Culebra Peak - Northwest Ridge
Climbing mountains is dangerous! Please read the Mountaineering Safety Page and make sure you have a map+compass and can use them effectively. A GPS or cell phone can be very helpful with navigation but you should still be able to use a map+compass in case your device stops working.
(WINTER) HOLD ON! If you don't have much high-elevation, winter climbing experience, be careful in your planning and take a partner. Even the "easy" 14ers (Quandary, Sherman, Grays & Torreys) can be deadly in winter.
|Difficulty:|| Class 2 |
|Total Gain:||2,700 starting at 4WD trailhead|
3,150 starting at Four Way
5,450 starting at ranch HQ building
|RT Length:||5 miles starting at 4WD trailhead|
7 miles starting at Four Way
14 miles starting at ranch HQ building
|USGS Quad.:||Culebra Peak|
|County Sheriff:||Costilla: 719-672-3302
From Alamosa or Walsenburg, take U.S. 160 to the town of Fort Garland and...
- Turn south on Highway 159 and drive just over 15.5 miles to reach the town of San Luis.
- Near a Conoco gas station, turn left on 4th Street (P.6 Road) and drive 4.0 miles to the town of Chama.
- Turn left on the L.7 Road.
- Drive 3.6 miles on L.7, cross a bridge and turn right on the 25.5 Road (dirt).
- Drive 0.5 mile on 25.5 and turn left on the M.5 Road.
- Drive 0.9 mile on M.5 to reach the North Gate of the ranch.
- The gate is normally closed/locked and ranch representatives will meet you for an escort to the ranch headquarters, usually at 6am on the morning of your hike.
- Once through the north HQ gate, continue 2 miles to the ranch headquarters for check-in.
- Leave HQ on an easy-4WD road (It is 4.4 miles total to the upper trailhead).
- At 0.1 mile, stay right.
- Near 2.5 miles, the road goes through some great meadows (~11,000').
- Reach "Four Way" at 3.4 miles. Plenty of parking.
- Continue straight through Four Way to reach the upper trailhead at 4.4 miles.
Culebra Peak is privately owned and all hikes require advanced booking through the Cielo Vista Ranch website. A $150 fee is charged by the ranch and must be paid through their website to make your reservation. Reservations are open to a maximum of 25 hikers each day, on Fridays+Saturdays from late June through late August. Follow the trailhead directions to the north gate and continue to the ranch headquarters.
Photo #1 and Photo #2 are distant views of Culebra from the northwest. Once in the ranch (Photo #3), much of Culebra is not visible until you are above 11,000' on the dirt road. From Four Way (Photo #4, Photo #5 and Photo #6), hike/drive 1 mile east up the road to reach the upper trailhead, at 11,650' - Photo #7 and Photo #8. There's no trail up Culebra, but you have two main options: 1) Just before dropping to the parking area, locate an old, closed road that heads east. Walk up the road and when it ends, continue along the north side of the slopes before turning south to follow the northwest ridge. 2) Or take a more-direct line by crossing the stream just below the parking area and hiking southeast up Culebra's northwest slopes. The 1st option is shown as a dashed line on the route photos+map but the 2nd option is more popular and described in this route description.
Walk southeast from the parking area, cross a stream, and continue southeast towards the slopes above - Photo #9. Hike away from the stream and continue along a gentle ridge on the south side of the stream/creek - Photo #10. Now above tree line, continue southeast toward the top of the slopes - Photo #11, and Photo #12. Reach the ridge crest (~13,350') near a large cairn ( 37.13032° N, -105.20111° W) - Photo #13 and Photo #14. To the southeast, you can see much of the remaining route, but not the summit - Photo #15.
Turn right and walk south past the large cairn, through some large rocks and descend a short distance down the ridge (Photo #16) to reach a 13,200-foot saddle ( 37.12675° N, -105.20068° W) - Photo #17. Staying on the ridge, continue east toward a false summit - Photo #18. There a couple of rough sections along the ridge but route finding is not a problem. Hike up through mostly-stable rock (Photo #19) to reach the top of the false summit ( 37.12484° N, -105.19135° W), at 13,900' - Photo #20. The true summit is less than 1/2 mile away - Photo #21. Drop slightly, pass over a small hump, and ascend the final summit pitch - Photo #22 and Photo #23. Photo #24 and Photo #25 were taken on top ( 37.122173° N, -105.185593° W).
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