Culebra (Main) Trailhead


Range: Sangre de Cristo
Coordinates: 37.15, -105.2925
14ers: Culebra Peak
Elevation: 9,100'
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Road Difficulty

Easy 4WD, good clearance recommended. 3   (0=Paved, 6=Very Difficult 4WD)
2WD dirt to the ranch. Easy 4WD to the upper TH.

Driving Directions

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 Cielo Vista Ranch at the North Headquarters gate.
  • 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.
Due to inaccuracies, do not use Google/Apple Maps directions to get to the Culebra trailhead. Please use the instructions on the trailhead page.

Winter Access

The ranch does allow some winter hiking so email the ranch to determine availability and parking.

More Info

Parking: Plenty at the ranch headquarters and higher.
Camping: The ranch allows you to set up a tent near the gate before they let people in each morning. They don't allow people to go in the night before and camp on the property.
Restrooms? Yes, at the gate and headquarters
Fees? Yes
Trailhead added by BillMiddlebrook
Status Updates 
Posted By: Marmot96
Info: Clear and dry. Echoing others, the road is steep but not very rocky or technical. Drove a ’22 Mazda CX-5 with 7.5" of clearance and was just fine. The parking lot has a steep entrance and is fairly rocky, not sure I would park there if there was a potential for rain since I don’t think many vehicles with street tires would be able to climb the hill out.
Posted By: supranihilest
Info: Nothing overly technical, just steep and bumpy. You’ll definitely want some moderate clearance, but there was an Outback at the upper trailhead so beefier vehicles won’t have any problems. The road would probably suck if it was wet.
Posted By: soundchaser2112
Info: Open and dry all the way to 4WD trailhead
Posted By: ellenmseb
Info: Open to 4way.
Posted By: alohamischa
Info: Echoing the last update, the road is in pretty good shape until the actual trailhead. Little rough at times, and definitely quite steep, but most cars with decent clearance should be able to make it up the trailhead. The last 100 yards coming down into the trailhead, and the trailhead area itself, are really rough and have big rocks sticking out all over. Road is completely dry all the way to the trailhead though!
Posted By: Pedro F
Info: Although the TH road isn’t particularly terrible (a bit steep at times, but generally fairly smooth), the parking area at the very end is kinda rowdy. A guy in a Honda CRV made it up the road OK, but got stuck in the parking area and a group of us had to push him out. Seemed like the continuously variable transmission in those things wasn’t dealing well with the rough terrain in the parking area, particularly when he was trying to go in reverse and get over a rock. The engine was revving, he wasn’t even spinning his wheels, it was simply not moving anywhere. If you have a CRV or vehicle with similar capabilities, you may want to consider parking at one of the few spots off to the side at the end of the TH road, before the descent into the parking area...or parking at four-way.
Posted By: RckyMntnHgh
Info: Upper trailhead parking is open. Very muddy road this morning from gate to headquarters after heavy rain but dried out for exit.
Posted By: Ssgustafson
Info: The ranch has opened up the 4WD road to "4-Way," which is an easy 1 mile hike to the 4WD TH. There are a few snowdrifts on the road close to the 4WD TH that will probably be gone in a week or two.
Posted By: street taco
Info: The ranch is allowing climbers to drive 2 miles up the road from HQ. It is likely at least a month or maybe 2 until the road clears to the Four Way and Upper Trailhead.
Posted By: SnowAlien
Info: Still had to park at Headquarters. Snow starts about ~0.25 miles from HQ, bit it’s pretty thin and melting fast in the first mile. Snow is deeper above 10k. After 4-way it’s getting thinner also (south facing road)
Posted By: E_A_Marcus_949
Info: No snow. Easy to get to the CVR office building then to Four Way. It’s steep after that, though. The road itself is in decent shape for a rocky dirt road, but it gains a bit of elevation. If you can make it to Four Way you can make it to the upper TH. Like all 4WD roads, pick your line in certain areas and make sure to watch your speed up/down. My Forester made it all the way just fine - there was another Forester, 4Runners, Trucks, XTerra, Highlander.
Posted By: Zambo
Info: Road is now completely clear and snow free all the way to the upper trail head.
Posted By: ClimberSkierDave64
Info: Was able to drive all the way to the upper trailhead. The road was completely clear except for a few snow drifts we had to blast through before the upper trailhead but now that multiple vehicles have driven through it has become a lot easier.
Posted By: bully7
Info: Staff took us to a parking spot approx 2 miles below the Four Way. No snowshoes/traction required.
Posted By: Ryan1979
Info: I got lost using the Google maps link from the app. Never had a problem with it before and it may have been a Google issue. I ended up at a locked gate just outside San Francisco, CO. The trail head directions are spot on though and will get you to the ranch if you follow them from the Conoco in San Luis.
Posted By: Ptglhs
Info: Road is driveable to 4wd TH. Any decent clearance AWD should make it imo. I was in a Jeep and had no issues.
Posted By: spaceman_mort
Info: Road is clear and dry up to the 4WD parking area, but Carlos had us all park at the Four Way
Posted By: djacobson
Info: You can drive ~2.6mi up the 4WD road from the HQ. Road got slushy after that and on the way back it was like a running river. Please be respectful of private property and listen to Carlos when he tells you where to stop and park so you dont force him to come tow you out. We saw two cars who didnt stop at the proper point and had to be towed out.

