California Peak  
Condition Updates  
 
Route: North Ridge
Posted On: 2020-10-04, By: areedhay
Info: North Ridge route from Zapata trail is dry all the way to the summit, including the endless false summits. Lots of elk to be seen, and the aspen trees are in full glory. TR to follow. 
 
Route: South Ridge
Posted On: 2020-09-06, By: MC.Ikema
Info: DESCENT NOTES for Option #2 ("descend a portion of California's north ridge before dropping east to reach Huerfano Creek."): As you descend down to tree line, the route description's GPX (purple line) brings you over to scrubby gully for descent down to the rock heap you later parallel. If I had a do over, I would investigate staying right of the trees and continuing down the grassy slopes to the rock heap and avoiding the gully (blue line). Once you are parallel to the rock heap it's easy walking to the end of the rock heap. The lower portion of the descent gets into the trees. Bring your blood hound/Indian scout skills as there's a very faint game trail through the woods (route description's GPX should get you close enough to maybe eyeball it). I am part homing pigeon, and even I struggled to maintain the game trail as it fades in and out. All said, the routes does exactly as intended, descends quickly to Huerfano Creek. If you get lost in the parking lot, this probably isn't the descent for you. 
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Route: South Ridge
Posted On: 2020-08-13, By: BendExile
Info: Found climb tougher than advertised most likely secondary to my ascending too far to to the right above Lily Lake which cost me close to a hour of extra due time to sketchy loose class 3 rock. Views were wonderful. Weather was great with no haze and allowed me to stay on the ridge later than I usually like to. Descending North Ridge saved time but encountered lots of annoying scree. Lots of people climbing Mt Lindsey but only people I encountered all day on my climb were 15 backpackers descending from Lily Lake about 5:30 AM. Lily Lake is beautiful but if I climbed California again I would probably try a different route. 
 
Route: North Ridge
Posted On: 2020-06-22, By: E_A_Marcus_949
Info: Summer conditions from Lower Huerfano Trailhead. Great trail the way to the saddle then typical 13er 'find your own adventure' up and down the multiple grassy slopes. Various cairns/wood stakes to help you too until the saddle. Beautiful views from the summit of Lindsay, Blanca, Ellingwood, Little Bear, and the surrounding 13ers + Crestone group and Sand Dunes. 
 
Route: South Ridge
Posted On: 2020-06-12, By: dcsheldon
Info: From the trail head to the Lily Lake turn off the trail is soggy in a lot of places. Just a few detours to keep my feet dry. Only 10 feet of snow to go through on the ascent, just below Lily Lake. I descended California peak to its north side and then descended east to Huerfano creek. Some snow on that route but all avoidable. Didn't need traction throughout the hike. 
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Route: West Slopes
Posted On: 2020-06-07, By: Reg0928
Info: Summer conditions from the Zapata Falls TH. No snow on route 
 
Route: North Ridge
Posted On: 2020-05-27, By: lled
Info: Started at the Zapata Trail / Huerfano trailhead on 580 (right before Lily Lake trailhead). Very little snow, no traction required. Fun hike and nice views of Great Sand Dunes National Park, the false summits weren't as bad as expected. 6 hours round trip with 30 mins on the summit. 
 
Route: North Ridge
Posted On: 2020-05-24, By: JakeByk
Info: Route is mostly in summer conditions. There is a large snowfield / cornice when gaining the North Ridge from the Zapata Trail, and traction is helpful for mental security. Be aware, there are lots of false summits, but generally it's a gentle route across tundra. The Zapata Trail junction is above the Lower Hueferno trailhead, easy to miss. Do not drive to it if you value your vehicle / don't own a 4Runner or the equivalent. Park at the USFS boundary. 
 
Route: North Ridge
Posted On: 2020-05-23, By: jjust
Info: As recently mentioned, the north ridge of California peak is completely dry and a great outing for a Centennial Peak. https://www.jamesjusthiking.com/2020-trip-reports/california-peak 
 
