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Route #1) Culebra Peak - Northwest Ridge
2,850' starting at 4WD trailhead 3,200' starting at Four Way 5,600' starting at ranch
6 miles starting at 4WD trailhead 8 miles starting at Four Way 15.5 miles starting at ranch
From Alamosa or Walsenburg, take U.S. 160 to the town of Fort Garland. Turn south on Highway 159 toward San Luis. Drive just over 15.5 miles to reach San Luis. Then follow the remaining directions to reach the north gate of the Cielo Vista Ranch:
Near a Conoco gas station, turn left on the P.6 Road (4th street) and drive 4.0 miles to Chama.
In Chama, turn left on the L.7 Road.
After 3.5 miles on L.7, cross a bridge and immediately turn right on dirt road 25.5.
Drive 0.5 miles on the 25.5 Road, stop, and turn left on the M.5 Road.
Drive 0.9 miles on M.5 to reach the North Gate of the ranch.
The gates are normally closed and ranch representatives will meet you for an escort to the ranch headquarters.
Once through the north HQ gate, continue 2 miles to the ranch headquarters for check-in.
Begin measuring mileage and leave HQ on a dirt road (easy 4WD to the upper trailhead).
After 0.1 mile, stay right and continue up the steep road.
Near 2.5 miles, the road goes through some great meadows (~11,000’).
Reach "Four Way" at 3.4 miles. Plenty of parking.
Reach the highest point on the road at 4.4 miles. This is the upper trailhead and there is parking near a stream.
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. In 2014, hiking is open to a maximum of 30 persons each day, on Fridays+Saturdays from June 20th through August 23rd. Follow the trailhead directions to the north gate and continue to the ranch headquarters. The remaining route description assumes a start at the "Four Way" road intersection.
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), hike east up the road toward Culebra. Also taken from Four Way, Photo #5 and Photo #6 show a closer view of the terrain below 13,000‘. Hike 1 mile to the upper trailhead near 11,650‘ (Photo #7) where the road turns right and crosses a stream after a small parking area. Near the parking area, locate an old "road" (trail) that heads east toward Culebra. This trail is before the stream crossing and is blocked off by a pile of dirt.
Hike east up the trail on the left (north) side of the drainage. The goal is to ascend the slope (approx. 1,700‘ of elevation gain) to reach the north (left) end of long ridge above. Continue all the way up to reach the ridge near 13,400‘. Photo #8 shows most of the slope. Note: An alternate way to reach the ridge is to leave the old road near 12,400‘ and angle southeast up talus to reach the ridge a bit further to the south. Photo #9 looks back down on the slope and Photo #10 shows the gentle terrain just below the ridge.
Once on the ridge ( 37.13173° N, -105.20001° W), most of the remaining hike is visible. Depending on the point at which you came over the ridge, the actual summit may not be visible because of a large false summit that blocks much of the view to the southeast - Photo #11. The remaining hike follows a long ridge that curves east toward the summit. Turn right and walk south to a large cairn - Photo #12. Hike past the cairn to a point where the ridge begins a descent to a large saddle - Photo #13. Hike down to 13,200‘ on the saddle ( 37.12675° N, -105.20068° W) (Photo #14) and start east up a long pitch toward a false summit - Photo #15. There a couple of rough sections but route finding is not a problem - stay close to the ridge crest. Photo #16, taken near 13,800‘, shows the terrain just before the top of the false summit and Photo #17 looks back down the ridge. Hike up through large, stable rock to reach the top of this point. Photo #18 is another look at the ridge from the west.
From approx. 13,900‘ on the top of this point ( 37.12484° N, -105.19135° W), the Culebra summit is less than 1/2 mile away - Photo #19. Drop down a bit, cross a small hump, and hike up the final summit pitch - Photo #20 and Photo #21. Photo #22, Photo #23 and Photo #24 were taken on top ( 37.122173° N, -105.185593° W).
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