Culebra (Main) Trailhead


Sangre de Cristo
37.15° N, -105.2925° W
14ers: Culebra Peak
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Road Difficulty

Easy 4WD, good clearance recommended. 3   (0=Paved, 6=Very Difficult 4WD)
2WD dirt to the ranch. Easy 4WD to the upper TH.

Driving Directions

From Alamosa or Walsenburg, take U.S. 160 to the town of Fort Garland and...
  • Turn south on Highway 159 and drive just over 15.5 miles to reach the town of San Luis.
  • Near a Conoco gas station, turn left on 4th Street (P.6 Road) and drive 4.0 miles to the town of Chama.
  • Turn left on the L.7 Road.
  • Drive 3.6 miles on L.7, cross a bridge and turn right on the 25.5 Road (dirt).
  • Drive 0.5 mile on 25.5 and turn left on the M.5 Road.
  • Drive 0.9 mile on M.5 to reach the Cielo Vista Ranch at the North Headquarters gate.
  • The gate is normally closed/locked and ranch representatives will meet you for an escort to the ranch headquarters, usually at 6am on the morning of your hike.
  • Once through the north HQ gate, continue 2 miles to the ranch headquarters for check-in.
  • Leave HQ on an easy-4WD road (It is 4.4 miles total to the upper trailhead).
  • At 0.1 mile, stay right.
  • Near 2.5 miles, the road goes through some great meadows (~11,000').
  • Reach "Four Way" at 3.4 miles. Plenty of parking.
  • Continue straight through Four Way to reach the upper trailhead at 4.4 miles.

Winter Access

Closed in winter unless you get special permission from the ranch.

More Info

Important Notes: Due to inaccuracies, do not use Google/Apple Maps directions to get to the Culebra trailhead. Please use the instructions on the trailhead page.
Status Updates 
Posted By: E_A_Marcus_949
Info: No snow. Easy to get to the CVR office building then to Four Way. It’s steep after that, though. The road itself is in decent shape for a rocky dirt road, but it gains a bit of elevation. If you can make it to Four Way you can make it to the upper TH. Like all 4WD roads, pick your line in certain areas and make sure to watch your speed up/down. My Forester made it all the way just fine - there was another Forester, 4Runners, Trucks, XTerra, Highlander.
Posted By: Zambo
Info: Road is now completely clear and snow free all the way to the upper trail head.
Posted By: ClimberSkierDave64
Info: Was able to drive all the way to the upper trailhead. The road was completely clear except for a few snow drifts we had to blast through before the upper trailhead but now that multiple vehicles have driven through it has become a lot easier.
Posted By: bully7
Info: Staff took us to a parking spot approx 2 miles below the Four Way. No snowshoes/traction required.
Posted By: Ryan1979
Info: I got lost using the Google maps link from the app. Never had a problem with it before and it may have been a Google issue. I ended up at a locked gate just outside San Francisco, CO. The trail head directions are spot on though and will get you to the ranch if you follow them from the Conoco in San Luis.
Posted By: Ptglhs
Info: Road is driveable to 4wd TH. Any decent clearance AWD should make it imo. I was in a Jeep and had no issues.
Posted By: spaceman_mort
Info: Road is clear and dry up to the 4WD parking area, but Carlos had us all park at the Four Way
Posted By: djacobson
Info: You can drive ~2.6mi up the 4WD road from the HQ. Road got slushy after that and on the way back it was like a running river. Please be respectful of private property and listen to Carlos when he tells you where to stop and park so you dont force him to come tow you out. We saw two cars who didnt stop at the proper point and had to be towed out.

We made it to the 4WD TH in just boots but 100% needed snowshoes on the way out. Even post holed a bit with snowshoes near the upper TH. Road was a full on slush fest. We removed snowshoes near the Four Way as there was a mostly snow free line to walk back to the cars without them. Its melting fast up there! Hope this info helps!
Posted By: daway8
Info: Confirming/compiling recent updates: If you click on the Google map link in the app it won’t take you to the gate you need to be at (though it will put a mark over the ranch house). Instead, if using Google, plug in the coordinates AcornMan provided and it will take you right there, 37.1709, -105.3037. Or look at the map supranihilest sketched out which shows the right locations (I copied/pasted the photo here for easy access). Don’t forget to print out the waiver from Must hike from HQ but trail mostly packed to upper 4WD trailhead except some windblown portions.
Posted By: supranihilest
Info: There are at least two entrances to the Cielo Vista Ranch. We followed Google Maps which took us to the wrong gate. Google took us to the north gate, which is a single metal gate with "CV" on it. It is located at the end of Whiskey Pass Road/CR L.7. This is not the correct entrance. The correct entrance is due south at the junction of Road 25.5 (also note there are two Road 25.5s, one to the east and one to the west; I am talking about the eastern one) and CR M.5. There are two large, green gates here and signs for camping. The Roach book describes the correct directions as well as the correct gate; the directions on this website are correct but it mentions the "north gate" which is incorrect, it is actually the south gate. See the map screenshot for more information.
Posted By: madadraw1
Info: FYI, steep incline. My Rav4’s tires were burning before we reached bottom. Despite using 1st gear entire way.
Posted By: LetsGoMets
Info: Carlos opened the gate at 545AM, easy check in, solid host. Road is in good shape - steep in parts. Rougher from 4 way, but saw a Forester make it.

