#66 / 13,937' Mount Adams

Quadrangle › Horn Peak
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 38° 00' 26.70", W 105° 36' 17.25" (Not Field Checked)

Peak Summary

The so-called "classic" route for Mt. Adams has become the west ridge and is accessed from Willow Lake on the west side of the Sangre de Cristo Range. That route is rated a Class 2+ by Roach. Others give it a Class 3 because of the little bit of scrambling encountered for the summit block. But Adams may also be accessed from the east side of the range at the Horn Creek TH. From this location, the trailhead can be accessed by passenger vehicle and the peak can be completed as a long day-hike. It is still a Class 2+ and involves some very steep, but generally stable terrain.

Mt. Adams ESE Face Route

Class 2+
Long Day // Back for Dinner
RT From Horn Peaks and Fluted TH: 12.8mi / 4,810'
  • Trailhead
    • Horn Peaks and Fluted TH

      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."

    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info Mt. Adams ESE Face

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 1986

    From the Horn Peak Trailhead, follow the trail that heads SW and connects with the Rainbow Trail #1336 in about .5 mile. When you reach the Rainbow Trail, the crossing of Horn Creek will be just down to the left. Instead of going down to the creek, turn right and follow the Rainbow Trail about one hundred yards, then turn left onto the Horn Lakes Trail. There should be a trail sign indicating the Horn Lakes are five miles up the valley.

    Follow the forested Horn Lakes Trail now for multiple miles. This is a well-used trail that receives many hikers coming down from Little Horn Peak as well as the beautiful Horn Lakes. The trail begins on the north side of the creek, crosses to the south side after a couple miles, then crosses the south branch of Horn Creek as you approach the lakes to finish at the largest and most southern of the Horn Lakes, on the north side of the lake at 11,820 ft. Be sure you do not get diverted to the more northern lake nestled in a basin on the NE side of Mt. Adams. As the trail approaches the series of Horn Lakes, it tends to become obscure in the vegetation/willows. The trail will stay well above the valley bottom until it drops to near lake level at the highest lake. Some camping may be found in the immediate area.

    From the southernmost and highest lake, Mt. Adams lies directly east. A direct assault is not possible because of cliffs. A report on 14ers.com indicates a route that goes up a steep couloir that intersects the south ridge of Adams between Adams and UN 13,580. From the head of that couloir, the south ridge may be followed to the summit on the steep ridge at no more than Class 3. We mention this, even though we have not climbed it, because it makes some sense to include UN 13,580 with Adams. Our route starts from a large rock outcrop on the north side of the lake, heads NNE up onto a sloping tundra bench, then begins the long 1,900 foot slog to the summit. There are really any number of ways you can go. Many will want to head more to the north and intersect the NE ridge of Adams at about 13,200 feet a little SW of Pt. 13,325. From there, you would simply follow the ridge SW to the summit. The SE Face route described by Roach is mostly what was just described above.

    We chose to keep angling up in a more westerly direction above the lake, coming near the cliffs, crossing one couloir, then heading more directly up an even steeper slope to gain the NE ridge of Adams at about 13,800 ft., just below the summit block. Once on the ridge, it's a brief scramble to the summit block on a combination of a handy grass ledge, then up a steep, loose slope. Much of the climb above the lake is steep and becomes even steeper, but the tilted rock beds create systems of ledges with tundra and embedded rock that is mostly stable and almost always offers a flat-footed way to keep moving up. At times, the steepness becomes a little intimidating.

    With its dominant elevation, the view from Mt. Adams is very impressive, especially to the south in general where you can see the Crestones, Kit Carson, Challenger, etc. Climbers may want to consider heading on over to UN13,153, UN 13,546 and/or UN 13,580 and UN 13,541. The traverse between these last two is difficult. If not interested in these other summits, then descend as you came. It will be a long enough hike back to your vehicle anyhow. For many, this will be close to an 8 hour day, or longer.

    Additional BETA

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