LoJ: #198 (Pre-LiDAR #199) / 13,584' Twin Peaks, North Twin Peaks A

Quadrangle › Twin Peaks
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 37° 35' 24.04", W 105° 31' 08.51" (Not Field Checked)

Peak Summary

Twin Peaks (North) is a Class 2 summit in the Sangre de Cristo Range with a trailhead access by passenger vehicle. The peak could be done in a single, longer day from the trailhead but peakbaggers may want to consider a backpack into South Zapata Lake where they can establish a base camp and then also climb UN13,654 and UN13,577. California Peak and the 14er, Ellingwood are also reachable from the lake.

Twin Peaks East Face Route

Class 2
backpacker icon + Peak Icon
Backpack + Short Day
RT From South Zapata Creek: 11.85 mi / 4,630'
RT From South Zapata Lake : 2.25 mi / 1,760'
From South Zapata Lake: 1.20 mi / 1,760' (One-Way)
  • Trailhead
    • South Zapata Creek TH

      Directions: If coming from I-25 and Walsenburg, on US160, about 6 miles west of Blanca turn north on SH150 and travel about 10.8 miles to BLM road 5415; turn east and travel another 3.6 miles on a graded, gravel road to the trailhead. The road makes five switchbacks lower down, then farther up the hillside, switchbacks two more times before arriving at the trailhead/campground.

      To reach the road to the trailhead from the Great Sand Dunes National Park, travel about 6.1 miles southwest on Highway 150 from the visitor center to an intersection. Veer left. Do not turn west onto County Road 6N. Continue south on CO150 another 2.8 miles to the turnoff on the left for BLM 5415 to the Zapata Falls Trailhead and Campground as described above.

      If coming from the north and US 285, follow US 285 south to Poncha Pass and continue south to Villa Grove. Five miles south of Villa Grove, turn off to the left onto SH17, which is the more direct route to Alamosa. It's 30 miles to Hooper (you may nearly miss this little town) and from Hooper, continue south another 6 miles to County Road 6N where you will turn left (east). Drive 16.4 miles east to where 6N intersects with SH150. Turn right (south) and go 2.8 miles to the turnoff on the left for BLM 5415 as described above. Follow it 3.6 miles to the trailhead/campground. There is a separate parking area for day-use and backpackers on a short loop. There is picnicking as well and vault toilets. The campground does not have water but does have vault toilets. It is first come, first served. There are 23 sites available and it appears most can accommodate trailer units of various types. Here's a link to more info: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recare...

      The South Zapata trail #852 is 4.8 miles long. It begins at the end of BLM Road 5415 (the Zapata Falls road) and ends at South Zapata Lake.

      To view the falls, hike one-half mile from the trailhead to Zapata Creek, going up an old roadbed and wade upstream into the narrow cave to view the falls. The 30 foot high waterfall cascades within a narrow chasm. Watch for falling rocks. The water is swift and deep in early summer. When you first arrive where the canyon narrows up and would have to wade in, there is a trail that gains the ridge on the right, above the falls for viewing. That trail immediately forks. The left takes you to the viewing area. The right fork gets you to the main Zapata Lake trail. In 1995, there were no clear signs as to where the South Zapata Lake trail began. We followed the viewing trail up onto the ridge, then had to cut south a little to pick up the Zapata Lake trail.

      The trail proceeds from the waterfall up South Zapata Creek to South Zapata Lake. A little above the falls, the trail crosses the stream. Again, in 1995, there was a very large log fallen across the stream and a significant height above the water. If the log is still there, you can try using it. If not, you'll have to wade unless the Forest Service has place in a bridge of some kind. The trail is steep in many places. About 2.25 miles up the trail, North Fork South Zapata Creek Trail #868 begins. This trail does not show on the Trails Illustrated map.

      The trail is open for the following uses: Horseback riding, hiking, and backpacking.


      There is a designated National Forest campground at the trail head. Fee required. This is a relatively new campground and will not appear on older maps.

      Campsite Locations

      Zapata Falls › N 37° 37' 11.09", W 105° 33' 37.06"
      9,085 elevation
    Approach Map Photos
    • From South Zapata Creek TH via South Zapata Lake

      Be sure and visit Zapata Falls either before beginning your hike or after completing it. Above the falls, the trail will cross S. Zapata Ck. In 1995, when we visited here, there was no way to cross except on a fallen tree, suspended up to 15' above the creek or, wade across. The trail then climbed steeply, gaining a small ridge which it followed for a while. The trail then continues contouring up the valley on the east side, crossing below some cliffs and two minor drainages. (About 2.25 miles up the trail, another trail turns off to the east #868) for the north fork of Zapata Creek where there is a small, unnamed lake.) The trail to South Zapata Lake stays well above the valley bottom. At about 11,360, the trail crosses to the other side of the creek. There was a nice, primitive campsite near here, if packing in, (about 3.6 miles) before the trail crosses to the west side of the creek. If you like the cover of trees, this is the best place to camp. Up at the lake, there are only willows for cover or windbreak. Or, continue on to Zapata Lake. The trail is mostly forested until about 3/4 mile below the lake. As you approach the lake, there will be willows. There are no sheltering trees at the lake. Suitable camping sites are limited, for the most part toward the northwest side of the lake as you approach on the trail. When we visited here in late June of 1995 (preceded by a heavy snow winter), everything around the lake was still covered in snow. Another camping possibility will come at 11,800 ft. as you exit the last large stand of trees and before you reach the final smaller group of trees a little north of the lake. We're providing some coordinates for this possible location but did not actually utilize this spot and are relying strictly on GE view & data, so this location may not work out. N 37° 35' 52.49" W 105° 30' 46.44".


      Some primitive sites as mentioned before in the upper basin. There's not any good camping above the lake.

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    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info Twin Peaks East Face

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 1995

    We'll start this description from the place where the trail crosses S. Zapata Creek at about 11,360 ft. in case that's where you decide to camp, however the mileae and elevation gain estimates assume a start from the vicinity of the lake so keep that in mind for your calculations. From that crossing, continue on the trail SE as it climbs up through the trees and follows along the west edge of the forest and last main group of trees toward the lake. The trail then exits the trees, crosses the tongue of a rock fall, then passes below one last group of trees. Just south of those last trees, we departed the trail to begin our ascent up Twin Peaks. Heading up mainly grassy slopes with some willows, we hiked west and SW aiming for a sub-ridge that comes off Twin Peaks south summit. This brought us into a basin north of that ridge. Climb on up to the ridge where there's a flat area along the ridge at 12,660 ft. From the flat area, continue west up the ridge on tundra and talus to the south and lower summit of Twin Peaks. Tag it just to be sure and then head north along the ridge crest to the north summit, which is higher. This route description basically follows the one in G&M.

    The summit offers a large view looking west across the San Luis Valley. For the descent, we walked NE along the ridge before dropping off to the east and then taking a contouring descent back to the SE staying above cliffs and rock outcrops to rejoin our ascent route near the 12,660 ft. level area on the sub-ridge. For the remainder of the route, we descended as we had come. In 1995, we did this hike at the very end of June. The winter of 1994-95 was a very heavy snow year. We were dealing with snow from the 11,360 foot stream crossing all the way to the summit. Ice axes were welcome.

    Additional BETA

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