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San Juan National Forest Re-opened

The Stage 3 fire and access restrictions to the San Juan National Forest have been rolled back to a Stage 2 condition which means access to the forest is once more open to the public. However, fire conditions still remain high and we are currently in the middle of a strong heat wave. Consult current regulations with the San Juan NF before planning any trips. Fines for violations are significant. 


LoJ: #227 (G & M: #224) / 13,540' Peak Eleven

Range › San Juan Range
Quadrangle › Storm King Peak
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 37° 37' 43.25", W 107° 36' 21.37" (Not Field Checked)
Neighboring Peaks › Peak Icon Peak Twelve

Peak Summary

Somewhat dwarfed by its' 14,000 foot neighbors, Peak Eleven nevertheless offers a typical Needles Mountains ascent with a little bit of 3rd class scrambling near the seldom-climbed summit. There are at least four possible accesses to this summit, three of which involve paying for the Durango-Silverton train and the other which requires 4WD. That nearest trailhead with vehicle access is the Beartown/Kite Lake, north of Hunchback Pass. Access from there will require a multi-day, arduous backpack trip.

Peak 11 South Face & West Ridge Route

Class 3
backpacker icon + Peak Icon
Backpack + Long Day
RT From Bear Creek/Hunchback Pass/Kite Lake: 29.7 mi / 10,225'
RT From Sunlight Creek Campsite @ 11,550: 7.5 mi / 4,000'
  • 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"


      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 Maps Photos
    • From Bear Creek/Hunchback Pass/Kite Lake TH via Sunlight Creek Campsite @ 11,550

      • Hunchback Pass to Nebo Creek  Moderate | RT: 5.5 mi / 1,900’

        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.


        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
      • Nebo Creek to Trinity Creek  Moderate | RT: 2.5 mi / 1,000’

        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.

        From the Nebo Creek campsite and the trail junction of the Continental Divide Trail #813 and the Vallecito Trail #529, head south down the Vallecito Trail. The trail swings to the west through forest, staying well above Nebo Creek and then makes an abrupt turn back to the south to cross Nebo Creek. We have usually found this crossing to be a little difficult and somewhat intimidating. The water is swift and nearby the stream heads over the beginning of a waterfall. Sometimes there are logs you can walk across on and other times, there's little help. You may have to wade.

        After crossing Nebo Creek, continue downhill, through a series of switchbacks and at 1.25 miles from the Nebo campsite, you should come to an open meadow on the right (west) side of the trail and see a secondary trail heading over to a crossing of Vallecito Creek, below where Trinity Creek comes in. This meadow area is often used as a camp spot by various groups, though it tends to be a little lumpy. From this location climbers can reach The Guardian, Mt. Silex, Storm King, and Peaks Seven, Eight and Nine as day hikes/climbs. But if you're willing to lug your pack back uphill, read about other higher elevation campsites under the "approach" for those peaks.  If hiking back up to the Nebo Creek camp or back over Hunchback Pass to the trailhead, this section from Trinity Creek back to Nebo Creek is the steepest part of the return hike gaining about 1,000 feet in elevation. It is also possible to hike all the way up Trinity Creek and cross the ridge that separates the Trinity Basin from the Vestal Basin and access the Vestal Creek summits.


        An easily identifiable trail turns west off the main Vallecito Trail and leads over to where you can cross Vallecito Creek, downstream from where Trinity Creek comes in. This trail leads across an open meadow that is frequently used as a camp location. See approximate coordinates below.

        Campsite Locations

        Trinity Creek N 37° 40' 33.01", W 107° 31' 27.89"

        Open This Approach in a New Window
      • Trinity Creek to Rock Creek  Easy | RT: 3.5 mi / 400’

        The 1.75 mile walk from the Trinity Creek camp to the crossing of Rock Creek is an easy, quick jaunt down the trail that will take under an hour with only about 400 feet in elevation loss. Though the trail starts out in forest, it crosses plenty of open valley terrain before re-entering forest for some broad switchbacks that make the final drop to the Rock Creek crossing. We have never found any useful logs to cross on here, so be prepared to wade, and at the crossing point, the stream widens out so the wade is long, but usually not challenging. If heading up to Rock Lake, you will not need to make the crossing. The Rock Lake Trail stays on the north side of Rock Creek. Vallecito Creek from the Trinity Creek intersection and heading downstream begins to offer attractive pools and stream fishing opportunities.

