A good single day climb from the TH or combine with several other peaks for a multi-day backpack trip into a highly scenic area. Trailhead is accessible to higher clearance passenger type vehicles.
Southeast Basin and Ridge Route
2.4 mi / 1,980'
The trailhead is located east of the small town of Crestone. Take US 285 south from Poncha Springs, over Poncha Pass for 21 miles and turn left onto CO17, another four miles south of Villa Grove. Drive another 13 miles to Moffat and turn left onto "T" Road, aka: Russel St. Drive about 13 miles east to Crestone. T Road will make a 90 degree jog right, then back left and a couple miles further will make a shorter jog left, then right. As the road enters the town, it will make a couple jogs again before you reach the center of town. From the town of Crestone, from the second stop sign, turn right on Galena. Follow the gravel road 1.5 miles to a location where 2WD vehicles can park. 4WD vehicles can proceed another .75 mile to the trailhead parking. South Crestone Lake trail #860 heads out straight ahead. Willow Lake trail # 865 veers to the right and crosses the creek.
If coming from Alamosa, head north out of town on CO 17 and continue north past both Mosca and Hooper to Moffat., appx. 29 miles. Turn right (east) onto "T" Road and follow directions as above.
Primitive sites are available along FR949 once you get on Forest land. Be careful about private property through here, especially on the south side of the road. Some limited car camping at the trailhead.
Last visited this trail in 2002. At that time, there was no official bridge crossing Crestone Creek at the TH. We were able to get across on fallen logs, but in higher runoff, you may have to wade. After crossing the creek from the TH, the trail climbs east up an open hill, then begins a series of switchbacks through forest, crosses a ridge and then contours up valley, well above Willow Creek. As the trail approaches a large waterfall it climbs on switchbacks more steeply, heading in a more southerly direction, crosses Willow Creek below the waterfall on a log bridge, and climbs steeply up an area of rubble as it turns back to the east and begins to level out as it approaches the beautiful Willow Lake. A scenic waterfall plunges into the far eastern end of the lake. Overall, this is a moderately strenuous backpack. Trail is maintained and easy to follow except where it crosses back over Willow Creek above the waterfall and a little before the lake.
Note: Expect high weekend traffic at the trailhead because this is an access for climbing Challenger and Kit Carson and has become very popular.
Main camping on the approach is at Willow Lake. In keeping with FS camping policies, campsites are located away from the lake and along the northern side, somewhat elevated above the lake. Also, there are sites well before reaching the lake on the hike in. Watch for FS signs designating where to camp. Camping locations may have changed due to FS regulations since our last visit in 2002. There are also some limited primitive camping spots at and just before arriving at the trailhead.
This area has become very popular with the 14er bagging crowd. Competition for campsites at Willow Lake on weekends may result.
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Year Climbed: 2001
From a campsite location in the vicinity of Willow Lake, follow the climbers trail around the north side of the lake and about 1/3rd of the distance around the lake, turn north and begin an ascent through trees that leads to a steep, south-facing slope covered with tall clumps of grass. You will likely pass some campsite locations above the lake on this side as you head up. After about 400 feet of gain, you should encounter the stream that drains the valley below UN13,546 and Mt. Adams. We found the best thing to do here to avoid willows was to go ahead and cross the creek and continue up valley on higher terrain above the willows. Gain approximately another 400 feet in elevation and then turn west up an east ridge. Gain another 800 feet on steep and grassy slopes to the south ridge of the peak, turn north and follow easy tundra to the summit. 2 hours from Willow Lake. We spotted Bighorn sheep in this area. Return as you came or continue to either MT. Adams, UN 13,153, or both. We have sequenced UN 13,546 with UN 13,153 only.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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