PT 13543, PT 13533 & Little Baldy Mountain – 12982

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

PT 13517:

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

PT 13541: 

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.

Little Horn Peak – 13,143 and Fluted Peak – 13,576

RT Length:  12.35 miles

Elevation Gain: 5504’

I parked at the Horn Creek Trailhead, the only vehicle in the lot.  I’m always surprised at how few people take advantage of the free dispersed camping sites we have in Colorado, especially ones like this with a bathroom.  Eager to summit and get back to treeline before the incoming storm, I gathered my gear and was on the trail at 4:30am.  The trail starts by following the Rainbow Trail southwest for just over half a mile

Then I turned right onto Horn Creek Trail

I followed Horn Creek Trail for a short distance, about a tenth of a mile, before turning left at the junction towards Horn Creek Lakes.  Here there’s a register, that looks to be kept up.

I stayed on this trail for half a mile, before leaving the trail at 9590’ and heading north and then west up the ridge.  There is no trail here.  I left a small cairn to indicate where I left the trail, but I don’t expect it to be there long, as it was small.

Route finding here can be a bit tricky, but the goal is to gain the ridge.  I did this by heading west, through the pine and aspen trees.  Every once in a while, I’d come across a game trail.  They all fizzled out however.  This area is easy to navigate, as there aren’t too many downed trees.  I was able to avoid most of them.

Once I was on the ridge, I followed it southwest to treeline.  This is a long ridge, and it seemed to take forever to make it to treeline.  Here’s my first glimpse of Little Horn Peak

Like I said, this is a long ridge

The class 3 fun starts at the top of the ridge, which is a false summit.  From here you can see Little Horn Peak’s true summit

My trekking pole isn’t collapsible, so I left it at the start of the class 3 section, put on my helmet, and started heading straight over the ridge.  The class 3 section is consistent for another half mile to the summit. 

Start out by going straight over the ridge.  There is some exposure here. 

Then you’ll dip down to the right.  Look for a notch, go through it, and now you’re on the left side of the ridge. 

Go up the gully and cross back over to the right side of the ridge

There’s a section of rock to upclimb.  This was difficult class 3 / easy class 4 (and much more difficult and committing on the way back down later in the day).  

From the top of this section I could see the summit.  I stayed on the left side of the ridge from this point on, staying on class 2 terrain.

I summited Little Horn Peak at 7:45am

Little Horn Peak: 

That was it for the class 3 section of the hike.  The ridge over to Fluted Peak is class 2 (with the option to go up a class 3 chimney, but it’s avoidable).  Here’s Fluted Peak to the west.

This was a simple ridge hike to the saddle.  You can’t see them very well in this photo, but there was a mama bighorn sheep with her baby walking up the ridge.  The baby couldn’t have been more than a month old.

From the saddle, here’s how you keep this a class 2 hike (dotted lines show the class 3 route)

Here’s the first obstacle (class 2 solid, class 3 dotted):

And the second (class 2 solid, class 3 chimney dotted):

Here’s that chimney up close

After the chimney, it’s straightforward class 2 to the top of the ridge to the first false summit. 

Fluted Peak is actually here

There are two quick false summits to go up and over

And then the final summit

I summited Fluted Peak at 9am

Fluted Peak: 

The clouds were coming in fast, so I decided to re-trace my steps and head back to Little Horn Peak (I’ve already summited Horn Peak, so there was no need to make this a loop today).  I headed back to the ridge

Here’s a picture of Little Horn Peak from the Fluted Peak Ridge

It all stayed class 2 until I made it to the summit of Little Horn Peak

From there It was class 3 again until I made it to the ridge.

Here’s a closer look at that notch

And the last bit of scrambling to the ridge

I made it to the ridge and looked around for my trekking pole.  It wasn’t where I’d left it.  Instead, it was about 15 feet away, at the entrance to a marmot burrow. I picked it up and found some marmot had turned it into a snack.  Just adding more photographic evidence to prove the case “Marmots can’t be trusted with trekking poles”.

