Willow Creek Approach
 Class 1 
Risk Factors:Exposure: Low
Rockfall Potential: Low  
Route-Finding: Low  
Commitment: Low  
Trailhead:Willow Creek
Start:8,850 feet
Stop:11,564 feet
Total Gain:2,850 feet
RT Length:9.50 miles
Duration:User Climb Times
Weather:NOAA Forecast
Conditions:210 reports
Cell Signal:7 reports
Sheriff:Saguache: 719-655-2544
Forest:Rio Grande
Wilderness:Sangre De Cristo
Quad. Maps:Log In to View
Camping:On Google Maps
Eats:On Google Maps
Downloads:Log In to Download
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Take Colorado 17 to the town of Moffat. On the south side of town, look for a sign for the turn to Crestone. Turn east on the "RD T" road. You will soon see a Forest Service sign that says 15 miles to the South Crestone trailhead. Drive 11.4 miles to a road junction. Keep left and follow the main road into Crestone. In Crestone, turn right (east) onto Galena Street and the road will turn to 2WD dirt, with approx. 2 miles to go. When the road enters National Forest, it is labeled as the "South Crestone Road 949" and becomes more difficult but good-clearance vehicles should be able to make it to the end.


Leave the trailhead and follow the trail for a couple hundred feet to a trail junction - 1. Turn right and follow the Willow Creek trail into the forest and across 2 small streams. After a short distance, exit the forest, turn left, and continue up through a clearing - 2. Follow the solid trail back into the forest and up a bunch of large switchbacks. After over 1.25 miles from the trailhead, exit the forest on a small hill (9,900') where much of the remaining route can be seen to the east - 3.

Descend a bit, continue through semi-open terrain, and then follow the trail east back into the forest. Above 10,000', there are several areas of switchbacks - 4. Keep grinding east and northeast up through the forest to 10,400' where the trail begins to curve right (southeast) and crosses some rock slabs - 5. Taken from this general location, 6 looks southeast at the headwall you must ascend to reach the upper basin and Willow Lake. Near 10,900', cross the Willow Creek stream ( 7) and follow the trail as it switchbacks southeast up the headwall. Exit the trees near 11,100' and climb the final switchbacks ( 8) to reach the top of the headwall - 9.

On flatter terrain ( 10), pass a small boulder field and re-enter the forest. Hike a short distance to reach another stream crossing - 11. Cross back to the north side of the creek and continue on the trail toward Willow Lake. From the stream crossing, it's approximately 3/4 mile to the lake - 12. Potential camp sites start to appear within the last 1/2 mile to the lake, but most are closer. Just prior to the lake, pass a waterfall ( 13) and hike up a short, steep section of rock near some large boulders - 14. Continue a short distance to reach Willow Lake - 15. If you intend to climb Challenger and/or Kit Carson, it's best to locate the main trail and where it passes the lake, in daylight.


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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