A moderate day hike by way of the Horn Creek Trail or combine with Horn Peak and Fluted Peak for a much longer, three-summit circuit hike. Trailhead is passenger vehicle accessible.
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."
In our account, we have sequenced Horn Peak with Fluted and Little Horn for a very long day, but Horn may be done as a single summit as well. One way and round trip mileage shown are for doing Horn Peak alone.
From the Horn Creek TH, find the more northern trail that heads west and joins the Rainbow Trail in about 2,000 feet. Turn north up the Rainbow Trail for a short distance to the Dry Creek/Lakes Trail #1343. From the Dry Creek/Rainbow Trail junction, turn west up the Dry Creek trail and follow it for nearly 3 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. This will add more mileage. The USGS quad only shows the old trail. To see the new trail, convert our map on CalTopo to the FS2016 version.
Either return as you came, or continue to Fluted Peak for the three-summit sequence and a much longer day.
Fluted Peak is sequenced with Horn Peak and Little Horn Peak. One way mileage and elevation gain are measured from the summit of Horn Peak. Round trip mileage and elevation gain assume completion of the sequence.
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 13,320 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. Continue on to Little Horn Peak to finish the sequence, but if you have to bale, you could backtrack north along the ridge and find a way to drop east down to the Dry Lakes and pick up the Dry lakes Trail.
Little Horn Peak is sequenced with Horn Peak and Fluted Peak. One-way mileage and elevation gain are measured from the summit of Fluted. Round trip mileage and elevation gain assume completion of the sequence.
Follow the summit ridge crest of Fluted Peak SE a short distance and then turn east onto the Fluted/Little Horn ridge. Walk the one mile over to Little Horn on tundra, some rubble and embedded rocks with a few minor rock outcrops to work your way around. There are no serious problems, but the rock outcrops may divert you from the ridge crest at times, to the south side. The final 400 foot ascent to the summit comes quickly. Look back over to Horn Peak and your ascent route and view the precipitous east face of Fluted.
For a descent route, we suggest the following Class 2+: From the summit of Little Horn, head just a little SE and drop into a minor, steep-sided couloir that drops south toward Horn Creek. The couloir is rock-filled at times but also has plenty of tundra. Descending it is steep and somewhat tedious, but once down into the trees, you can hike directly south to cross over Horn Creek and pick up the Horn Creek Trail. Once on the trail, it's an easy trail hike back to the TH covering an additional 4 miles. Overall mileage of this complete circuit of Horn, Fluted and Little Horn is around 12 and total elevation gain is almost 5,600 feet. That's a long day for many.
Alternate ascent route for Little Horn: From the Horn Peak TH, you'll want to head for the portion of the Rainbow Trail that heads south and intersects the Horn Creek Trail that goes up to the Horn Lakes. Distance to that intersection is just under a mile. Walk 3.5 SW up the trail until you're almost directly south of the previously mentioned couloir. (See photo) Ascend the couloir to the summit. Done as a single peak day hike, total mileage by this route would be 11 and total elevation gain 4,300.