Crestone Peak Standard Route Guide

The Crestones are two of the state’s most ruggest 14ers, nestled in the southern rockies. Crestone Needle is a shorter route, with a bit more difficult scramble. Crestone Peak has a longer route, including the need to regain Broken Hand Pass on your way back to the trailhead. This isn’t a route for beginners: take your time and research the route to stay safe. Get started with your research with this Crestone Peak Standard Route Guide.

PLANNING A WINTER CLIMB? READ MY BLOG ON CLIMBING 14ERS IN WINTER CONDITIONS

Crestone Peak Fast Facts

  • Standard Route: South Face
  • Trailhead: South Colony Lakes
  • Elevation Gain: 5,700 feet
  • Round-Trip Distance: 14 Miles
  • Difficulty Level: Class 3 Scramble
  • Range: Sangre de Christo Range

Crestone Peak Standard Route Guide

Follow the road from the upper trailhead through the forest. The way is relatively flat, with few turns along the way. After many miles you will reach a turnoff to the right from the main road, stay left on the road. 

Crestone Peak Standard Route Guide

Continue pass the road through a gate at the end. Hike along a slope and past a mining claim as you re-enter the forest and approach the South Colony Lakes area.

Crestone Peak Standard Route Guide

If you’re spending the night before your ascent, I recommend sleeping somewhere near the lakes. Be sure you don’t sleep too close to the water, and watch out for signs with restoration areas. In the morning, head along the south side of the lake and pickup the trail up to Broken Hand Pass.

Crestone Peak Standard Route Guide

This is a rough, rocky trail, with a few Class 3 moves at the notch at the top of the pass. In spring months, there will still be snow in the shaded area and you’ll want crampons and an ice axe. Make sure you wear a helmet year-round and alert others below you when rocks go falling down.

Crestone Peak Standard Route Guide

Make it up onto the saddle of Broken Hand Pass, a great spot for a pause and snack. Once you’re ready head down the slope and head towards Cottonwood Lake and Crestone Peak beyond it.

Crestone Peak Standard Route Guide

Skirt the shoreline of the lake and refill your water bottles if you need it, this is one of the last good spots. Take a right beyond the lake and begin regaining elevation along the trail.

Crestone Peak Standard Route Guide

Head to the right to skirt a steep section at the bottom of the South couloir up Crestone Peak.Then take a right up the rough trail as you head towards the base of the gully.

Crestone Peak Standard Route Guide

Enter the bottom of the Red Gully from the right. You’ll see why it’s named so. The difficulty never exceeds Class 3 so long as you move back and forth to find the best path as needed. 

Crestone Peak Standard Route Guide

Generally stick to the middle of the gully, and go to the left of the right as needed to avoid steeper territory before returning to the center. In spring months there may be sections of snow where crampons and an ice axe are highly advised. 

Crestone Peak Standard Route Guide

This is one of the steeper sections in the gully, beyond 13,500 feet. Take your time moving up the ledges, aiming for a notch at the top that separates Crestone Peak from the traverse towards the Crestone Needle.

Crestone Peak Standard Route Guide

At the top of the gully, turn left and climb a series of exposed ledges to the summit. This is the most exposed section of the entire climb, but it’s very easy scrambling on sturdy rock. Keep your eyes on the prize!

Crestone Peak Standard Route Guide

The view from the summit is spectacular, with valleys straddling either side of the mighty Sangre de Christo range. Look to the south to see the Great Sand Dunes National park, and look north to see the rest of the Rockies. I hope you enjoyed my Crestone Peak Standard Route Guide.

Crestone Peak Standard Route Guide

Crestone Peak Standard Route Guide

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About the Author: Alex Derr

Alex Derr is a mountaineer and blogger based in Denver Colorado. He is working to climb Colorado’s highest 100 peaks, and the 20 tallest peaks in California. He created The Next Summit to share advice, stories, history & reflections from the Colorado Rockies & Sierra Nevada. When not climbing, he is managing the Communications strategy at Visible Network Labs.