Formerly UN 13050 B
UN 13,038 (formerly UN 13050) is a nice Class 2 hike in the Sawatch Range, west of St. Elmo. This easy hike involves a little work finding a route through forest with faint or no trail. The scenery is typical to the Sawatch Range. Access is from the Tincup Pass road out of St. Elmo. Most standard SUV type vehicles will have adequate ground clearance for the somewhat rocky road, but 4WD is not really required to reach the trailhead. Lidar reduced elevation by 12 feet.
UN 13,038 via Woodchopper Creek Route
Short Day // A Wee Little Climb
RT From Woodchopper Creek:
From US285 south of Buena Vista, take CR162 west past the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort and all the way to the old town of St. Elmo. Take the road that exits CR162 and drive down into the town. Do not continue south on what becomes CR295. Drive into the main part of town an turn right on a main street that will cross the North Fork of Chalk Creek. Immediately after crossing the creek, make a left turn onto the Tincup Pass Road, #267. This road has a bad reputation, but most of that appears to belong to the upper reaches near the pass. We were last on it in 2017 and found the road to be rocky but manageable all the way to its valley terminus that accesses forest trail #1439. This is just past where the road begins to climb out of the valley for Tincup Pass. It will not be necessary to drive that far anyhow. So 4WD is not really required but good ground clearance will be an advantage. Most any SUV will do.
From the left turn after crossing the creek in St. Elmo, it's 3.2 miles to Woodchopper Creek. Shortly after crossing Woodchopper Creek, watch for a track turning off to the right and climbing uphill a little. This leads to a good camp area and a place to park for the day. There is no official trailhead here, and the vehicle track does not lead to the proper route up Woodchopper Creek.
On the drive in along CR162, there are five, National Forest Campgrounds; Boot Leg, Mount Princeton, Chalk Lake, Cascade and closer to St. Elmo, Iron City. St. Elmo is a popular weekend destination so expect these campgrounds to be full. Mt. Princeton CG, Cascade CG and and Chalk CG all have sites that can be reserved online. Iron City is first-come, first-serve. Bootleg is tent only and has no potable water.
Beyond St. Elmo on the Tincup Pass road, there are numerous primitive camp spots, including at the Woodchopper Creek and just a short distance past there. Most of the primitive sites are on the creek side of the road. Take your pick & good luck if it's a weekend.
Woodchopper Creek ›
N 38° 41' 45.08", W 106° 23' 55.05"
Elevation 10,810 ft.
Click thumbnail to view full-size photo + caption
From the suggested vehicle park/trailhead, the old Gunnison National Forest map shows an old trail leading up along the west side of the creek to some small lakes near or above timberline. We started out on a trail on the west side of the meadow that we thought would be this old trail, but after climbing steeply for a short distance, it began to play out as it led us toward another intermittent drainage so we just started walking more directly uphill and/or back towards the Woodchopper drainage, always staying on the west side. It turns out, the old trail takes off from the NE end of the meadow area.
Staying on the west side of the creek and following the trail as best you can, you'll soon come to an attractive, open ridge with expansive views of the mountains to the south. Heading back into the forest, you will encounter some deadfall (and patches of soft snow as well as a few spots of braided runoff streams in mid-June). Contour back and around toward the center of the drainage and work your way up a steeper embankment with willows to a bench area at about treeline. From here, turn north, cross the main creek and walk over to a small tarn at the foot of a mostly tundra covered slope that leads up to the WNW ridge of the peak. The initial hiking is over a mix of tundra and rock that steepens considerably as you gain elevation and it becomes rockier, the higher you go. As you near the ridge, it will become very loose. Once on the ridge, while enjoying new vistas to the north, hike at first over large boulders that eventually give way to a gentle, tundra-covered ridge to the summit.
The summit area is large and relatively flat. Enjoy typical Sawatch Range views in all directions. For some variety on the return, instead of retracing your route back down, head directly south following the broad south ridge of the peak and heading toward the trees you can see about 1,000 feet below. (As we descended, we spotted a group of five does that kept their distance from us, but still allowed us to view them and take some photos.) As you come to the trees, you may find a section of burned out forest and old bristlecone pines that can make some interesting photography. You should be able to pick up some game trails through here and use them to some degree to hike back down to the main creek, passing close by the little hill on the map marked as 11,685 ft. on its west side. Once across the main creek, pick up the old trail at about 11,300 ft. and follow the somewhat rocky path all the way back down to the trailhead meadow.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
Mountain Handbook ›
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