Start time: 6:00 am
Summit: 10:00 am ?
End: 2:00 pm
Total time: 8 hours
This is a hard trailhead to get to! Long and in the middle of nowhere...
We left Denver Friday night later than expected. I cant remember now what time we left...I just remember that we didn't get to the trailhead until around midnight. Finding all those dirt roads in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere was very difficult. We got lost at one point; So I recommend that you do this drive in daylight if you can. It was such a weird experience. I just remember looking out at the horizon and only seeing flat land everywhere with no trees around. Of course, this was also at night time. San Luis is in the middle of nowhere! Even the forest doesn't pop up until a good hour into your drive on the dirt road. We also didn't really check the weather before we left and ended up driving through a ton of mud because of a recent rainstorm that had passed before we got there.
As a side note: This was the scariest driving we have ever done! It was definitely a white knuckler all the way only because of how muddy the road was. Even though we have a 4wd Subaru, it didn't matter because we had no traction. There were points when I thought we were going to slide off the side of the road or into a tree. I would not recommend driving this road under these conditions. The drive back though was just fine because it had dried off by the following afternoon. As long as you dont go after a rainstorm, you will be just fine.
So onto the hiking portion of this report...
We chose to hike San Luis because we wanted to take our dog up her first 14er and weren't sure how she would do, so we wanted a class 1 mountain that didn't not have snow on the summit. San Luis was perfect! We also liked the idea of how secluded this mountain was because we also wanted to test out our dog off-leash (that didn't work so well either). Most of the hike is through the forest. Sometimes it was hard to follow the path directly because there were many fallen trees and river crossings. It seemed that most of the trees were down because of beavers. There are tons of beaver ponds everywhere...If you go early enough, you might catch a glimpse of one. Unfortunately, we never saw any.
The miles from this sign and 14ers.com dont match. Hmmm???
You hike about 2 miles through the forest (at least it seems that way). Once you get out of the forest you enter a grassy area in the valley. The rest of this portion of the hike you will see a large mountain in sight. Do not be deceived...This is NOT San Luis. We thought it was the whole time until we actually popped up over the ridge only to find that we had a lot more to hike.
Baldy Alto, San Luis sits behind it
The long valley
The Valley is very long as you can see in the picture above. You actually hike that entire valley as far as you can see. If you look closely, in the middle of the valley you can see a small stream. Most of this portion of the hike you are following that stream. The trail is easy to find though. This is the section when we tried to let Asia (our dog) off leash. We wanted to try it out here since there were no people or other dogs around. We only saw one other person on our ascent that passed by. Needless to say, Asia caught a glimpse of a bird and took off running. She is a Brittany (which is a bird hunting dog) and it really showed that day. She ran quite a ways away and almost stepped onto a glacier. That would have been disastrous. After that, we kept her on a short leash. At least she helped pull me up the mountain when I got tired.
Once you hike over the ridge to the left of Baldy Alto, you head to the right and cross over tons of shale/scree. You can make out a faint trail, but it doesn't really matter...It is tough to cross either way. Just watch your step so you dont roll your ankle.
At the top of the ridge
Pointing out San Luis.
Scree section, San Luis to the left.
Looking back at what we just crossed.
For most of our hike we could not see San Luis because it was surrounded by a thick cloud. We were able to snap this next photo showing one lonely person on the summit.
San Luis hidden in the fog. One lonely soul on top.
We finally made it to the summit, I think around 10:00 am. There was one other hiking group already up there. Man, it must be a busy weekend. Oh yeah, duh, it is a holiday. No wonder there are sooo many people out here (sarcastic). I have actually heard that on any other random day you could be the only group out here hiking. San Luis is the least hiked mountain of all the 14ers.
The 14er offcial marker is over by those rocks.
San Luis offical marker
Our dog ended up falling asleep in Matt's arms. So Cute! She must have been wiped out because this has never, ever happened before. She is an extremely hyper breed...so it was quite shocking to see her fall asleep in that position.
Here are a few other dog pictures.
looking towards the descent; Baldy Alto in the background
We didn't end up getting to eat our lunch because our sandwiches were soggy and moldy. So we decided to head out to try to beat any incoming rain. We were able to see San Luis on our descent with a clearing from the clouds. As soon as we got into the forest it started to pour. Lucky for us we had our raincoats. It rained for the last 2 miles of our hike.
San Luis from our descent
Overall, I really enjoyed our trip once we started hiking. The drive in was horrible and the car camping with our dog the night before was restless. Loved the hike though! I guess you can see Wetterhorn and Uncompagre from the top on a clear day. I would sum up the hike to San Luis to be gorgeous, long and secluded. Even though I loved San Luis, I dont think I will be back to hike this peak again because it was just too much work to get to it and too far away. I'm definitely tagging this one as a "one-time-only" peak for me.