UN 13,078 is another Sawatch Range Class 2 summit that we have sequenced with UN 13,317 for a nice days hike that traverses a high ridge with outstanding views and at the right time of the summer, prolific wildflowers. The start for this hike is the trailhead for Green Timer Gulch, located along South Cottonwood Creek, west of Cottonwood Lake, out of Buena Vista. The trailhead is accessible to passenger vehicles in most conditions.
UN 13,078 Green Timber/West Ridge Route
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
RT From Green Timber Gulch TH:
From the town of Buena Vista, turn west from US285 onto CR306, also known as the Cottonwood Pass Road. Drive 7.7 miles on pavement to an intersection and turn left (south) onto CR344 for Cottonwood Lake. Drive 3.6 miles on graded, gravel road to the east end of the lake where there's a picnic ground. West of the lake, thee's a forest service campground. See details below. From the east end of the lake and the turn off for the picnic area, drive west another 3.35 miles on graded gravel to the Hope Gulch TH. The turnoff can be easy to miss. Continue another .95 mile for the Green Timer Gulch TH, (#1436) again on the south side of the road. The road drops steeply down and leads to an attractive, at-large camp area. Higher clearance vehicle may be desirable to access this area. A foot-bridge across South Cottonwood Creek begins the trail. The Green Timber Gulch trail eventually crosses a ridge west of UN 13,078 and drops into Poplar Gulch which comes out just outside of St. Elmo. The entire trail is sometimes referred to as the Poplar Gulch Trail and is designated as #1436.
The Cottonwood Lake CG sits a little beyond the west end of Cottonwood Lake and is forest service maintained. There are 28 sites. Water and vault toilets are available. As with most such campgrounds, they tend to fill completely on summer weekends. This is a first come, first serve campground.
Beyond the campground, (west) there are several at-large, primitive sites including at the trailheads for Hope Gulch and Green Timber as well. Additional sites may be found farther west up the road. Be aware there are private property parcels along this road.
Cottonwood Lake CG ›
N 38° 46' 58.22, W 106° 17' 24.75"
Elevation 9585 ft.
Primitive site ›
N 38° 46' 33.63", W 106° 18' 25.87"
Elevation 9690 ft.
Click thumbnail to view full-size photo + caption
Year Climbed: 2005
The Green Timber Gulch trail leads south (once you've crossed the creek) and veers away from the creek for a while into a very nice meadow area with several nice camp spots, if you were willing to carry your gear here. Then it veers west, crosses Green Timber Creek and begins switchbacking up the mountainside. This trail is very similar to many others in the Sawatch. It begins with a steep climb out of the valley and then begins to level off higher up. In a little over an hour and twenty minutes, we were able to hike the three miles to tree line and continued to follow the trail as it headed for the saddle west of UN 13,078. As you near the saddle, you may wish to depart from the trail to save a few steps and begin contouring up to the west ridge of UN 13,078. This is a broad, flower-strewn, (in earlier summer, many Old-Man-On-the-Mountain) grassy slope with a trail continuing toward the summit. It is pretty much, hands-in-pockets stuff all the way to the top, with it only becoming a little more rocky in places. It takes about another hour to arrive here from treeline.
We mention again that the Poplar Gulch/Green Timber Trail continues from the saddle south to St. Elmo and can be utilized by motorcycles or mountain bikes, of which we saw several indications. Enjoy the view from here and contemplate whether or not to continue on to UN 13,317.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
“If you want something you’ve never had you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” Thomas Jefferson