We made it to the 4WD TH in just boots but 100% needed snowshoes on the way out. Even post holed a bit with snowshoes near the upper TH. Road was a full on slush fest. We removed snowshoes near the Four Way as there was a mostly snow free line to walk back to the cars without them. Its melting fast up there! Hope this info helps!
Posted By: daway8
Info: Confirming/compiling recent updates: If you click on the Google map link in the app it won’t take you to the gate you need to be at (though it will put a mark over the ranch house). Instead, if using Google, plug in the coordinates AcornMan provided and it will take you right there, 37.1709, -105.3037. Or look at the map supranihilest sketched out which shows the right locations (I copied/pasted the photo here for easy access). Don’t forget to print out the waiver from Must hike from HQ but trail mostly packed to upper 4WD trailhead except some windblown portions.
Posted By: supranihilest
Info: There are at least two entrances to the Cielo Vista Ranch. We followed Google Maps which took us to the wrong gate. Google took us to the north gate, which is a single metal gate with "CV" on it. It is located at the end of Whiskey Pass Road/CR L.7. This is not the correct entrance. The correct entrance is due south at the junction of Road 25.5 (also note there are two Road 25.5s, one to the east and one to the west; I am talking about the eastern one) and CR M.5. There are two large, green gates here and signs for camping. The Roach book describes the correct directions as well as the correct gate; the directions on this website are correct but it mentions the "north gate" which is incorrect, it is actually the south gate. See the map screenshot for more information.
Posted By: madadraw1
Info: FYI, steep incline. My Rav4’s tires were burning before we reached bottom. Despite using 1st gear entire way.
Posted By: LetsGoMets
Info: Carlos opened the gate at 545AM, easy check in, solid host. Road is in good shape - steep in parts. Rougher from 4 way, but saw a Forester make it.

Used the dot com directions to the gate, right on target.
Posted By: AcornMan
Info: Road all the way to the upper trailhead is very Subaruable. The road between the lower trailhead (aka "4 Way) and upper trailhead is very easy. If your vehicle can make it to the lower trailhead, you should definitely be able to make it to the upper trailhead.

I’ve seen several posts about people having difficulty finding the entrance gate for the ranch. Just punch the following coordinates into Google Maps or whatever other navigation system you’re using...
...and it will take you right to it. That worked for me using Google Maps and Garmin.
Posted By: sallenrogem87
Info: Though long, this road is definitely doable in a Subaru. I have a 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek with 8.7 inches of ground clearance and the stock tires that came with the vehicle (still have good tread). I am NOT a seasoned off-road driver and this road did not have me feeling too nervous at all. Yes, it is steep at times, but it seems like where it’s steep it isn’t very rocky. We were able to drive all the way up to the 4WD TH without incident. Getting in and out of the parking area at the 4WD TH really isn’t bad, though you may have to get creative with a spot if you are one of the last vehicles into the parking area.
Posted By: merrion13
Info: Completely dry and in good shape; however, the road does get pretty steep after the ranch on the way to Four Way...a FWD CRV with street tires got stuck on the hill and had to be towed to a flat area yesterday. If you don’t think your car will make it, simply park at the HQ and ride up with others.
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