San Luis Peak
Organ Mountain is a Class 2 hike with a fairly long mileage approach from the Stewart Creek TH. To reach the trailhead, you'll need to do nearly 30 miles of graded, dirt road driving into a remote section of the San Juans. While some passenger vehicles can make this drive in, we recommend a minimum of a cross-over style vehicle with a little better clearance and gravel/dirt road capability. Organ is located near the 14er, San Luis Peak, and two other high ranked 13ers, Stewart and Baldy Alto. To climb all these summits, we recommend a brief backpack trip into the area to clean out all these summits.
Organ Mountain NW Ridge Route
Short Day // A Wee Little Climb
South Fork of Stewart Creek
2.6 mi / 1,685'
The Stewart Creek Trailhead is accessible by driving on many miles of Forest Service maintained gravel roads. As such, any number of basic, passenger type vehicles may be able to access this trailhead, but sometimes road damage from rains, ruts and runoff can create a hazard for lower clearance vehicles, therefore we recommend that this trailhead is best accessed by crossover style vehicles that have a little more clearance.
The most straightforward access to Stewart Creek TH is from State Highway 114, which turns south from US 50, 7.5 miles east of Gunnison. SH114 connects to the town of Saguache in the San Luis Valley by way of what is now called "North Pass." If coming from US 50, drive 20 miles south on SH114 and turn right onto NN14, aka: BLM 3083. If coming from Saguache and North Pass, the intersection is about 7.5 miles down from the pass. Once onto NN14, drive seven more miles on a well-maintained gravel road to the southernmost end of the two Dome Lakes and make a right turn at the end of the lake. Measure mileage from here. This will be CR2166, (aka: BLM 3086 or 15Gg). The gravel road circles the end of the lake, turns back north and goes one mile on the west side of the lake where you'll make a left turn to continue on CR2166. At about 4.2 miles, stay right. The road designation technically becomes 14Dd, but is still CR2166. Between miles 6 & 7, enter Forest Service land. The road designation becomes FS794 and the road condition deteriorates some. Remain on FS794 all the way to the Stewart Creek TH. Total mileage is just under 21.
In some older source books, one access to Stewart Creek took you to the Old Agency station utilizing FS788 & 790. The route described above goes faster with less confusion. If you need more detail for access to this area, consult either of Roach's book on the 14ers or the high 13ers.
There is limited camping at the trailhead.
The trail up Stewart Creek is a fairly gentle one for the first three miles or more, all the way to about the 11,400 foot level. It always remains on the north side of Stewart Creek and keeps hikers above the many beaver ponds and bogs of the creek that lace the valley floor. There is an abundance of willows. This is prime moose habitat and you have a good chance of spotting one if you hike quietly. The hiking starts out in meadows, then follows the forest border. There's also a good chance of spotting some beaver. For flower lovers, the valley has numerous plots of wild iris. The last mile of trail climbs more steeply as you pull up out of the forest and into the willow-covered upper basin below San Luis Peak. The last good tree camping will be in the vicinity of where the trail begins to climb well above Stewart Creek. Where the south fork of Stewart Creek comes in and joins the main drainage, cross the main creek and hike up along the west side of the south fork into lower willows. We found tolerable camping in this area. See coordinates below.
In the upper valley of Stewart Creek, the only shelter will be from the plentiful willows. Follow the directions above to an area that offers tolerable camping with a minimum of sloping ground.
South Fork Stewart Creek
N 37° 59' 57.76", W 106° 54' 34.77"
Elevation 12,115 ft.
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Year Climbed: 1992
From the base camp we suggest, the route is very straightforward. Cross back over to the east side of the south fork of Stewart Creek and then gain the NW ridge of Organ. Hike on up the ridge on mostly lush grass, tundra & embedded rock. The NW ridge will intersect the north ridge at 13,540 at a higher point. Unless you're looking for more of a view, skip the high point on the north ridge and before reaching that level, contour up and over from the NW ridge to a saddle just north of Organ's summit. This will avoid one area of rockier terrain at the north end of the north ridge. From the saddle, walk south to the summit over larger boulders for the finish. From our suggested base camp, we managed to arrive on this summit for a spectacular sunrise on a very windy, early September day. From the summit, you'll have an excellent view looking over to San Luis, Baldy Alto and Stewart. For descent, retrace your route back down or, from the saddle north of the summit, descend west into Stewart Creek on a combination of scree & tundra.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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“He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary.” ― Friedrich Neitszche