RT Length: 12.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 4530’
I just love the local herd of bighorn sheep in this area! I’ve seen them a few times, usually up at Willow Lake. It’s neat watching the babies get bigger. They greeted me this time on my way to the Willow Lake trailhead.
The trailhead was deserted for a Friday afternoon. I sat back, ate some peanut butter off a spoon, sipped some whiskey, and jotted down notes from the day. The bathrooms were still open, clean, and stocked.
Before making it an early night I pre-signed the trail register, red a bit, and headed to bed. I’m so darn comfortable sleeping in the bed of my truck, it’s difficult to get up and out in the morning. Oh, and I ‘installed’ new lights, if anyone’s interested:
The South Crestone trail starts from the same area as the Willow Lake trail.
The trails quickly diverge, and I followed the South Crestone trail, heading northeast.
The South Crestone trail (860) is a class 1 trail that will lead you all the way to South Crestone Lake, without any junctions.
After hiking for 1.6 miles I passed an old log cabin, and started switchbacking up the hillside.
At the top of the swithcbacks the waterfalls started. They were located alongside the trail, but didn’t impede the actual trail. Since it was cold this morning, the ice never got a chance to melt (these pictures were taken on my return).
I came to a meadow, and then switchbacked up to the lake
I always know I’m close to the lake when I see the “no camping or livestock within 300 feet of lake” sign.
After hiking for just over 5 miles, I made it to South Crestone Lake
I’d gone too far, but on purpose: I’d wanted to see the lake. About 5 yards before the lake, there’s a post near the trail. I’m sure it was informational at some point, but now it’s just a post (and difficult to miss).
At this post I turned left, leaving the trail. From here on out, it was a class 2 hike.
As soon as you leave the trees, you have a great visual of the rest of the hike
Here’s the route I took to the summit of PT 13153
First, I ascended this rocky/willowy/tundra filled gully. Note the rock circled, as it will be your visual cue when you exit.
At the top of the gully, I stayed on the tundra, avoiding the rock outcroppings both above and below. But was unable to avoid the willows. I just aimed diagonally for the first pile of rocks on the ridge I could see. There’s no reason to try to ascend directly to the ridge; just keep aiming northeast.
Staying on the tundra will help to avoid rock-hopping
Once on the ridge, it was a simple hike to the summit
I summited PT 13153 at 8:45am. It was cold.
There were some great views of the Crestones
There was a summit register, but it was too cold for me to attempt to open it. Have I mentioned it was cold and windy? I wanted to get down off the ridge asap.
Here’s an overview of the route back to the lake. Remember, just aim for that big rock that signals your decent down the gully
Here are some pictures of the way back to that large rock
Once at the large rock, I descended back down to the lake
This brought me to the class 1, South Crestone Trail, which I followed back to the trailhead
I was really surprised at all the witch’s hair I saw on the trees. It’s completely taken over in some parts. In the dark I’d thought the green were pine needles: Not so.
As I rounded the corner, just before descending down the switchbacks to the cabin, a herd of bighorn sheep darted across my path, kicking up dust and thundering down the hillside. They were too quick for a good picture, but I was 100% sure it was the same herd I’d seen yesterday, and last time I was at Willow Lake (we’ve bonded). I’ll add this to my growing list of wildlife ‘butt’ shots.
Here are some more pictures of the trail back to the trailhead
I made it back to my truck at 11:30am, making this a 12.1 mile hike with 4530’ of elevation gain in 6 hours, 30 minutes.
Today had been much easier than anticipated. I was done earlier than expected, which was great! Now to head home; my daughter comes back from college for Thanksgiving break tonight, and I want to have her favorite dinner ready for her when she arrives!