Hiking Culebra Peak | A Privately Owned 14er Adventure
Of the 58 named or ranked Colorado 14ers, only Culebra Peak is privately owned. Some appreciate the closed access as it ensures solitude and an off-trail, bushwhacking adventure on the peaks’ standard route (unlike any other peak). Other argue the peak should be public property just like the rest. Regardless of your views, if you want to climb Culebra in the short term, you’ll need to contact the ranch (Cielo Vista Ranch) and pay a $150 fee to climb the peak July through September. Before hiking Culebra Peak plan your trip with my guide.
Hiking Culebra Peak: Fast Facts
Hiking Culebra Peak - Northwest Ridge Route
After checking in at the Ranch Office, head up the 4WD road towards the upper trailhead (they’ll supply specific directions and instructions). At the upper trailhead, you can park and set out on one of two options. Either take an old road to start or cross the stream before heading towards Culebra’s northwest ridge.
The more popular route involves crossing the stream just past the trailhead and continuing up the drainage up towards the ridge.
The alternative route continues up the slope here and further to your left, meeting the ridge before turning towards you.
Nearing the ridge, turn right at a large cairn marking the ridge proper. You still have over a mile left to reach the summit. This is a good place to stop and check the weather conditions before continuing.
From this vantage point, you can see most of the route ahead. Be wary of a large false summit looming ahead. There’s plenty scrambling left for you beyond it.
Nearing the false summit, stay on the ridge proper as you near it and climb directly over the top.
Beyond the false summit, you can see the entire remaining route ahead of you. Continue falling the ridge (or just to the right of the ridge) as you head towards the final summit crux.
Near 13,900 feet, you face your final 150-foot scramble to the summit, the crux of the climb. Pick your line up the stable rock and scramble up to the summit. Once you reach the top, enjoy your accomplishment!
Enjoy a summit beer or drink of water, and be sure to get back to the tree line before afternoon thunderstorms become problematic. I hope you enjoyed my Culebra Peak Route Guide.
Before you start hiking Culebra Peak, you need a good topographical map of the route to help you navigate. I recommend downloading this map on your phone, and also printing out a backup paper copy in case anything happens to your electronics. Best of luck hiking Culebra Peak!
Culebra Peak is climbed from the Cielo Vista Ranch.
DIRECTIONS TO THE CIELO VISTA RANCH TRAILHEAD:
- Turn south on Highway 159 and drive just over 15.5 miles to reach the town of San Luis.
- Near a Conoco gas station, turn left on 4th Street (P.6 Road) and drive 4.0 miles to the town of Chama.
- Turn left on the L.7 Road.
- Drive 3.6 miles on L.7, cross a bridge and turn right on the 25.5 Road (dirt).
- Drive 0.5 mile on 25.5 and turn left on the M.5 Road.
- Drive 0.9 mile on M.5 to reach the Cielo Vista Ranch at the North Headquarters gate.
- The gate is normally closed/locked and ranch representatives will meet you for an escort to the ranch headquarters, usually at 6am on the morning of your hike.
- Once through the north HQ gate, continue 2 miles to the ranch headquarters for check-in.
- Leave HQ on an easy-4WD road (It is 4.4 miles total to the upper trailhead).
- At 0.1 mile, stay right.
- Near 2.5 miles, the road goes through some great meadows (~11,000′).
- Reach “Four Way” at 3.4 miles. Plenty of parking.
- Continue straight through Four Way to reach the upper trailhead at 4.4 miles.
Hiking Culebra Peak will take you a good deal of time. There are many miles of hiking and a significant amount of scrambling at high altitudes. A good pair of hiking boots are ideal for this kind of adventure. Here are my top hiking boot recommendations.
You should always bring the ten essentials with you on your trip (see the infographic below). To carry them all, bring a backpack with 20-30 liters capacity. These are several good backpack options that won’t break the bank.
While trekking poles are not a necessity on this mountain, I use them myself as they offer many benefits and make hiking easier. If you want a pair, I share my personal favorites here.
Don’t forget to bring 2 liters of water, and a good bit of snacks and food for the trip. Learn more about packing for a 14er here.
Camping near Culebra Peak:
There are also many dispersed camping opportunities along forest roads near the trailhead ideal for those hiking Culebra Peak. Learn more about dispersed camping near 14ers here.
Lodging near Culebra Peak:
There are many cabins available via Airbnb and other services in Trinidad and the surrounding area, ideal for those hiking Culebra Peak.
Culebra Peak is in a pristine area due to the limited access Help preserve this mountain and area while hiking Culebra Peak by following these Leave No Trace practices:
- Plan ahead, review the route, and pick a weekday or day in September to hike.
- Stay on the trail, and keep dogs leashed on and off-trail to reduce trampling of alpine grass.
- Leave your Bluetooth speaker at home and let nature’s sound reign.
- Urinate off-trail, and pack out your waste – a cathole won’t work at high altitude.
- Give wildlife a wide berth – 100 meters if possible. If they approach, back up to keep space.
- Take nothing but pictures, and leave nothing but footprints.
Safe travels, and good luck hiking Culebra Peak! Learn more about LNT on 14ers here.
Hiking Culebra Peak is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe.
- Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
- Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
- Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
- Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
- Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
- Bring a buddy on your first ascent, preferably someone experienced.
Hiking Culebra Peak is an inherently high-risk, dangerous activity. There is a significant risk of injury or death, even with proper planning and experience. Those using my guide accept all risks associated with climbing 14ers and do not hold this website or any information they obtain from it liable for any accidents or injuries that occur while engaging in these activities on Colorado’s high peaks. It is each hiker or climber’s responsibility to research their route carefully, bring the ten essentials, and practice other safe practices, though even these precautions do not eliminate risk and danger. Visit these summits at your own risk.