LoJ: #346 (Pre-LiDAR #335) / 13,365' Music Mountain

Quadrangle › Crestone Peak
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 37° 56' 11.92", W 105° 32' 54.84" (Not Field Checked)
Neighboring Peaks › Peak Icon Tijeras Peak Peak Icon Milwaukee Peak

Peak Summary

Starts out easy as a mostly Class 2 summit with just a little Class 3 scrambling thrown in on the upper mountain. Located in the upper Sand Creek drainage, accessible by way of Music Pass. Could be done as a day hike from the upper trailhead for Music Pass, but many if not most climbers will want to backpack into Sand Creek in order to climb the many 13er summits located in the vicinity. 4WD required to reach the upper Music Pass TH. Passenger cars can reach the lower TH at the Rainbow Trail, but this will lengthen the approach significantly. Lidar has taken 15 feet away from Music, however, it remains a ranked summit. It's previous given elevation was 13,380.

Music Mountain East Ridge Route

Class 3
backpacker icon + Peak Icon
Backpack + Medium Day
RT From Music Pass: 10.2 mi / 2,995'
RT From Sand Creek Base Camp : 5 mi / 2,295'
From Sand Creek Base Camp: 2.50 mi / 2,295' (One-Way)
  • Trailhead
    • Music Pass TH

      From Westcliffe, head south out of town on SH69 as though going to the South Colony Lakes area by the Crestones. Drive 4.4 miles south from the intersection of highways 69 and 96 in town, then turn right onto CR119 (Colfax Lane) and drive 5.5 miles to the junction where if you turn right, you'd be heading for the Crestones and South Colony Lakes. But instead of turning right, turn left, to the east, then in a few hundred yards, (quarter mile) the road again turns abruptly south and in about 5 miles comes to a trailhead parking area where passenger cars should give it up. This is the Rainbow trailhead here. Coordinates for this lower parking area at 9300 ft. are: N37° 55' 49.07" W 105° 27' 26.52".

      If you have 4WD with good clearance, then proceed up the steepening 4WD road to the south and west for another 2.5 miles (appx.) to the upper trailhead at the coordinates and elevation given above. Our first drive up this road in 1995 was made in a Jeep Cherokee Sport. We found the road in surprisingly good shape, even though it was a steep single-track type road. In 2005 we returned to the same area in a Toyota T-100 pickup. In those 10 intervening years, the road condition had deteriorated considerably. It proved more of a challenge in our longer-bed vehicle, but we still made it okay. In any event, be prepared for a rough ride on a steep, narrow road with difficult rocky stretches. Reaching this upper parking area will greatly shorten the suggested backpack.


      Primitive camping is available at both the upper and lower trailheads. There are no close by National Forest Service campgrounds.

    Approach Map Photos
    • From Music Pass TH via Sand Creek Base Camp

      A short and sweet backpack over Music Pass and into upper Sand Creek can set you up for access to the numerous 13ers that surround this basin. In fact, there are 10 accessible summits that could all be climbed in as little as 3 - 4 days depending on your pace and endurance.

      From the upper trailhead parking, hike 1.35 miles on Trail #1337 to the summit of Music Pass at just below 11,400 ft. The trail starts out through forest where in early summer you may still find, patches of snow, snowbanks and resulting muddy spots. As the trail approaches the pass, it climbs more steeply and ascends out of the forest. At the top of the pass, you'll enjoy an expansive and very impressive view of the upper Sand Creek Basin and all the surrounding 13ers. Once you cross the pass, you'll be entering the "Great Sand Dunes National Preserve."

      Once you've soaked in the view, follow the good trail as it drops NW into the Sand Creek drainage. There's a large meadow that extends for over a mile mostly on the east side of the creek. At the upper end of that meadow, just before the trail enters the forest, there are good campsites at approximately these coordinates: N 37° 56' 06.97" W 105° 31' 20.53" Elev. 11,060 ft. This location can serve as an excellent base camp if you don't want to move your campsite. It's 2.6 miles to here with no more than 750 feet of gain, some of which you lose. As trail #1337 drops into this meadow, it will intersect trail #743 coming in from the San Luis Valley side. So in a little over an hour, you can be in a great wilderness location and setting up your tent. Don't be surprised however, if you're sharing this location with some other groups. This seems to be a popular destination, especially weekends and long weekends.

      If you desire a campsite closer to your peaks of choice, then there is also good camping at both Lower and Upper Sand Creek Lakes. We have camped at the lower lake and found several good campsites on the east side of the lake and on the north side of the outlet. To get there, you'll need to cross Sand Creek near where the trail enters the forest. There may be more than one trail in this area and crossing the creek can be difficult in runoff conditions. Once across, the trail heads NW along the creek for a ways before branching and turning SW and winding its way to the lower lake over a distance of about one mile and 430 feet of gain.

      The main Sand Creek trail also continues up valley to Upper Sand Creek Lake which can serve as a good camp location for accessing Milwaukee and Pico Aislado. This trail may or may not go as indicated on the USGS topo map. When we climbed here in 1995, that summer followed on the heels of a heavy snow winter and most everything above 11,000 feet in this valley was still covered in snow. To gain Upper Sand Creek Lake will add 1.55 miles of hiking and another 700 feet of gain.


      There is camping as described above at 11,060 ft. at the upper NW end of the long meadow and at both Lower and Upper Sand Creek Lakes.

      Campsite Locations

      Upper Meadows of Sand Creek N 37° 56' 06.97", W 105° 31' 20.53"
      Water conveniently available & trees for shelter

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

    Route Info Music Mountain East Ridge

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 2005

    Start from the suggested campsite at the end of the "Approach" from Music Pass, and follow the trail up to Lower Sand Creek Lake. From the lake or a possible campsite on the east side of Lower Sand Creek Lake, head toward the north shore of the lake and follow a faint trail that leads to the top of a waterfall that empties into the lake from the large basin WNW of the lake. (Perhaps only in earlier summer) In just a short while, hike out of the trees heading NW and begin a long ascent over grassy tundra, all the way to a pronounced saddle on the east ridge of Music Mtn., west of the Pt.12,579. Easy enough! Once on the saddle, chart out a route that stays mostly on the ridge crest as it steepens, heading west and utilizing some tundra higher up that's interspersed among the rocks. There was perhaps one short section where we had to do a little third class scrambling, but it was not difficult at all, neither was it intimidating. The higher you hike, the steeper the ridge becomes, but the footing is always secure and you should make great time heading up. It's not as difficult as the tight contour lines on the USGS map make it appear to be. The east ridge eventually intersects the main summit ridge that runs north-south. There is some typical narrow, ridge-work, scrambling over large rocks, some ups and downs, and that sort of stuff, but in about 15 more minutes, you should arrive at the dual summit. There's some exposure along the way on the narrow summit ridge in places and falling is a possibility if you're not paying attention. Take the time to mark both.

    Continuing over to Tijeras Peak is a good possibility from here, but expect Class 3 with short Class 4 scrambles and some exposure. There are several accounts of this traverse on other sites. Going on north to Milwaukee appears to offer a difficult section of ridge work. Check other sources for this possibility. To return to Lower Sand Lake from Music, retrace your route back down the east ridge. It's actually easier to follow the east ridge past Pt. 12,579, dropping another 400 feet in elevation before turning SE and descending back down into the trees and back to the lake. You could also ascend this way.

    Additional BETA

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