lake, the best route in snowy conditions will be to gain the north ridge of Gladstone as high as possible to eliminate as much of the ridge scramble as possible. To do so, leave the trail (if you were ever on it) and cross to the other side of the creek/lake. To your left (southwest) there will be a broad ridge descending from Gladstone's north ridge that splits Bilk Basin in half. Aim for a broad, low point in this ridge around 12,600'.

    From the broad ridge, survey Gladstone's north ridge and pick your entry point. The terrain nearest the to lowest saddle is generally the least steep. In a high snow year or early season, you may opt to gain the ridge crest even closer to the summit if snow conditions permit by following the snow field up to the ridge crest at any number of reasonable points. Using crampons and ice axes in the record snow year of 2019, we were able to gain the ridge proper at about 13,400'.

    Once on the ridge, follow the crest as closely as possible to the summit. The ridge is tedious, loose, and exposed. Test every hold. When necessary, bypass obstacles on the crest by navigating terrain close to the crest on the east (left) side. It is not necessary to drop more than a few feet below the crest at any point on this section of the climb/traverse. Avoid any temptation to do so.

    From the summit enjoy spectacular views of Mount Wilson and Wilson Peak. Carefully retrace your steps back to a safe exit point on the ridge and follow your ascent route for the return back to the trailhead.

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