Willow Creek Approach
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 Class 1 
Risk Factors:Exposure: Low
Rockfall Potential: Low  
Route-Finding: Low  
Commitment: Low  
Trailhead:Willow Creek
Start:8,850 feet
Upper Elevation:11,564 feet
Total Gain:2,850 feet
RT Length:9.50 miles
USGS Quad.:Crestone Peak
County Sheriff:Saguache: 719-655-2544
National Forest:Rio Grande
Wilderness Area:Sangre De Cristo
Last Updated:7/2019


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.


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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