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Hinsdale County Road Alerts

For anyone planning on visiting Hinsdale County/Lake City area, be aware of the following road closures. Visit this link for more details.  Click Here  For the San Juan National Forest click here to be taken to a page on their site that has road closure information. Currently there is no off-road/primitive site camping allowed along the South Mineral Creek FS585 out of SIlverton. Do your research before leaving. Many areas commonly accessible by this time of year are still closed! Check other National Forest websites for additional information. 

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LoJ: #202 (G & M: #201) UN 13580 UN 13580 A

Range › San Juan Range
Quadrangle › Pole Creek Mountain
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 37° 50' 16.27", W 107° 25' 04.52" (Not Field Checked)

Peak Summary

An easy, family-friendly summit that could be done as a day-hike or as a multi-day backpack to a base camp with multiple 13ers within day-hiking range, all located on the Pole Creek Mountain quad. If accessing by the trail up to Cataract Lake, then passenger car accessible. If coming from Carson Pass, then 4WD needed. Lots of gentle, tundra terrain in this area with domestic sheep grazing. 

UN13,580 NW Ridge Route

Class 2
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
RT From Carson Pass TH: 13.5 mi / 2,000'
RT From Cataract Gulch Trail/CD Trail Intersection: 3.1 mi / 1,100'
  • Trailhead
    • Carson Pass TH

      Most of the 13er summits on the Pole Creek Mountain quad and the Finger Mesa quad can be most easily accessed from one of two trailheads, both off of County Road 3, south of Lake City and Lake San Cristobal. The first TH is Carson Pass at the head of Wager Gulch. This access requires 4WD with good clearance. The drive in is followed by walking the Colorado/Continental Divide Trail west. There is minor elevation gain and loss and no more than 4 miles of hiking/backpacking. The other trailhead is accessible to passenger cars, but requires more elevation gain (2,500 ft.) on foot. That access utilizes the Cataract Gulch Trail from near "Sherman." It's about a 4.5 mile hike/backpack up to Cataract Lake for a base camp. We used the Wager Gulch/Carson Pass access, hence our trip reports will be based on that as the start point. Peaks accessed in this manner include: Coney BM; UN13,260 D; Bent Peak; Carson Peak; "Tundra Top;" Cataract Peak; Half Peak; UN13,674(Quarter Peak); UN13,581; UN13,580 A; UN13,660; and Pole Creek Mtn. For information regarding the Cataract Gulch TH, you can find that by searching for that trailhead. We have never actually hiked that trail except in the vicinity of Cataract Lake. Our route descriptions for many of these peaks should be usable regardless of which TH you choose with the exception perhaps of Bent, Coney BM and UN 13,260 D.

      Wager Gulch/Carson Pass

      From the Town of Lake City, drive south on SH149 and then turn right onto CR3 (BLM 3306) to Lake San Cristobal. Trails Illustrated labels this road as CR30. The road is paved past the lake then turns to graded dirt, passable for all passenger cars. About 2 miles past the Williams Creek campground, watch for a road turning off to the left (south) for the old townsite of Carson. This road is identified on maps as either BLM3308 or FS568. it's also called the "Wager Gulch" road. From this point on, 4WD is advisable.

      Head up the road through aspen and conifer forest. At times, the road climbs steeply, but generally is not too rocky or in very poor condition. Along the drive up, there are a few primitive campsites. See coordinates below for what we consider to be the best primitive camp area. The road is fairly easy driving to the old townsite of Carson. Beyond there, it works its way up to Carson Pass through areas of willows and becomes quite rocky in stretches. We drove this summer of 2018 and found that a lot of the willows had been cleared away and though rocky in stretches, the road was easily passable in our Toyota Tundra. If you're not comfortable with driving this last part, park down near Carson and walk this last mile. From the summit of the pass and the coordinates provided above, you can begin your hike or backpack. In previous years, it was possible to continue driving south on a 4WD track for another half mile to where you would actually connect with the Colorado trail. Those coordinates are: N 37° 50' 52.67 W 107° 22' 06.06". Elevation here is 12,150 ft. so you've dropped down from the pass a little.


