LoJ: #541 (G & M: #539) / 13,136' Hunchback Mountain

Range › San Juan Range
Quadrangle › Storm King Peak
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 37° 42' 19.16", W 107° 31' 52.59" (Not Field Checked)

Peak Summary

Hunchback Mountain barely qualifies as a Class 2 hike. From Hunchback Pass, you can gain the summit in a bout 30 minutes. From the trailhead, add about another 45 minutes. This mostly tundra hike with some rock that won't slow you much is most easily accessed from the Beartown/Kite Lake trailhead north of Hunchback Pass. Vehicle access to this trailhead requires 4WD with good clearance. Most groups of climbers will catch Hunchback Mtn. either on their way into the Weminuche Wilderness for a multi-day backpack and peakbagging adventure, or on their way back out. But Hunchback could also be combined with White Dome and Peak One for a three-summit day hike from either the trailhead or Kite Lake.

Hunchback Mtn. East Ridge Route

Class 2
Short Day // A Wee Little Climb
RT From Bear Creek/Hunchback Pass/Kite Lake: 9.7 mi / 3,225'
RT From Nebo Creek: 4.2 mi / 1,325'
  • Trailhead
    • Bear Creek/Hunchback Pass/Kite Lake Trailhead

      WARNING: This trail head approach REQUIRES 4WD with good ground clearance. The drive as described below from Silverton may take up to 2.5 hours.

      From the Town of Silverton, and where the main road splits at the NE end of town, drive 4.2 miles NE up along the Animas River on blue-signed County Road 2 to Howardsville. Turn right onto FR589 up Cunningham Gulch and stay right at the turn for the "Old Mine Tour" (4.4 miles) but do take the left fork toward Stony Pass (FR737) at 5.9miles. Once on the Stony Pass Road, expect 4W conditions. The road climbs steeply to the pass. Abundant wildflowers as you approach the pass may delay you. Once across the pass, the road becomes FR520 and eventually leads to Rio Grande Reservoir, but you will not drive that far. The road eventually descends down the valley to a low water crossing of Pole Creek. Watch out for the steep embankment climb out on the other side if the road is wet from rains. You could easily slip off the edge. After the crossing, continue south for about a mile to another fork where you'll turn right (west). Another long, low water crossing is found here across the Rio Grande River. This crossing is usually more shallow than the Pole Creek, but the closer you are to runoff season, the more difficult these crossings will be.

      It is also possible to come into this area from either Creede or Lake City over Slumgullion and Spring Pass to Rio Grande Reservoir. From state highway 149 either about 20.5 miles from Creede or 32 miles from Lake City, turn west onto FS520 and drive all the way to the reservoir on the well-signed, graded dirt road. Passenger cars can make it all the way to the "Lost Trail Campground" at the far west end of the reservoir. Beyond that point, FR520 continues west and crosses some rugged sections before connecting with the other section of FR520 coming down from Stony Pass and the low-water crossing of the Rio Grande. We have never driven in all the way on this section and from those we know who have, they have complained about one particularly difficult stretch.

      From the Rio Grande crossing, continue up what is now, the Beartown Road for a slow 7 miles (mainly because of potholes). The road goes all the way to Kite Lake at about 12,100 ft., but the Hunchback Pass trailhead is about 1/2 mile below the lake. There's a trail sign there and some very limited parking is available. Note: There was a fairly difficult section of road around the Beartown site due to muddy potholes.

      As the road begins climbing more steeply toward Kite Lake and the Hunchback trailhead, it becomes quite a bit more rocky in that stretch as well.  If you have driven in here to do the Ute Ridge group of summits, camp in the vicinity of where the road crosses Bear Creek just past the old Beartown site. See coordinates below. From that creek crossing, it's not quite .3 mile to the trailhead for Ute Ridge, which is a jeep track that turns off to the left and drops down to cross another lesser fork of Bear Creek. Park somewhere along this track if heading for Ute Ridge. On the Caltopo map, this trail is called the "Bear Town Trail" and designated FR869. On trails Illustrated Map #140, it does not appear to have a designation.  Coordinates for this road & trailhead are: N 37° 42' 54.53"  W 107° 30' 35.00"


      Camping

      You can find some very limited camping spots in the immediate vicinity of the Hunchback trail head. There's one particularly good spot back down the road a fairly short distance on the south side. There's also some good camping back toward the Beartown site. See coordinates provided.