        The Rock Creek trail #655 provides access to Rock Lake, a seemingly popular destination for horse-pack groups. From a possible base camp location near Rock Lake, the following 13ers can be accessed, most of which are found on the Columbine Pass and Emerald Lake quads: UN13,302, Irving Peak, Peters Peak, UN13,222, UN13,220, Mount Oso, UN13,417, UN13,310, and UN13,340.


        In past visits, we have not found very good campsites at this crossing, though you can certainly find spots to "make do." Perhaps some have developed by now. Better sites may be found south of the crossing in the open meadow area over toward Vallecito Creek.

        Open This Approach in a New Window
      • Rock Ck to Sunlight Crossing  Easy | RT: 4.2 mi / 500’

        The Vallecito Trail from the Rock Creek crossing to the location where you can wade across Vallecito Creek to access the Sunlight Creek drainage is an easy two mile descent with a loss of 500 feet in elevation. The trail passes through a mix of forest and open meadow areas. Aspen trees begin to join the conifers. By now, the elevation loss from Hunchback Pass has left the hiker entrenched in this deep valley with mountain peaks soaring impressively above on either side of the valley. The trail will exit the forest into an open meadow just before arriving at the Sunlight Crossing location. You'll likely see more than one fainter trail heading off to the right (west) toward Vallecito Creek. There are several, excellent campsites located near the creek along the east bank and this could make a good base camp location for day excursions. As mentioned on the Trinity Creek to Rock Creek approach, stream fishing opportunities abound all along the Vallecito to this location.

        To reach Sunlight Creek from here: The approximate camp and crossing coordinates provided will put you well south of where Sunlight Creek actually comes into the Vallecito. Below that intersection, the Vallecito splits briefly and then below where the two branches come back together, the stream widens out a bit and offers a crossing possibility. Trying to wade across before the spring/summer runoff has subsided by mid-July can be tricky if not dangerous. A long ice axe in one hand and a solid, long stick in the other will prove very useful. Loosen the straps/buckles on your pack in case you fall in so you can quickly free yourself from the pack. On at least one of our trips across, we found an old rope and strung it up across the Vallecito at the crossing that provided a solid hand line. IF you check closely on Google Earth, someone has posted a photo at what we believe to be the actual crossing location we have used. From the east side of the Vallecito, you can look across and spot a trail over on the west bank. The times we've crossed here, water has ranged from knee to upper thigh deep. The current is challenging.


        As mentioned above, there are numerous campsites along the east bank of Vallecito Creek in the vicinity of the crossing. Use our coordinates as a general reference point and go find your preferred spot. The area shows evidence of being popular with horse-packing groups.

        Campsite Locations

        Vallecito crossing to Sunlight Ck. N 37° 37' 52.44", W 107° 32' 21.60"

        Open This Approach in a New Window
      • Sunlight Creek Approach  Difficult | RT: 6.5 mi / 2,425’

        The trick to finding the Sunlight Lake trail is to find a way to ford Vallecito Creek. Be sure and read the Rock Creek to Sunlight Crossing Approach for more detail. We have succeeded twice at a location about 150 - 200 yards down from where on the USGS map, Vallecito Creek has split and then come back together and then levels and spreads out a little. Try these coordinates from Google Earth: N 37° 37' 52.44" W 107° 32' 21.60". There will be a good trail on the other side if you're in the right location. Wade on across in water that may reach mid to upper thighs and can be fairly swift, earlier in the season. Once across, leave your boots off or on loosely and head upstream on the trail and cross to the NORTH side of Sunlight Creek. You'll probably have to wade this one as well. It's best to just go ahead and cross right where the trail meets Sunlight Creek. We've never found a better location by looking upstream on three separate trips.

