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Kit Carson Peak

 Via Challenger Point
Difficulty Easy Class 3 
Risk FactorsExposure: Considerable
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: Considerable  
Commitment: Considerable  
 
TrailheadWillow Creek
Start8,850 feet
Summit14,167 feet
Total Gain6,250 feet from TH
3,450 feet from Willow Lake
850 feet from Challenger Point
RT Length15 miles from TH
5.5 miles from Willow Lake
1.5 miles from Challenger
AuthorBillMiddlebrook
Last UpdatedOct 2022
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Trailhead

Take Colorado 17 to the town of Moffat. On the south side of town, look for the sign for Crestone and turn east on the "RD T" road. Drive approx. 11.5 miles to Crestone. Continue straight and turn left on Alder Street. Drive through town a bit and turn right onto Galena. Follow Galena out of town and it turns to dirt. Now on Forest Service road #949, it's approx. 2 miles to the trailhead.

Route

Follow the Challenger Point - North Slope Route to the summit of Challenger. From Challenger, you can't miss Kit Carson - 1 and 2. Remember, you have to go to Kit Karson's summit and back to Challenger so be sure the weather will cooperate. Descend east to the small, 13,800-foot saddle between Challenger and Kit Carson ( 3) and climb onto a Class 2 ledge called Kit Carson Avenue that runs south along the side of the peak. Continue up the avenue ( 4) to reach a small, 13,960-foot saddle between Kit Carson and a large fin called The Prow - 5.

From here you can see the next part of the hike - a longer section of the Avenue which descends east - 6. Hike down the Avenue and pass through a wide notch - 7. 8 looks back on the upper half of the Avenue. Your next goal is to locate the entry point into a broad gully on the left, before a rock rib, and near the end of the avenue - 9, 10 and 11. Near 13,650', Turn left into the broad, shallow gully - 12. STOP! Before you leave the Avenue, look around and become familiar with the area so you know how to return to the Avenue because you need to go back over Challenger on your descent - 13.

From here, it's approximately 450 feet to the summit. Hike up the center of the gully on mostly Difficult Class 2 terrain - 14. As you hike higher, you will likely encounter a few sections of easy Class 3. Look for brief trail sections and small cairns as you take the easiest path up the center - 15. As you approach the ridge crest, angle left and pass some final rock-outcroppings - 16. Near 14,000' the terrain opens up and the summit is up to the left - 17. Continue to the summit ridge ( 18 and 19) and over to the summit - 20, 21 and 22. Taken from Crestone Peak, 23 shows the upper route. Descend the same way you came, back over Challenger.

Notes

This is the easiest way to climb Kit Carson, but it's a lot of elevation gain in one day. Consider a camp just below Willow Lake. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Sangre De Cristo Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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