      Campsite Locations

      Beartown Campsite › N 37° 43' 05.02", W 107° 30' 35.47"
    Approach Map Photos
    • From Bear Creek/Hunchback Pass/Kite Lake TH via Nebo Creek

      This "approach" is part of a sequence of approaches that utilize the Vallecito Trail beginning near Kite Lake and above the "Beartown" site. The trailhead is located at: N37° 42' 44.57"  W 107° 31' 04.97". Use the "Beartown/Kite Lake/Hunchback trailhead information for instructions on how to drive to the TH.

      The trailhead is actually within the Rio Grande National Forest. The TH number is #813 on both the San Juan and older Rio Grande National Forest maps and is a part of the "Continental Divide Trail" at this location and segment. Once the trail crosses Hunchback Pass, it crosses over into San Juan National Forest and becomes #529, continuing south all the way to Vallecito Reservoir. If using Trails Illustrated #140, they identify this as the Continental Divide Trail and use the #813. Walk south from the TH and follow the easy gradient through open terrain with some willows to Hunchback Pass. The trail first sweeps SE, then makes a gradual turn SW, then west to the open, tundra-covered pass with about 900 feet of gain over just under a mile. Coordinates for the pass are: N 37° 42' 16.62"  W 107° 31' 12.37". Hunchback Mountain is west along the divide and can be easily climbed by those interested in bagging all the 13ers. You can drop your pack, stroll to the summit and return in under an hour.

      From Hunchback Pass, continue south heading straight down an unnamed fork of Vallecito Creek. The trail cuts trough plenty of willows in this section and stays on the west side of the drainage until just before the trees. Because of the numerous willows, plan on getting pants & boots drenched if it has rained recently. Also, as a general point, the Vallecito Trail is utilized regularly by pack horse groups so you can expect to see and experience some of the typical trail damage done by horses. The trail then turns to the SE and comes to an intersection. A newer trail (#813) that does not show on the 1964 USGS map heads east up Nebo Creek, crosses the Continental Divide and goes to West Ute Lake. That is the continuation of the Continental Divide Trail. The Vallecito Trail continues south and west from this intersection. Near the trail intersection, there is a very large and good campsite on a prominent knoll above Nebo Creek on the NW side. The campsite makes a good base camp for 13ers off the CD trail including Mt. Nebo, UN13,110, UN13,230, and UN13,169, all of which can be done in a single day from the campsite. See "Camping info" for more details.


      Camping

      The Nebo Creek campsite sits near the intersection of the Vallecito Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. The elevation is appx. 11,500 ft. Coordinates are below. They are something of a guess by using Google Earth, but the campsite is right off the main trail. There are several good tent spots and large logs near campfire areas. The creek is a short jaunt down the hill.

      Campsite Locations

      Nebo Creek N 37° 41' 12.36", W 107° 31' 14.88"

      Open This Approach in a New Window
    Peak Icon Route Map

    Route Info Hunchback Mtn. East Ridge

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 2001

    The route for Hunchback Mountain begins on the Continental Divide Trail segment that heads south over Hunchback Pass. Though you don't need to complete the entire approach, our approach description of Hunchback Pass down to Nebo Creek can provide whatever details you need to get up to the pass, so we've linked it here as an "approach," even though you will only walk the first third of it. The mileage and elevation gain provided are measured from the trailhead.

    Once you arrive at the open, tundra-covered Hunchback Pass, head NW toward the Hunchback east ridge and then follow the easy ridge west and WSW to the summit. The first part of the hike is Class 1 over easy tundra. The upper portion goes over more broken rock, but nothing that really slows progress any. We made the summit from the pass in under 30 minutes. It's about 20 minutes back down, so if you're planning on hitting this as part of a backpack either in or out, set side about an extra hour to bag this summit. In all our excursions over Hunchback Pass, I think there was only one time we were not being rained on or threatened by violent thunderstorms. If you're doing this summit later morning or afternoon, take a raincoat! From the summit, you'll have a great view looking far down the Vallecito Creek drainage.


    Additional BETA

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