        Once across Sunlight Creek, the trail begins the arduous journey up the Sunlight drainage. The incredible beauty and remoteness of the upper Sunlight Basin will compensate for the difficulty in getting there, or at least keep telling yourself that as you struggle up. The 2,400 feet in elevation gain will be one of the most difficult you'll encounter in the central Weminuche. WARNING: Do not be misled by either G&M or Rosenbrough's book (if you still have them), that the trail is on the south side of Sunlight Creek. Both are wrong. As you head up the trail, you will soon come to two avalanche swaths that have left copious quantities of uprooted aspens piled up like pick-up sticks. We last visited this trail the summer immediately following the avalanche in 2005. Getting through this section was an incredible pain. From what we understand, the unmaintained Sunlight trail has been somewhat re-established through this section. Be careful. It may still be easy to lose the trail. If you do lose it, be aware that the trail does pull away from the creek to the north some at two locations in order to gain elevation at steeper sections of the valley. It then crosses to the south side of the creek at about 10,880 ft. by means of a large log. (May or may not still be there.) This is a critical crossing to make if you want to stay on the trail. It occurs where the valley constricts and leaves little choice as to where to go. The trail takes you right to this crossing. (These coordinates MAY be close to the crossing, but are approximated from Google Earth and are not field validated: (N 37° 37' 53.80"  W 107° 33' 41.22") The trail then stays on the south side of the creek for about 3/4 mile, switchbacking up a steep, open, but heavily vegetated slope and swinging away from the creek to the south. Then the trail drops you back to the creek heading more WNW and crossing to the north side again around a willowy area where things have again flattened out and the stream meanders some. The trail may be difficult to spot in the willows. Just beyond this crossing, you'll be in the last good trees before the trail ascends to Sunlight Lake. There's an excellent campsite here, but if you're not entirely beat up yet, continue another .6 mile on to the lake where some more open sites exist. If you made it this far, congratulations! On the way on up to the lake, and before the trail begins to head more SW, you may observe a trail heading off to the right. This is the trail that goes up into the basin on the north side of Jagged. Coordinates for where this trail turns off are: N 37° 38' 19.31"  W 107° 34' 44.56".

        The following 13ers may be accessed as "day hikes" from the tree camp or a campsite by Sunlight Lake: McCauley Peak, Grizzly Peak, Greylock Mountain, possibly Jupiter Mtn., UN13,121, Peak Eleven, Knife Point, Peak Ten, Jagged Mtn., Leviathan Peak and Vallecito. Quite a spectacular and varied collection!

        It should be noted that the trail route drawn on this map is an approximation at best and should not be taken too literally except at a few critical junctures that are noted in the approach description. GPS plotting was not used.


        The last good campsite that has the shelter of trees is at 11,550 ft. and the coordinates provided below. This is an excellent camp location with room for several tents and close access to water. It makes a good base camp for a number of 13ers in the surrounding area. You may also continue to Sunlight Lake where several sites exist but at the lake you'll be more exposed to the weather since there are only a few low trees.

        Campsite Locations

        Sunlight Tree Camp N 37° 38' 12.86", W 107° 34' 26.60"

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

    Route Info Peak 11 South Face & West Ridge

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 2001

    To begin with, there are five reasonably possible ways to access Peak Eleven. For those not on a budget and don't mind the expense of the Durango-Silverton train ride, backpacking up into Chicago Basin from Needleton is the shortest and easiest access. For more detailed information about this access, consult Gerry Roach's books on either the 14ers or the high 13ers. This approach would provide access to the following summits: Windom, Sunlight, Eolus, Jupiter, Grizzly, McCauley, Aztec, & Mt. Kennedy. If coming from this direction, then you would want to follow the trail from the campsites below tree line in the main part of Chicago Basin, that leads up to the twin lakes situated below Eolus, Peak Eleven, Sunlight and Windom. The "route" herein described would begin from the north end of those lakes.

