Sunshine Peak

Northwest Face
Difficulty Difficult Class 2 
Risk FactorsExposure: Moderate
Rockfall Potential: High  
Route-Finding: Considerable  
Commitment: Moderate  
Start10,400 feet
Summit14,004 feet
Total Gain3,800 feet
RT Length8.50 miles
Last UpdatedOct 2022
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First, take Highway 149 to Lake City. From Lake City, drive about 2 miles south on Colorado 149 and turn right on County Road 30 toward Lake San Cristobal and Cinnamon Pass. From the start of the 30 road, it's nearly 16 miles to the trailhead. Stay right near 11.8 miles. After 12.5 miles the road becomes more rough, and between 13 and 14.5 miles it's a shelf road that hugs the south side of Sunshine Peak. Before 16 miles, reach the trailhead in an open area. Parts of this road are rough, but when it's dry good-clearance 2WD vehicles should be able to get to the trailhead.


From the Silver Creek trailhead parking area, follow the trail northeast up a hill and into the forest. Near 11,100', leave the forest and continue on the trail as it parallels Silver Creek on your right - 1. Above 11,300', look sharp for a cairn down near the stream - 2 and 3. Leave the main trail, cross the stream , and locate a small trail in the bushes, a few feet to the left. This trail ascends south into the South Fork of Silver Creek, toward Sunshine Peak.

Hike through the trees and continue parallel to the South Fork stream. Near 11,600', turn left ( 4) to climb a slope and re-enter the trees above 11,700'. Pass an old shack near 11,800' and continue to tree line, where most of the remaining route is visible to the south - 5. Continue toward the south end of the basin ( 6) and ascend a rock glacier, near 12,400' - 7. The remaining hike to the end of the basin is on talus. Do not turn left (east) in this area - continue directly south toward the end of the basin - 8 and 9. The trail may disappear but there are a few cairns that may help.

To reach Sunshine's northwest face, the route climbs a small, steep gully . Locate the gendarme shown in 9 and hike to the gully on its LEFT. Climb the steep, scree-filled gully ( 10 and 11) to reach 13,300'. Continue another 100+ feet to reach a flat area below the northwest face - 12. If you plan on returning via this route, take a look back to memorize the location of the top of gully. You now have two options to reach the summit - 13: 1) Use a loose trail on the left side of the face or 2) Continue to the right side of the face and hike up the west ridge. The 1st option has become more popular in recent years because it's more-direct but the 2nd option is more stable and is what is described next.

Continue south below the northwest face ( 14) to locate a trail that climbs to the crest of Sunshine's west ridge . Ascend to the ridge crest, near 13,600' - 15 and 16. Turn left and follow the ridge to the summit - 17, 18, 19 and 20. 21 and 22 look back over the northest face and the exit gully.

For the descent, return down the west ridge and pass below the northwest face to reach the top of the dirt gully. STOP! The correct gully is not obvious from this position so make sure you take the time to get it right. Taken from the west ridge, 22 shows the gendarmes and location of the correct descent gully. It's just to the right (east) of the smaller of the two gendarmes seen in 22. Many hikers who start with Redcloud and descend this route (as a loop) don't have the advantage of hiking up through this area first so there may be cairns leading to the wrong gully.


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