I sighed, took off my helmet, and headed back down the ridge (yes, I brought the trekking pole down). 

Once back at treeline I turned back for a last view as it started raining. 

The rain quickly turned to hail and I had to put my camera away. Here are some pictures of below treeline, in-between bouts of rain/hail. I just kept descending northeast, and when the ridge ended I continued east towards Horn Creek Trail.  Once again, I’d pick up game trails and then lose them.   A little advice:  you should be able to hear Horn Creek flowing below you to your right if you’re going in the correct direction.

Back on the trail I followed it to the trailhead.

I made it back to the trailhead at 1pm, making this a 12.35 mile hike with 5504’ of elevation gain in 8.5 hours.  That had been a fun day of scrambling!

I dried off and headed to the next trailhead.  When I got there it was still raining, so I decided to make dinner inside the topper of my truck.  I finished, cleaned up, and was sitting down to write notes in my journal when I heard a loud “BANG!” 

I looked up, and the back window to my topper crumpled and broke into thousands of pieces.  I honestly thought I’d been shot at, and turned around but didn’t see a bullet hole anywhere.  Next, I gingerly opened the window, crawled out of the truck and took a look around:  no one in sight (but it was still raining). 

I assessed the damage, and realized I needed to take care of this asap, so I put on gloves and cleaned up all the broken glass I could, still getting some small slivers of glass embedded in my fingers.  Next, I drove to where I could get cell reception, and found the nearest place that would be open the next day to fix the broken glass was 5 minutes from my home, and 6 hours from where I was right now.  I sighed:  It looked like I had a long night ahead of me. 

It turned out the auto glass store couldn’t help me, and told me to go to where I’d originally bought the topper.  They couldn’t help me for another 4-6 weeks (and $600), but referred me to another glass shop that didn’t open until Monday.  So, a quick trip to Walmart to pick up some duct tape and a tarp and I was able to create a makeshift door that does nothing to keep animals/intruders out, but has done a decent job keeping out the rain.  I’m still not sure why the window broke:  I was told sometimes there’s just a flaw in the glass.  That sounds bogus, but I’m getting a new one soon anyway, and I’ve learned not to get windows in my next topper (I don’t use them anyway).  I’m actually more upset I lost out on two days of hiking. 

Mt Adams A – 13,937


RT Length: 13.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 5292’

My decision to attempt Mt Adams from Horn Creek was based on distance to the trailhead: The Willows Creek trailhead was an extra 1.5 hours in driving time from my house than the Horn Creek Trailhead, so that’s the route I chose.  There were several cars in the parking lot when I arrived, and at least two parties camping in tents.  The bathrooms were open and clean.  It had rained the night before.  I was on the trail at 2:30am.


I followed the well defined trail to the left. While the path was easy to follow, I could tell the rocks on the trail in this section were going to be hard on my feet on the way out.


After about .3 of a mile I came to a junction in the dark. My instructions said to go southwest here, so despite doing the obvious thing and following the sign that pointed right to Horn Creek I got out my compass and saw southwest was left.  I turned left and walked for about a quarter mile before realizing (remembering) I was on the trail for Colony Baldy, and there was no way it was taking me to Horn Creek.  I turned around and retraced my steps and corrected where I’d gone wrong… (turn right at this sign, do not go southwest)


Continue on this trail for about one tenth of a mile and you’ll come to another junction where you then turn southwest (left) and follow a well defined trail for about 5 miles to Horn Lakes.


There’s a trail register shortly after the second junction. I signed my name and for some reason wrote “Horn Peak” as my destination even though it was actually Mt Adams, but didn’t realize this until I’d hiked a few miles past the register.  Whoops!


From here the trail became less rocky and followed Horn Creek. I could tell even in the dark the flowers were amazing right now!


At about 2.5 miles I crossed Horn Creek on what I’d describe as ‘bouncy’ logs: They bounced up and down as I walked across them.


