• Route: West Willow Creek
• Total Distance: 11.25mi
• Elevation Gain: 3,779ft
I have started to be a bit more selective in which trip reports I put up and generally will only put something up if I think it will provide some value to the community. In the case of San Luis peak, the West Willow Creek route is certainly the road less traveled. In doing my research I noticed how few details existed about the route. So I felt that a few extra pictures on this route would hopefully provide some information for future hikers. In addition, I think there is some evidence that getting to the West Willow Creek TH actually takes less time than the Stewart Creek TH since it involves much less mileage on dirt roads. I have uploaded large images so click on any image to see the larger version.
From Denver the quickest route is I25 south to Walsenberg then west on 160 to South Fork then North on 149 to Creede. You go just a mile or two outside of Creede on 149 to a turn off for the Bachelor Loop road. Follow the signs for 504. After 7 miles you will merge back with 503 and will travel past the Equity Mine at which point the road is a bit rough for the final mile or so till you reach the trailhead.
Image 1) Picture of the Trailhead.
Image 2) We parked a short ways before the TH.
This is a pleasant easy hike above treeline for most of the route. The trail follows the Continental Divide Trail and the Colorado Trail for most of the way until you reach the base of the ridge leading to the San Luis Peak summit.
Image 3) Probably 3/4 mile into the hike looking back towards the TH
Below is an image about a mile into the hike. The peak you see in the distance is Point 12,540. Your destination is just to the right of that peak. The trail crosses a creek and and up an old dirt road until you reach the saddle just to the right of that peak.
Image 4) About a mile into the hike
Further up the road hiking towards Pt 12,540
Image 5) Hiking up an old road towards Pt 12,540
The objective first comes into view about 1.6 miles into the hike on the Saddle near Pt. 12,340.
Image 6) Near Pt 12,540 San Luis Peak comes into view
At over 12,300 this is the highest point I have ever seen a tree growing on any hike I have done. One of the consequences/benefits of being a bit further south than other peaks.
Image 7) Lonely pine around 12,340ft
Once on top of the saddle (Elevation 12,350, 1.6 miles into the hike) you get a full view of San Luis peak. From here the next mile drops down 400ft into the trees you can see to the right.
Image Full view of San Luis peak from the saddle
A picture as we begin the hike down into the trees. You enter the trees on the far right side of this picture and circle around the drainage and angle up towards the low point of the ridge you see in the center of the picture.
Image 9) Hiking on the Colorado Trail down into the trees
Hiking through the well defined Colorado Trail in the trees. This is basically the only part of the entire trail that passes through any trees.
Image 10) Beatiful hike in the morning thru the trees
After coming out of the trees and over the previous ridge seen in Image 9 your greeted with yet another basin. The trail stays right as you traverse around the basin before heading up toward the low point in the ridge in the center of this panoramic image that leads to the San Luis summit.
Image 11) Panoramic of the final basin
On the way around the basin I came across a Ptarmagin a couple of feet off the trail. Everytime I see one of these (Winter or Summer) I am always amazed at how perfectly camouflaged they are.
Image 12) Ptarmagin
Crossing a trail marker along the way, though not really needed on such a well defined trail.
Image 13) Trail Marker with San Luis in the background
After circling the basin and angling up towards the base of the gentle ridge that leads to the San Luis summit.
Image 14) Approaching the final ridge to San Luis Peak.
On the summit ridge. The trail isn't well defined on the ridge but the rock is small and easy to walk on.
Image 15) On the summit ridge.
Approaching the Summit.
Image 16) Approaching the summit
Self Taken summit photo. It was a spectacular and largely cloudless day.
Image 17) On the Summit. What a bluebird day!
Took this image of some very interesting rock formations above the trail on the return.
The West Willow creek route to San Luis peak is a less traveled route (we saw 4 other people the whole day) and is well worth your consideration as an alternative to the Stewart Creek TH. If you are interested in camping anywhere along this trail there is one good spot we encountered just off the trail in the section through the trees about 2.5 miles in.