LoJ: #172 (Pre-LiDAR #173) / 13,648' Redcliff

Range › San Juan Range
Quadrangle › Wetterhorn Peak
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 38° 05' 13.82", W 107° 31' 59.39" (Not Field Checked)

Peak Summary

With 4WD access to the trailhead up the West Fork of the Cimarron, Redcliff is the easiest summit to gain in this area coming in at an easy Class 2 walk-up, and it's family friendly. Without 4WD, the distance added still keeps this hike at a reasonable day, with trail to follow almost all the way. Before Lidar, this summit was 13,642 ft.

Redcliff West Slopes & South Ridge Route

Class 2
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
RT From West Fork Cimarron River: 6mi / 2,900'
  • Trailhead
    • West Fork Cimarron River TH

      There are two ways to access the upper West Fork of the Cimarron River. One comes in off US 550 from a little north of Ridgway and the other comes in from US 50 and goes by Silver Jack Reservoir.

      From US 550 turn east onto County Road 10 which is marked for Owl Creek Pass. This turnoff is 1.8 miles north of the single light on US 550 at the intersection for Ridgway. From here, just stay on CR10, avoiding any other options. The road goes mainly through open meadows or alongside pinyon/juniper forests. Watch for it making a right turn where County Road 8 comes in from US 550. (If coming from Montrose, CR8 can be used as a shortcut.) At the turn, you will now be on CR8. Follow it past the Sleeping Indian Ranch and across Cow Creek. A little further up valley, the road makes a sharp switchback and begins gaining elevation more seriously through open scrub oak terrain. Soon, you'll pass the Forest Service sign and enter FS land. The road tends to degrade some here but passenger cars driven carefully can continue. The Forest Service designation for the road is 858. It's a long slog to the top of Owl Creek Pass - usually requiring around 45 minutes of drive time. When you get to "True Grit" meadow that offers the nice view of Courthouse & Chimney Rock, and is usually filled with corn lilies, you're almost there.

      At the top of Owl Creek Pass, there's a small, unofficial camp area on the north side of the road. Continue down east to the first turnoff you see, less than a half mile from the pass. This road to the south is FR860. Drive up this usually good road that offers several possible campsites all the way to the Courthouse trailhead (about 1.7 miles from CR8). A short distance past the trailhead, passenger cars will need to stop. There's some limited parking there. It will be obvious where you need to stop. The main road veers to the right and becomes much worse.

      If you have 4WD with good clearance, continue south up the road as it goes up a steep, rocky section, then levels some as it passes through a section with large potholes. In .75 mile, it drops down a little and makes a sharp left to a ford of the West Fork. There are some good campsites here. The ford is a low water crossing and can be difficult in earlier season. Use good judgment. If you can't drive across, walk upstream a good distance to find perhaps a fallen tree across the stream. From the stream crossing, it's another.7 mile to the trailhead. This is not a graded lot. It's basically just the end of the road. Park where you can find room & it's not too rocky.

      If coming from Montrose, by way of US50, drive past Cimarron about 2.7 miles and turn south on County Road/Forest Road 858 that goes to the Silverjack Reservoir. From Gunnison, drive west on US50 past the Blue Mesa Reservoir, down through a narrow canyon section, up over a pass at 8,700 ft., then down a long and winding descent toward Cimarron. The turnoff is one mile past the turnoff for CR864 and just past a small resort on the south side of the highway. It's a long, 22 miles drive back on a graded, dirt road, suitable for passenger cars, but can be dusty and/or washboarded. Continue past the Silverjack Reservoir about a mile and then make a right turn to cross the creek and then continue driving on FR858 to Owl Creek Pass. The turnoff for FR860 will be just after a major switchback and about 6.5 miles from the right turn that takes you across the creek after driving past the Silver Jack reservoir. See information above for the drive up FR860.


      If coming from US550 on CR10 & CR8, the best camping will be at "True Grit" meadow on the west side of Owl Creek Pass; at the top of the pass; or along FR860 as it goes south up along the West Fork. There are numerous spots along 860, many of which will be occupied on a weekend. See also our CalTopo map for some of the closest spots to the trailhead.

      If coming from US50 & the Silver Jack reservoir, there are three Forest Service campgrounds just north of the reservoir and then after making the right turn beyond the reservoir, there's an area with numerous campsites along FR861.A1 Otherwise, if you want to camp more closely, continue to FR860 and find a spot along there as described above.

    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info Redcliff West Slopes & South Ridge

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 1990

    From the 4WD trailhead, hike south on the main trail #226 that leads to a pass west of Coxcomb and that drops into Wetterhorn Basin. You'll only be hiking on this trail for just under two miles before leaving it. In earlier season when there is still snow in the upper basin, it's easy to lose this trail at times, especially when it goes through the forest. You will likely want to leave the main trail at elevation 11,400 ft., in the vicinity where two main creeks come together. Head southeast now, following that drainage and gaining elevation, aiming for the Coxcomb - Redcliff saddle. Rock bands below each peak open at a point just below the saddle. Head for that gap and you'll have no problems. Even when we climbed this peak in 1990, there was a use trail for some distance up in this direction. If you'll stay on the north side of the drainage and well above, you can hike through some open trees that give way to tundra and some scree. There's a lower rock band to avoid and just above it, there's a minor bench area. From the bench head up a scree type slope toward the gap in the upper cliffs below the saddle. Some tundra on the lower half of the scree slope will assist.

    From the tundra-covered saddle, walk north along the ridge crest. Soon, the ridge constricts briefly. Above there, the tundra gives way to typical rubble and embedded rock for the finish. From the summit, take in the impressive view of Coxcomb to the south and the formidable appearing Fortress Peak (U.3) to the north. Descend as you came unless you want to attempt the crumbling traverse to Fortress. Also note, many parties combine Coxcomb and Redcliff. This can involve a dubious sidehill traverse at some level on the north flank of Coxcomb that will leave many frustrated by the loose rock if you attempt to come around Coxcomb on the west end. A less troublesome circuit can be made by circling east off the south side of Coxcomb, to the Coxcomb-Redcliff saddle, but we suggest doing some homework and consulting reports on Lists of John and 13ers.com before attempting.

    Additional BETA

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