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#56 / 13,980' UN 13980 Columbia Point

Quadrangle › Crestone Peak
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 37° 58' 44.23", W 105° 35' 53.43" (Not Field Checked)

Peak Summary

Columbia Point is a Class 2 summit located along the route to Kit Carson, but is often bypassed by hikers more interested in gaining the farther 14er summit. Columbia pairs easily with UN13,799, aka: Obstruction Peak, and a good weather day can also include the summit of Kit Carson and Challenger Pt. Our suggested route brings climbers in along  the South Colony Creek access, however, all of the above named summits may also be gained from the Willow Lake trail on the west side of the range. If coming from Westcliffe and the east side, a 4WD is useful or at least a higher clearance vehicle. If approaching these peaks from Willow Lake, 4WD or higher clearance is not required. 

Columbia Pt. via Bears Playground Route

Class 2
backpacker icon + Peak Icon Peak Icon
Backpack + Medium Day
Climbed with "Obstruction Peak"
RT From South Colony TH: 14.7 mi / 4,490'
From "Obstruction Peak": 0.60 mi / 570' (One-Way)
  • Trailhead
    • South Colony TH

      From the town of Westcliffe: Drive south on HWY 69 for 4.5 miles and turn right onto Colfax Lane (CR119). Proceed about 5.5 miles on this partially paved and graded dirt road to an intersection where you must turn right or left. Go right (west) on CR120 and in about one more mile, if in a low clearance passenger car, park at a fence line. This is referred to by some as the "lower trailhead." If you have a better clearance vehicle (CRV, Outbacks or better) with care you can drive another 2.5 miles to the "upper trailhead" close to and before where the road crosses South Colony Creek. This last 2.5 miles has deteriorated significantly over the last few years. The Forest Service has put in a parking area here that they say can hold about 50 vehicles. On summer weekends, you may find even this amount to be insufficient. Also, the FS has considered introducing a "use fee" of $20, however at the date of this writing, the idea appears to be in limbo. Best to go prepared, however. From the parking area, a bridge takes hikers over South Colony Creek so no need to prepare for wading.


      Camping

      On the 2.5 mile drive into the upper trailhead, there are some at-large spots available and then at the trailhead, the FS has installed 4 - 5 camp spots that have tent platforms and fire rings. There is presently no fee for using these spots. Wag-bags are supposed to be available from a dispensary of some kind to help with the human waste problem. There are no vault toilet facilities. Here's a hint for those peakbaggers spending multiple days in the Westcliffe area and in need of a shower: The Westcliffe Inn, a little south of town on HWY 69, may offer use of their showers for a $5 fee. We last availed ourselves of this in 2009. Stop in and inquire.

    Approach Map Photos
    • From UN 13799

      The walking route will begin from where the South Colony Lake Road crosses South Colony Creek at 9,980 ft., with the assumption you have a vehicle that will get you that far. If you must park and start from the fence line at or below 9,000 ft., add another 2.6 miles one way. 

      Parking for vehicles is before the creek crossing. There is a footbridge to assist getting across the creek. From where the road/trail crosses to the north side of South Colony Creek, hike west up the old roadbed for 2.8 miles to where the road use to end and there is a level area. You should find a signed junction here. Proceed by either of two trails up to the lower of the South Colony Lakes. The trail that continues SW along S. Colony Creek is a little longer in mileage. Both are Trail #1339. The Trails Illustrated map does not show the shorter trail. The San Isabel NF map does show both. The more direct trail crosses a rocky area after about a half mile, having passed through forest and continues in more forest, then willows as it arrives at the lower lake. 

      Regardless of how you get there, make sure you pick up the correct trail #1339 on the east end of the lower lake. From here, there should be no difficulty in following the well-defined trail that first heads up to the upper lake where you'll turn right at another junction to hike to the saddle west of Humboldt Peak, improved by the efforts of the Colorado 14er Initiative. Most of the elevation gain will occur here. The trail does pass through some willows so be prepared when it's wet. 

      Once you gain the saddle west of Humboldt, turn west and follow the ridge crest to an east-west running ridge with a high point of 13,290 ft. marked on the USGS map at the east end. Once you've gained about 400 feet, hike on the ridge crest. Your westward progression will be expedited by staying as much as possible on the top of the somewhat loose ridge with occasional drops down mostly onto the north side. The mostly rocky ridge offers just enough difficulties to slow your progress some. Once across it, drop down onto the "Bear's Playground" and descend a little north to a saddle. From the saddle, it's easiest to follow tundra as long as you can to the summit ridge east of the summit, rather than make a beeline for the summit, aiming for the summit of Obstruction Peak. The initial part of the hike will be on mixed tundra with embedded rocks/boulders which will give way to boulder rubble as you gain elevation. The finish will be on nothing but rocky rubble to the uneventful summit. Most people with more interest in climbing the 14ers will simply skirt below Obstruction Peak. You would be well-advised to go ahead and tag this summit on the way to Kit Carson, as well as Columbia Point, which you almost have to climb to reach Kit Carson. 

      To interject a little story here, we climbed this summit on a late June day that began with a cloud-filled Wet Valley. Back in 1995, we were able to drive all the way up the South Colony Road, but even then, it was so rocky and slow, it barely saved any time and ended up costing us a set of shocks. The low-water crossing of the creek was a thrilling experience with water trying to come in around the doors and washing up onto our hood of our Jeep Cherokee. (A few years before we had driven this road and I had sworn then I would not subject my vehicle to it again.) Almost all of our hike was in clouds which by the time we were hitting the Bear's Playground, were organizing into a thunderstorm. The final spurt to the summit was an electrifying experience, being perhaps the worst electrical storm we have ever been caught in. Lightening strikes were occurring about every one to two minutes as we made a mad dash for the summit that we found abuzz with all the electrical activity. We spent all of about 15 seconds there. Then, on the way back across the east-west running ridge, we were constantly listening to the rocks buzzing, crackling and sounding like bacon frying in a skillet. We offer this account mainly to make the point that once you reach the Bear's Playground, there is no place whatsoever to duck out of such a storm. If you think one may be approaching, wait it out in a safer location! 

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    Peak Icon Route Map

    Route Info Columbia Pt. via Bears Playground

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 1980

    Columbia Point is paired with UN13,799, aka: Obstruction Peak. Follow the route description for Obstruction first. The route for Columbia begins from the summit of Obstruction. One-way mileage and elevation gain are measured from the summit of Obstruction. 

    From the summit of Obstruction Peak, continue hiking west, descending a little over 300 feet in elevation along a Class 2 ridge. Next, head up to the summit of "Kitty Kat Carson" which you will need to pass over to reach Columbia Point. The east flank of Kitty Kat presents a wide, shallow bowl-like face. Hike up that bowl on a mix of tundra and embedded boulders mostly, gaining nearly 600 feet in elevation. The hiking remains at the Class 2 level. Once you reach the Kitty Kat summit, Columbia lies only about a tenth of a mile away to the west. Lose about 60 feet to a saddle, then finish the Class 2 walk to the summit on similar terrain, utilizing a rising, tundra & rock ramp. What use to be the more "traditional" route to Kit Carson began from the summit area of Columbia Pt. A Class 3 route will take you over to Kit Carson, but in recent decades, the Willow Lakes approach has become more of the "standard" route. 


    Additional BETA

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