Peak(s):  Culebra Peak  -  14,047 feet
Red Mtn A  -  13,908 feet
Date Posted:  06/27/2014
Date Climbed:   06/21/2014
Author:  mspalding
 Culebra - Andrew Zoomed By  

Enjoying Cielo Ranch - Culebra and Red Mountain

I see there haven't been any Culebra trip reports recently. This report should give you details on current logistical and other issues. Overall the peak is a surprisingly enjoyable hike in the southernmost reaches of Colorado.

Getting There
It's a bit less than 4 hours from Denver to San Luis. It's worth leaving early so you can take a peek (not peak) at the town and check out the Stations of the Cross.

Three buildings in one

The Stations of the Cross is a 20 minute trail up the side of a hill that winds through 13 bronze statues from the story of the crucifixion of Jesus. The statues are worth a look even if the story isn't part of your world view. The trail is one block north of the Conoco and on the other side of the street. It's across from the above pictured Town Hall.

There are descriptive texts at each station

This church on top is open for visitors.

After that detour, I returned to the Conoco and found the directions on this site to be accurate. It took about 20 minutes to get to the gates.

Yes you can camp. I talked to the ranch representative the next morning and he said that the sign had been stolen, but everyone was welcome to camp. There is a great flat area across from the outhouse on the corner with the telephone pole. You just step through the bars of the gate and pop your tent. When I got there no one was there. No one even appeared until Andrew Hamilton's (the guy breaking the 14er climb time record) support team showed up at 7:30p. The other 11 climber cars didn't show up until sometime in the night or early in the morning. I enjoyed being out amongst the sagebrush.

Culebra is the rightmost peak.

This is a beautiful place to camp. The mosquitos didn't show up until 8p. The coyotes started howling at 8:30p and continued intermittently until morning.

A faster way to the trailhead

The ranch representative showed up at 6a and, after letting Andrew take off on his motorbike, led the rest of us to the Ranch. If you straddle the ruts, a 2wd can make it to this point. FYI: no one paid at the Ranch as everyone had prepaid via Paypal.

The road from there to Fourway and 4WD trailheads has more avoidable deep ruts but is probably not passable in a 2wd. Parts are so steep, I could only get up to 10 to 15 miles/hour with the accelerator of my 4wd floored. And some of these steep parts are littered with loose rock.

We were able to start hiking at 6:35a. Even though this is the longest day of the year, the ranch warned us that we would owe another $100 if we didn't check out by 6p.

There are two ways up to the ridge. You'll come to the area in the photo below after hiking up the road and into a meadow. If you stay to the left it is less steep but then you need to cover a bit of distance along the ridge before you meetup with the route to the right. Using the route to the right I crested at 8:15a. A shout out to Boyd, Brian and Dennis who took the other route and later passed me anyway.

Steeper vs Longer


After this you just follow the ridge in a large horseshoe to the summit. It is fun to work your way around on the ridge top and there are only one or two steep bits. As mentioned in the route description, it is well worth going to the right around the false summit rather than going over it. In any case you are in for a lot of rock hopping.

On Culebra summit with Red Mountain behind and to the left

20 minutes on the summit was plenty in the strong cold winds. Gloves and windproof gear are recommended. I spent an hour continuing on to Red Mountain. Coming off the Culebra summit takes you over loose rock. But once you get down to the saddle, the terrain is easier. Switchbacks make the climb up Red Mountain easier than it looks. I started back from Red Mountain at 11:15a.

Is he licking sweat? Pee?

You can save some time and avoid the loose rock off the Culebra summit by cutting across to the red strip. In the photo below it's the rock band with the one hiker on top. A bit past the end of the saddle and before you get too far re-climbing Culebra, you want to head diagonally toward the strip of reddish rock.

You can see two climbers in the cloud and one who's just finished the cut.

Then its just following the ridge again with a detour around the false summit. I dropped off the ridge at the same point I came up at 2p and was back at Fourway by 3:10.

Can you find the Ptarmigan?

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

 Comments or Questions
Wish I lived in CO

Nice Trip, Nice Beta
06/29/2014 12:00
Headin' down there in a few weeks. This was a great primer. Thx!

Well done
06/30/2014 02:48
I just did Culebra on Saturday, June 28th. I wish I had seen this before I climbed. Great recap for a really nice hike.

Four way with 4 and 4 packs
07/03/2014 14:37
Driving an Outback to the trail head with the plan to do both peaks next week. Thoughts? With 4 people and 4 packs, do you think it is realistic to expect to get to 4 way or will we end up parking at the ranch? Thanks for the info re camping.

You'll Park at the Ranch
07/10/2014 13:17
@nilaoire - with that much weight it will be difficult to climb the steep hills and you'll spin out. I'd say you'll be parking at the ranch.


Great TR
05/31/2015 17:57
I’m doing this at the end of June. This helps.

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