RT Length: 9.36 miles
Elevation Gain: 2894’
I needed a quick hike today before picking my mom up from the airport, and since this one is kind of close to I70 and the weather was nice I decided to go for it. I kind of wanted to do this as a loop with a few other 13ers in the area, but any excuse to get out and get another hike in the same area is good enough for me (I’ll be back).
I’ve heard a lot about the town of Montezuma and its lack of parking. Yes, there is a lack of parking. So, my advice is to do this hike on a weekday, or arrive early (or both) to secure a legal parking spot. Please respect private property owners’ rights.
When driving through Montezuma, and turning down 3rd street, on your right you’ll see this area, that looks inviting to park. DON’T PARK HERE! It’s private property. There are signs (covered in snow no doubt most of the time) asking you not to park in this area. I’ve circled one in red. Note, when you drive in, the sign is behind you, so it’s difficult to see. When I left the owner of the property was watching me from his window. It’s probably a game to him. So, don’t park here.
Instead, continue about 10 yards pasts this sign for 4WD road 264. (Also note, the black and white sign says ‘highway legal’ vehicles only.
Here you will find a small pull-off area where you can park. Only about 3-4 vehicles can park here if you all pull in nicely, so if you’re first, set the example. This is Public Land. From here on out, it goes back and forth between public and private land, and it can get confusing. The road also narrows and there are a lot of downed trees in the area, so it’s not really worth it to try to drive further. Especially in winter conditions (like today).
Just an FYI: There’s a house/structure around 10,800’. They plow the road themselves, but it’s still ‘iffy’ to drive to that point, and they currently have an unfriendly dog. I wouldn’t drive past the staging area, even if you feel you can.
After some careful maneuvering (my 4WD is still out and there were some deep ruts) I backed into a spot, gathered my gear, and was on my way at 5am. It was around 37 degrees outside, and the snow hadn’t consolidated overnight, so almost immediately I started post holing.
I’m stubborn, so it took me 1.5 miles to put on my snowshoes. I should have put them on right away. I followed 4WD road 264 for 3.7 miles to the saddle of Morgan Peak and Santa Fe Peak
Once at the saddle there was still a road, but it was difficult to discern with the snow, so I just headed southeast to the ridge
Here are some step by step pictures
Once on the ridge I could see Santa Fe Peak. I’d need to go right and follow the ridge southwest to reach the summit. The wind picked up here, and all that postholing I did earlier came back to haunt me: the snow I’d obtained in my socks from postholing had melted and now was freezing back into ice again: my socks and toes as a direct result were now frozen.
The ridge was easy to follow, and windblown.
There was one cornice, but it was easily avoidable, and made for a kind of ‘false summit’ (pic on the way back).
I summited Santa Fe Peak at 7:30am
Santa Fe Peak:
I didn’t see a summit register, so I left one. Here’s a look back on the other 13ers in the area. If it wasn’t so windy… if my socks and toes weren’t solid ice, and if I didn’t have to pick up my mom from the airport I’d be making this a loop, as the conditions looked perfect (sigh).
I turned and retraced my steps back over the cornice, along the ridge, to the saddle
It was interesting: I could see tire tracks, but due to downed trees on the road in, it’s probably been a while since vehicles have been up here
From the saddle I followed the 4WD road back to the trailhead, glad I’d decided to put my snowshoes on, as I came across my morning post-holing adventures
When I finally took the snowshoes off, I accidentally took a wrong turn, and ended up at the old Morgan Mine. I took a quick picture and re-traced my steps (probably private property so I didn’t investigate further than a quick photo).
When I made it to a bend in the road around 10,800’ I could see the residence/office (etc.) and immediately a dog rushed out and started barking at me. This is right where the Harold Roberts Tunnel is (short information on what that is and why it’s cool here).
I’d heard about this dog, and was a little bit apprehensive. However, I held my trekking pole in my right hand, and my Ruger in my left hand inside my coat pocket. I’d hate to actually hurt an animal, but if it attacked, I was ready. Luckily, this dog was all bark and no bite: It barked viciously, but never left his/her side of the road. I kept walking like I was supposed to be there, and nothing came of the encounter.
I continued following the road back to my truck.
I made it back to my truck at 9:30am, making this a 9.36 mile hike with 2894’ of elevation gain in 4.5 hours.
As I drove out, I stopped to get pictures of the trailhead, parking/no parking areas, etc. for a trip report. The owner of the house nearest the parking area stood in his window and watched me the entire time with a scowl on his face.