    Another possible access would be from the southern branch headwaters of Noname Creek by way of Twin Thumbs Pass. You would need to access Needleton by way of the train again (either from Durango or Silverton) in order to  backpack from Needleton to Noname Creek, up that drainage to where it branches at just below 10,800 ft., and then head directly up the south fork to Twin Thumbs Pass. Any trail up this south fork is extremely sketchy and difficult to follow. The unmaintained Noname trail has downed timber in numerous spots and is difficult to stay on and follow at times, however, this is a very isolated area with some great campsites and unbelievable mountain scenery. This would provide access to The Heisspitz, Peaks Four, Five and Six, and Twelve, and possibly Knife Point and Peak Ten.

    The next possible access would be to come in from the head of the Ruby Creek drainage. This again would require accessing Needleton by way of the train from either Durango or Silverton and backpacking north along the Animas to the Ruby Creek trail. This trail, last time we hiked it was a very steep trail and difficult to follow at times. Perhaps by now, more frequent use has rendered it easier to follow. From the headwaters of Ruby Creek and an idyllic meadow-basin with an unsurpassed campsite, you would need to hike to a pass between Peak Twelve and North Eolus, then contour across rubble to Twin Thumbs Pass. Once at the pass, descend some toward the twin lakes and then contour east to intersect our described route up Peak Eleven. Ruby Creek gives access to Monitor, Peak Thirteen, Animas, Pigeon, Turret, Peak Fifteen and Peak Twelve.

    The next possible access would be to come in from Vallecito Reservoir and backpack up Vallecito Creek to Johnson Creek, then drop over Columbine Pass into Chicago Basin. Along this route, you could tag peaks like McCauley, Grizzly, Jupiter, Aztec, Valois and the 14ers in Chicago Basin.

    Our suggested access is for the budget-minded who refuse to pay for a train ticket but can afford the luxury of a 4WD vehicle that they drive to the Hunchback Pass trail head. This access brings you in on a long mileage backpack over Hunchback Pass and down alongside Vallecito Creek to the intersection with Sunlight Creek. With so many miles to cover and elevation to gain, why would we propose this route? Simply put, it places you in the heart of the Weminuche Wilderness and provides access to so many peaks, you could stay here for two weeks or longer just trying to climb all the 13ers available. We won't try to list them all here. So follow our "approach" directions under either Greylock, McCauley, Leviathan or Vallecito that lead you to a campsite at the last trees below Sunlight Lake.

    From that campsite, follow the trail up to Sunlight Lake. At the lake, work your way up as described for Greylock Mountain to the upper lake at 12,545 ft. From that lake, leave the route description for Greylock and head SW toward a pass between Windom Peak and the jagged SE ridge that comes off Sunlight Peak. You'll see two possible breaks in that ridge. Trust us when we tell you, head for the one closest to Windom. To reach this major break in the ridge, you'll hike over possible snow (up till mid-season) and lots of moving rocks and boulders. From the pass, head down into the usually snowy reaches of the upper basin between Windom & Sunlight.  If not filled with snow, then expect plenty of rocks, boulders & talus on the descent. At the last bench level before the twin lakes, you may want to swing to the left of the drainage center and pick up the Windom trail for a short distance to descend to near lake level and then contour around to the north side of the lakes. But there is a ramp that cuts down through the cliffs on the right side of the same bench that grants access to tundra slopes above the lakes.  Head for a tundra slope north of the twin lakes at about 12,700 ft. Turn north and head up the tundra slope that gradually gives way to talus, scree and rock as you aim for a saddle just east of the "Twin Thumbs," which are dramatic, unranked, rock spires west of the Peak Eleven summit. If you brought rope, harness and hardware, you might consider a climb of these spires. From the saddle, scramble along the ridge and up a 3rd class, rocky section to reach a shelf on the back side (north flank) of the prominent sub-peak of Peak Eleven. Contour around the sub-peak and then finish the climb to the summit walking amid and over large granite blocks. When we climbed this summit in 2001, we found a register here that was 41 years old and had only about 80 names in it. Many of those names included some of the great early-day climbers of Colorado summits. It kind of made us feel like we had just experienced a little piece of Colorado climbing history. Take some extra time here and enjoy the magnificent view from this far less visited summit, dwarfed by its fourteen-thousand foot neighbors. Return to your campsite by the same route for the quickest trip back.

    Additional BETA

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