Used the dot com directions to the gate, right on target.
Posted By: AcornMan
Info: Road all the way to the upper trailhead is very Subaruable. The road between the lower trailhead (aka "4 Way) and upper trailhead is very easy. If your vehicle can make it to the lower trailhead, you should definitely be able to make it to the upper trailhead.

I’ve seen several posts about people having difficulty finding the entrance gate for the ranch. Just punch the following coordinates into Google Maps or whatever other navigation system you’re using...
...and it will take you right to it. That worked for me using Google Maps and Garmin.
Posted By: sallenrogem87
Info: Though long, this road is definitely doable in a Subaru. I have a 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek with 8.7 inches of ground clearance and the stock tires that came with the vehicle (still have good tread). I am NOT a seasoned off-road driver and this road did not have me feeling too nervous at all. Yes, it is steep at times, but it seems like where it’s steep it isn’t very rocky. We were able to drive all the way up to the 4WD TH without incident. Getting in and out of the parking area at the 4WD TH really isn’t bad, though you may have to get creative with a spot if you are one of the last vehicles into the parking area.
Posted By: merrion13
Info: Completely dry and in good shape; however, the road does get pretty steep after the ranch on the way to Four Way...a FWD CRV with street tires got stuck on the hill and had to be towed to a flat area yesterday. If you don’t think your car will make it, simply park at the HQ and ride up with others.
Posted By: hberry
Info: As of 4/7 you still have to start at the Ranch HQ. Similar to what the post below said, a 4x4 vehicle could make it just under 2 miles further without needing chains - but no matter, what the ranch says goes. The road below HQ was fine for almost any vehicle.

DO NOT FOLLOW GOOGLE MAPS/WAZE DIRECTIONS TO THE RANCH - They will put you at the wrong gate and you will have wasted 4 hours driving there - FOLLOW THE 14ERS DIRECTIONS.
Posted By: BrentRichter
Posted By: Thevirtualsherpa
Info: Spoke with new owners and camping is allowed inside gates as in past. Must park car and walk in. He said fires are acceptable as well as long as they are in ring and under control. Trailhead has ample parking and how far you drive up depends on owner. Road to 4 way and upper TH is very steep in sections, AWD or 4x4 recommended. Not technically difficult at all. No bathrooms.
Posted By: Corey17
Info: Drove a Subaru Crosstrek to the upper Culebra TH today. The road was dry, well graded, and generally friendly. There was one or two water bars where I appreciated my clearance. It got a bit rockier above the Four Way, but was still an easy road. By far the crux of this one is the grade. A few parts were so steep that I was flooring the gas in 1st gear, and still creeping up at 5 MPH. Be prepared for the steepness. At the gate, Ron was recommending sedans to hitch rides.
Posted By: mtgirl
Info: Road thru ranch to the upper 4wd trailhead was in good condition today. Parked at lower Fourway trailhead just to get some extra vertical, but most other vehicles drove up to the upper trailhead one mile farther with no issue. Honestly, I think the road between Fourway and the upper trailhead is easier than the section between the ranch headquarters and Fourway. No clearance issues at all. We drove a Ford F-150, but I would have been comfortable driving my Subaru. Road is a bit steep approaching Fourway, so low gear while descending is advised. Power would be the biggest issue getting up the steep sections, not clearance. Slept in truck at gate. Ranch hand arrived 5:50 AM and promptly opened the gate and escorted hikers to headquarters to sign in at 6 AM. Hiking by 6:35 am. Tent camping is just inside the gate along with clean porta potty.
Posted By: fahixson
Info: Road to upper 4WD parking was in good shape. A few steep sections getting up to four way, but no rocks or other significant obstacles to speak of all the way to the end of the road. Most difficult part of the drive was getting in and out of the parking lot. We were in an AWD Nissan Rogue loaded down with 4 people.
Posted By: BillMiddlebrook
Info: Open, if you have a reservation
Posted By: OutbackDobbs
Info: I made it up the four-wheel drive road from the ranch to the trailhead in a Ford Escape Hybrid with all-wheel drive. So I was not even driving a true four-wheel drive and I still made it up the road. In fact the road was much better than I was expecting it to be and I went right up it with no problems. I thought going down it was harder than going up because of how steep the road is. I kept my vehicle in low gear and carefully work my way through the rougher sections of the road and made it back to the ranch with no issues. Based on what I saw it looks like the ranch is using the hiking fees to keep that road in good condition.
Posted By: jsdratm
Info: I made it up in my Subaru Forester OK today. The road is quite steep so i had it floored in 1st gear on several stretches. The ruts are easily avoided.
Posted By: mspalding
Info: No 2wd. If you try a 2wd you can straddle the large ruts on the way to the ranch. And you could pick your way around rocks and more ruts after the ranch. But the road from the ranch to Fourway is so steep, I could only get up to 10 to 15 miles/hour with the accelerator of my 4wd floored. And some of the steep stuff was littered with loose rock.

On another note, camping is allowed. The ok to camp sign was stolen, but I talked to the ranch hand and he encourages you to use the flat area across from the outhouse and on the corner with the telephone pole. Lots of good flat sites. Just step through the bars.

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