| San Luis Peak - Stewart Creek TH
On the afternoon of July 5th, after about 4 hours driving from Littleton, I followed the Saguache County road signs (NN14, 15GG) to FR 794. FR 794 is a good dirt road most of the way and the forest service signs are limited, but sufficient. It is just a long 21 miles of dirt road with some rougher road for the last mile or so. Still 2wd is OK, but may require some higher clearance near the end.
On Wed, July 6th, I got on the trail just before 6 am after a rough night sleeping in the bed of my pickup. I should have worked harder to find a level place to park - sliding to the back of the truck made sleeping a challenge.
Stewart Creek TH parking area
It had rained during the night, but was just cloudy at the start. I thought it would be OK, but since the trail stays low for about 4 miles before it comes out of tree line, I thought I would start the hike and watch the weather. It continued to improve during the morning.
View looking east towards Stewart Crk TH
The trail has all the best aspects of a good Colorado day hike. It follows a beautiful stream up a wide glacial valley between majestic mountains. Stewart Creek is full of beaver ponds for the first 3 miles. I enjoyed the walk through the mixed tree forest where the stream crossings were not too deep. Luckily I had waterproof boots on the 2nd crossing where I stepped on partially submerged rocks to cross. The trail continued to generally follow the stream up the valley (in and out of the forest).
One of the numerous beaver ponds on Stewart Creek
Near tree line, I saw my first Columbines of the season!
My first Columbine Flower of the season Above treeline, the trail leaves the stream and starts the short steep climb to the saddle. That was the only place that I felt like the trail wasn’t clearly defined. From what had been a well defined trail up the valley, this short section required walking on wet tundra where water was running below the low plants. In a hundred feet or so, the trail restarted above and around the low brush. I was mainly uncomfortable with the damage I did to the low plants in the area, but didn’t see an alternative, and I tried to step "lightly".
Then I began the steep climb up to the ridge. Up to this point, it was just a nice hike. Now, the trail turned almost straight up with only some mini switchbacks. As I approached the ridge, it was very windy, but it never got over about 25 mph (guessing). The remainder of the trail to the top was well defined “small rock”.
The good trail can be seen going behind me up the slope with the San Luis peak in the upper left of the picture
I summited at 9:15. There was a haze on the horizon that impacted the pictures. So, I only took a few to record the event.
On the San Luis Peak summit - 14,014'
It was windy with the wispy clouds around above the top. It didn’t look too threatening, but with over 6 miles to get back, I didn’t know when the weather might turn. I only spent about 15 minutes on top before I started down.
It warmed up as I descended, and then about noon, the clouds thickened, the thunder started, and the light rain began shortly afterwards. I got back to Stewart Crk Trailhead at 12:25P. I covered the 13 miles with 3,600’ of gain in a total time of 6h30m. My GPS said it was only 12 miles with 4,000’ of gain – I never quite understand why there is such a difference.
I quickly got on the road as the rain started to come down harder. I used my 4wd for safety on the slippery road, but didn’t have any issues for the 45+ minute drive to CO 114.
I loved the variety of the hike going through numerous climate zones. I had hoped to see some wildlife, but no luck on this trip, but lots of luck with the weather!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):