The trail became quite overgrown at this point, and my legs were getting a little damp from the plants still wet from last night’s rain. I looked for animal/human tracks and didn’t see any on the trail.  It was a nice and gentle hike in without a moon.  Oh, and there were moths I honestly thought were bats at first they were so big.  They were white, loud as they flapped their wings, and quite attracted to my flashlight.  The first few gave me quite a start, but I quickly got used to them.


There was water in the middle of the trail around mile 3


And another stream crossing at mile 4. I crossed the creek and headed up into the basin


I was a little worried I wasn’t following the correct trail here because there was also a trail that didn’t cross the creek the second time and in the dark looked like it paralleled this trail, entering the basin as well. The trails never converged, but it looked like the other trail made it to Horn Lakes too


The trail goes all the way to the end of the basin, but at some point you need to turn right (west) and head up a steep grassy slope to gain Point 13,325 and the ridge to Mt Adams. I did this at about 11,780’ while I was still under treeline, and as I turned west this is what I saw


There was a lot of bushwhacking involved for about 20 yards or so, and then the brush and trees cleared and I could see where I was headed.


As I ascended the northeast ridge the sun began to rise and as I looked back I could see some of the lakes I’d passed and not noticed in the dark


This slope is very steep and longer than it looks. There are willows here, but luckily they’re only about a foot or so off the ground so they’re easy to navigate.  There are a lot of different ways to gain the ridge.  This seemed like the easiest route to me


I did my best to avoid the willows when possible


Here’s looking back down on the basin from about halfway up the slope


Once I made it up the top of the slope (Point 13,325) I turned left (southwest) and could see the rest of the route before me. The ridge looked like fun!!!


This ridge can be kept at a class 2 if you know where to go, but class 3-4 if you just stick to the ridge. I like scrambling so I took the solid route up and the dotted line down.


The first obstacle was this bump in the ridge. I went straight over the top but you can keep this class 2 by going to the right and skirting the bump


Here’s the next obstacle. Once again you can go straight over the top or keep it class 2 by going to the right


Finally I had to decide which way I wanted to summit. I like sticking to ridges when I can, so I decided to continue my climb along the ridge.  I took the solid line up, and dotted line down


I kind of skirted the point next to Mt Adams and aimed for the ‘saddle’ between the point and summit block


Once at the base of the summit block there were several options to summit, all easily kept at a difficult class 2. The ground here was surprisingly stable and covered in vegetation.


I summited at 8am


Summit Video:

The summit marker was missing a few things…


But the views of the surrounding peaks were amazing!


I decided to descend a different way than I’d taken up. Here’s a look at the route I took back to the ridge


I skirted Point 13,325 to the right on my way back


Here’s another look at the steep slope


And the path I took down


Here’s where my route diverged a bit from the way up: I continued to follow the ridge, staying just a little to the right as I did, and ended up in a navigable scree-filled gully.  I descended the gully and aimed for the trail I could see in the distance that would lead me back down the basin.


At about 12,000’ I found what I’m pretty sure are oceanic fossils in the talus.


I exited at 11,690’. Here’s looking back at the route.  The solid line is the way I took up, dotted is back down.  Neither was better than the other, and there seemed to be many ways to ascend the slope and gain the ridge.



As soon as I found the trail that would lead me back to the trailhead the mosquitoes started swarming. This is the type of area they liked best.  Luckily it only lasted for 3 miles or so…


There were tons of mosquitoes. I could swipe my hand through the air and dozens would be on my arm.  I couldn’t stop to take pictures of flowers (etc) without mosquitoes taking it as an opportunity to land and feast.


They were biting me through my clothes. Even though it was around 80 degrees I put on my puffy jacket and a hat and stopped stopping.  Back at the trail register I corrected my hike to Mt Adams (not that it mattered anymore) and luckily by then the mosquitoes had died down a bit.  The rocks on the trail were indeed bothersome on the way out.  I made it back to the trailhead a little before 12pm, making this a 13.5 mile hike with 5292’ in elevation gain in 9.5 hours.