Redcloud & Sunshine Peak Standard Route Guide

Redcloud Peak and Sunshine Peak are one of the only easy pairs of peaks to bag in the San Juans. The 12.25 mile route to climb them both is only Class 2 and is readily accessible. The toughest thing about this climb is just the time it takes to reach the trailhead in the first place, deep in southern Colorado. If you have time, consider climbing Handies Peak nearby, another popular 14er. Start planning your trip here with my Redcloud & Sunshine Peak Standard Route Guide.

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

Redcloud & Sunshine Peaks Fast Facts

  • Standard Route: Northwest Ridge
  • Trailhead: Silver Creek
  • Elevation Gain: 4,800 feet
  • Round-Trip Distance: 12.25 Miles
  • Difficulty Level: Class 2 Scramble
  • Range: San Juan Range

Redcloud & Sunshine Peaks Standard Route Guide

The trails starts out following a good forest path before it reaches tree line. Continue along the left side of a beautiful creek with the Basin towering ahead of you.

Climbing Redcloud & Sunshine Peaks Standard Route Guide

As you near the headwall of the basin, you’re next goal is taking a right turn and heading across the valley. You’re aiming for a broad slope which you’ll climb next.

Climbing Redcloud & Sunshine Peaks Standard Route Guide

Across the valley, you’ll find yourself looking up a slope. A series of switchbacks brings you up to the ridge we’ll take to reach the summit. In spring and early summer microspikes and trekking poles are helpful here for snow.

Climbing Redcloud & Sunshine Peaks Standard Route Guide

Once up on the ridge, take a right and begin working your way up the ridge towards the summit. There are several interruptions where you have to move to the right to avoid difficult terrain on the ridge proper – don’t try to take shortcuts. 

Pass a false summit before seeing the crux of the route left to reach the peak of Redcloud. A large cornice lies along the way in the spring and early summer – avoid getting too close to the edge as they break without warning.

At the summit of Redcloud Peak, stop to check the weather before you make the decision to continue on to Sunlight Peak. Few opportunities exist to bail if storms form, so take caution. 

As you get halfway to Sunlight, the remainder of the route will look like this. Stick to the right of the ridge until you get close to a false summit. At that point, cross to the left side and follow the ridge up to the crux.

This picture better shows the crossover from the right to the left side of the ridge, along with the final crux of the climb. Don’t give up, you’re almost there!

Once you reach the summit, enjoy the views of the San Juans in all directions. Enjoy some food and water but make sure you head down with time to reach tree line before afternoon thunderstorms move. I hope you enjoyed my Redcloud & Sunshine Peaks Standard Route Guide. If you think I missed something, leave a comment below with your thoughts!

Redcloud & Sunshine Peak Standard Route Guide

Hiking & climbing 14ers is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe.

  1. Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
  2. Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
  3. Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
  4. Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
  5. Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.

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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.