Route: South Ridge
Posted On: 2020-05-17, By: IHikeLikeAGirl
Info: Did 13577-13660-California, descending off CA north ridge, with bushwack back to Lily Lake trail on Saturday. Brought microspikes, crampons, ice axe, gaiters. Used microspikes and gaiters. Lily Lake trail was dry to very wet, near the start, then spotty snow, then significant/continuous snow ~1 mi prior to Lily Lake (about 11k?). Lost the trail several times. Snow was hard in the morning, with an occasional post hole, we were glad to have gaiters. Short snow fields past Lily Lake. Was hoping for a line of snow to ascend the loose talus/scree, but the only one we saw, seemed to lead to unknown, cliffy, terrain. Once on the ridge, the route to 13577-13660-California, was 99.9% dry, including the bypass of 13577. Avoidable snowfields off California's north ridge. A long cornice blocked the usual descent off the ridge. Some thin spots in the cornice could be melted out very soon. We down climbed a rock outcropping (class 2+, ~10 ft), to bypass the cornice and get off the ridge. A very long snowfield below the ridge would make for a fun glissade or just a nice descent option, if conditions are right, but the snow had warmed up too much in the afternoon. Some deep snow in the trees (higher up) and we weaved a lot to minimize the post-holing. Trees aren't too thick and very little dead fall. Thanks for letting me tag along Darin, had a great time! pic #1 - At Lily Lake, showing snow fields. pic #2 - Ridge between 13577-13660, crux is dry, tiny snowfield at a small saddle, not a concern pic #3 - Ridge between 13577-CA pic #4 - Rock outcropping we down climbed to get through the cornice 
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Route: North Ridge
Posted On: 2020-05-10, By: Kcmartinez22
Info: Took Zapata Trail via the Lower Huerfano TH. Great conditions. A few little drifts in trees to cross. Nothing major. Snow field just as you gain the ridge can be avoided completely by skirting around the edge. Ridge is dry. No snow gear needed. Superb day in the mountains! 
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Route: South Ridge
Posted On: 2020-05-09, By: rivrrapids
Info: Snow drifts in trees but was solid in morning. Pretty dry from Lily Lake. 2 minor snow fields just past Lily Lake but were stable and bootable in a.m. Descended alternative east gully route. There is a snowfield at top of ridge that extends down 200 feet or so; would recommend an axe for some security. It was easiest to glissade this at 9:15 a.m. since it was slush on top of firm snow. Some snow to contend with on the descent near the rock glacier but nothing that you had to deviate too far from the route. 
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Route: West Slopes
Posted On: 2020-04-12, By: CheapCigarMan
Info: Summer conditions. No flotation needed. No traction needed. Pretty stable Class 2 rock. Expect some bushwhacking. 
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Route: West Ridge from Zapata
Posted On: 2020-03-25, By: CaptainSuburbia
Info: Zapata Lake trail was mostly dry to California Gulch. From there to ridge we were able to boot over supportive snow with only occasional postholes. After gaining ridge postholing increased so we switched to snowshoes. Above treeline snowshoes weren't necessary but very helpful for traction and crossing occasional snowfield. 
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Route: California Gulch
Posted On: 2020-02-18, By: jeffdmar
Info: The dirt road to the trailhead at Zapata falls was free of snow and easily passable in any vehicle. Packed snow to begin proved perfect for skins, but soon after crossing south Zapata Creek and above the cabin there were many exposed areas of dirt on the south facing hillside traverse requiring taking off the skis and booting. Skis came back on near California gulch creek crossing. From there to the steep talus slope marking the start of the West Ridge was mostly good sugary snow weaving between trees. Nearing the base of the talus I could see the west ridge was almost completely snow free. But the gulch held good compacted snow and the slopes above were mostly exposed talus with limited avy potential. I stayed in the gulch and gained tree-line, continuing up on good low and mid-angle snow all the way to maybe 150 vertical feet below the summit where the snowfield finally gave way to talus. Quick boot pack to summit. Clear day with cold wind above tree line but not terrible. Started at 740am. Summited 1210pm. Back at car by 230pm. Not a great ski but a few decent turns were had. 
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Route: South Ridge
Posted On: 2020-01-06, By: Yikes
Info: Not much snow in the region (down low). Didn't need snowshoes until heading up California Gulch. Ridge to treeline was pretty steep but very straightforward. ~50mph winds above treeline made it less than enjoyable. Sections that had snow were unsupportive, so there was a bit of wallowing. -15 in the San Luis valley, but a toasty +15 at the trailhead. Typical cold January summit. 
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Route: South Ridge
Posted On: 2019-11-16, By: benbrow1234
Info: Road to TH has some icy patches but made it all the way without trouble with 4wd and all season tires. On the trail to Lily Lake there are patches of ice and snow up to 6 inches. Left snowshoes in the car and brought microspikes but did not need them. Above Lily Lake the route was bone dry apart from easily avoidable snow patches. Descended back to the trailhead off the north side of California. More of the same conditions except slightly more snow in drainage basin. 
 
Route: West Ridge
Posted On: 2019-10-19, By: osprey
Info: The Zapata Trail and the trail up to the West Ridge was dry. There was very little old snow on the talus below the summit. The Sangre range looked like the recent snow storm missed it. The Crestones were frosted in the morning but most of the snow had melted off by afternoon. 
 
Route: South Ridge
Posted On: 2019-09-07, By: durkan
Info: Approached from Lily Lakes and the south ridge and descended from California's north ridge and then the eastern slopes. Somewhat occasionally, an actual trail presents itself up on the ridges. There does seem to be a trail on the southern slopes after Lily Lakes, but I found it best to avoid that slopfest and stay on larger talus. Had to evacuate California as soon as I touched it due to incoming storms. All in all: great day in the Sangres! 
 
Route: West Ridge from Zapata
Posted On: 2019-06-24, By: SurfNTurf
Info: Road to the TH is entirely dry and 2WD accessible, but know that it's about as rough as 2WD roads get. Take it slow unless you're wearing a mouthpiece. Trail was snow-free to treeline, then we were on a dusting of snow all the way to the top. It'll melt well before next weekend. The only significant snow you should plan was on the final 200 feet of the summit ridge; beware the east-facing cornices on the far side of the summit. No traction, axes or snowshoes necessary. We descended a snow gully on the north side of the peak to avoid about 1,000 feet of loose talus. This short detour saved a huge chunk of time, not to mention our ankles. Spikes and/or an ax wouldn't have hurt here, especially if you're less comfortable on snow. 
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