      Camping

      There are designated, Forest Service campgrounds at Lake San Cristobal, Williams Creek and Mill Creek (which is past the Wager Gulch turnoff). On the drive up Wager Gulch, we observed a few nice, primitive sites at some level locations. The best location was just a little before reaching the road that turns off for Carson. There is some open meadow on either side of the road and a good cam area on the west side. Be advised though that the beetle kill all through here is heavy and there are numerous dead trees around this camping location. See coordinates below. 


      Campsite Locations

      Carson Primitive Site › N 37° 52' 46.78", W 107° 21' 49.41"
      Elevation 11,240 ft.
    Approach Map
    • From Carson Pass TH via Cataract Gulch Trail/CD Trail Intersection

      From the summit of Carson Pass, drive south just a little to a multiple track intersection. This is a good place to park and leave your vehicle, but if you wish to save another .6 mile of carrying a pack, a 4WD vehicle can drive down the road that heads SW to another location where the better road ends at a promontory overlooking the valley below. Park here. Along the drive down, you will pass the turnoff on the right for the Continental Divide/Colorado Trail # 787. At this point, you've lost some altitude and will be about 12,100 ft. The trail is marked by a typical post. It heads off to the west and contours for a distance at a little above 12,000 feet before beginning to gain some elevation for a pass at 12,900 ft. The 3.9 miles to the pass (measuring from the first car park near the summit of Carson Pass) are all relatively easy hiking. The trail is easy to follow and stays clear of the abundant willows in the valley below. It's almost all tundra terrain. The gradient is very easy. This section of trail my actually be mountain biked if you care to travel that way. 

      From the anticlimatic pass at 12,900 ft., the trail turns more to the SW and drops down a broad tundra slope to intersect the trail coming up from Cataract Gulch and the West Lost Creek Trail. From the pass to the trail intersection is about 1.2 mile. 


      Camping

      We recommend camping in the tundra on the broad tundra ridge above Cataract Lake. This offer expansive views in every direction and is very centrally located for climbing every 13er located in this area. The down side is the exposure since there are no trees. Cataract Lake offers a little better location and certainly beautiful. Obtaining water will be easier. Because of it's lower elevation, it will necessitate more elevation gain on the hikes to most of the other 13ers. 


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

    Route Info UN13,580 NW Ridge

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 1992

    From Cataract Lake, hike south to a saddle just east of the 12,504' marker about a half mile south of the lake. From the saddle, head east on the Colorado Trail briefly, then turn SE, crossing the drainage and heading up on almost all easy tundra-covered slopes to the summit. Return by the same route or drop directly west from the summit to a pass, then turn back to the north on the West Lost Trail Creek trail to rejoin your earlier approach. Some willows.  

    If accessing this area by Carson Pass, from either Carson Pass, or a half mile to the south from the pass, you want to connect with the Colorado Trail and head west. The trail drops down in elevation some toward Lost Trail Creek, then easily regains elevation to a non-descript, tundra pass that separates the Lost Trail drainage from the Pole Creek drainage. If you're backpacking in, we found a good campsite location about one mile west of this pass in the open tundra, on a bench not far from an overlook of Cataract Lake. See the "Approach" description.  Warning: There may be a large herd of domestic sheep grazing in this area.

    If approaching from Carson Pass on the Colorado Trail, you could begin an ascent from the broad saddle that divides the Pole Creek drainage from the Lost Trail drainage. Head directly south along an easy, broad ridge, bypassing the 13,552 unranked summit and continuing another 3/4 mile south to the finish. Mostly tundra or chiprock.

    If returning from Pole Creek Mtn. to the Colorado Trail, there's a low pass between UN13,580 A and a soft rank summit (13,000 ft.) west of 13,580 A. At that pass, you should connect with a trail coming up out of West Lost Trail Creek. From that pass, you can hike on easy tundra terrain to the summit of UN13,580 A in less than an hour. Return back to the same pass and trail or follow the very broad NW ridge back to the Colorado trail. Mostly tundra & chiprock.


    Additional BETA

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