RT Length: 19.45 miles
Elevation Gain: 5950’
Route: Horn Creek Trailhead via Macey Trail
I was here last week and summited PT 13541 via Horn Lakes Trail, and to put it nicely, it was awful! Once the trail ended at the creek crossing (Dry creek, which was flowing fast), I was met with hundreds of feet of 8-foot-tall willows to navigate, standing in about 18 inches of standing water.
There was no way I could recommend that route, so I went about trying to figure out another one. While this route is a bit longer, bonus: no willows in water!!!
I parked at the Horn Creek Trailhead and was on the trail at 4:30am. The trailhead was full of vehicles (last week I was the only vehicle in the lot). The trail starts at the west end of the parking area, which holds about 20 vehicles. There are information maps here and a clean restroom. Dispersed camping is allowed for 14 days, and there are horse corrals.
I followed the Rainbow Trail for just under half a mile to this junction, then turned left and continued following Rainbow Trail / Macey Trail.
This trail is very well defined: it’s used for OHVs. I followed the trail as it hugged the side of the mountain, heading south
After hiking for a total of 3.3 miles I came to another junction, and took the Macey Trail west. This trail is a little more narrow, but still class 1.
There’s a trail register a ways after the junction. I signed it and continued on.
Just after Macey Falls, and just before making it to the first Macey Lake, I left the trail and headed northwest. I’d hiked 6.5 miles total to this point. I’m guessing this is a camping area, because I left the trail at this marker (seen on the right side of the trail).
If you see this sign, you’ve gone a couple of yards too far.
I bushwhacked northeast to treeline, about half a mile. This wasn’t too bad: there were downed trees, but not too many. I was mostly pushing my way through thigh-high flowers and grasses. I started out by skirting a small pond to the right.
And then hiking up through grasses, flowers, and trees. The elevation gain was moderate and I never came across a large obstacle (cliff, water, drainage, huge boulder, etc.)
After about half a mile I was at treeline, and could clearly see the ridge
I made my way to the ridge, staying mostly on tundra and rocks. The willows are small and completely avoidable.
Once on the ridge I turned left, and followed it southwest
The ridge has a lot of ups and downs. I crossed over two small bumps (kind of like ears), then lost 150’ of elevation and gained it again to the true summit of Little Baldy Mountain. This is the best way to describe where Little Baldy Mountain is (an unranked 12er). There is a cairn on the first hump, but it’s the second cairn you’re looking for (if it really even matters? It is unranked. Just follow the ridge and you’ll hit it).
The ridge is a bit rocky, with some tundra thrown in, and all class 2. Here you can see the route to PT 13517 and 13541
Here’s an overview of the route I took. I summited PT 13517 first, then took the ridge to PT 13541, and then went saddle to saddle.
Here are some step by step photos. First, the ridge to PT 13517
The ridge was mostly tundra, but became rocky at the end. All of the rock above treeline feels like Crestone rock: conglomerate with lots of hand holds. The only difference is these are rocks, and not slabs. This stays class 2
I summited PT 13517 (unranked) at 9:15am
Here’s looking back at the ridge and the route in
Here’s looking back at the Horn Creek approach: Look at all that water and willows!!!
Now to head over to the ranked peak of the day: PT 13541. Check out those Crestones!
The trek over to 13541 was straightforward, and a simple ridge hike until the last bit or so (circled in red)
I hiked down to the saddle and enjoyed the views for a bit. Doesn’t Kit Carson Peak look like a cooked (or uncooked) turkey from this angle?
From the saddle, here’s looking up at 13517
Most of this ridge to PT 13541 is just a tundra hike, until the end, where it becomes rocky and there are some steep drop offs to avoid. Here’s an overall view of the route: A little more than half way up the ridge I left the ridge and skirted the mountain to the left to head towards the summit
The ridge gets a little rocky, but this stays class 2
Just when you think you’re at the summit…
You’re close, but not there yet. I had my helmet with me but decided it wasn’t really necessary. I dropped my gear and headed towards the true summit. This was easy class 3, with plenty of hand/footholds.
You can stay on top of the ridge the entire time, or dip down to the right. The summit is in the middle of this short ridge
I summited PT 13541 at 9:55am I didn’t feel safe setting up my camera, so I took a selfie
I left a summit register, and then went back to get my gear.
It was a really nice day, so I enjoyed my time here for a while. I took a ton of fun photos, and did some visual research for another peak I still need to figure out how to climb in the area (next week???). When it was time to head back, I made my way back to the 13517/13541 saddle the way I’d come, then traversed over to the 13517/Little Baldy Mountain saddle. This was all class 2 on tundra and talus
Here are some more visuals:
From the saddle, here’s looking back at PT 13541
Once at the saddle I followed the ridge back up and over Little Baldy Mountain and the two small humps
After the second rocky hump I left the ridge and descended southeast, back towards Macey Lakes
Once in the trees I just kept aiming southeast until I made it back to the trail (Macey Trail 1341)
Now on the trail, I followed it back to the Rainbow Trail
And then followed the Rainbow Trail back to the trailhead
I made it back to my truck at 2:30pm, making this a 19.45 mile hike with 5950’ of elevation gain in 10 hours.