Peak(s):  San Luis Peak  -  14,014 feet
Date Posted:  06/27/2010
Date Climbed:   06/19/2010
Author:  randalmartin
 San Luis - West Willow Creek   


Route: West Willow Creek
Total Distance: 11.25mi
Elevation Gain: 3,779ft


I have started to be a bit more selective in which trip reports I put up and generally will only put something up if I think it will provide some value to the community. In the case of San Luis peak, the West Willow Creek route is certainly the road less traveled. In doing my research I noticed how few details existed about the route. So I felt that a few extra pictures on this route would hopefully provide some information for future hikers. In addition, I think there is some evidence that getting to the West Willow Creek TH actually takes less time than the Stewart Creek TH since it involves much less mileage on dirt roads. I have uploaded large images so click on any image to see the larger version.

Getting There

From Denver the quickest route is I25 south to Walsenberg then west on 160 to South Fork then North on 149 to Creede. You go just a mile or two outside of Creede on 149 to a turn off for the Bachelor Loop road. Follow the signs for 504. After 7 miles you will merge back with 503 and will travel past the Equity Mine at which point the road is a bit rough for the final mile or so till you reach the trailhead.

Image 1) Picture of the Trailhead.

Image 2) We parked a short ways before the TH.

The Hike

This is a pleasant easy hike above treeline for most of the route. The trail follows the Continental Divide Trail and the Colorado Trail for most of the way until you reach the base of the ridge leading to the San Luis Peak summit.

Image 3) Probably 3/4 mile into the hike looking back towards the TH

Below is an image about a mile into the hike. The peak you see in the distance is Point 12,540. Your destination is just to the right of that peak. The trail crosses a creek and and up an old dirt road until you reach the saddle just to the right of that peak.

Image 4) About a mile into the hike

Further up the road hiking towards Pt 12,540

Image 5) Hiking up an old road towards Pt 12,540

The objective first comes into view about 1.6 miles into the hike on the Saddle near Pt. 12,340.

Image 6) Near Pt 12,540 San Luis Peak comes into view

At over 12,300 this is the highest point I have ever seen a tree growing on any hike I have done. One of the consequences/benefits of being a bit further south than other peaks.

Image 7) Lonely pine around 12,340ft

Once on top of the saddle (Elevation 12,350, 1.6 miles into the hike) you get a full view of San Luis peak. From here the next mile drops down 400ft into the trees you can see to the right.

Image Full view of San Luis peak from the saddle

A picture as we begin the hike down into the trees. You enter the trees on the far right side of this picture and circle around the drainage and angle up towards the low point of the ridge you see in the center of the picture.

Image 9) Hiking on the Colorado Trail down into the trees

Hiking through the well defined Colorado Trail in the trees. This is basically the only part of the entire trail that passes through any trees.

Image 10) Beatiful hike in the morning thru the trees

After coming out of the trees and over the previous ridge seen in Image 9 your greeted with yet another basin. The trail stays right as you traverse around the basin before heading up toward the low point in the ridge in the center of this panoramic image that leads to the San Luis summit.

Image 11) Panoramic of the final basin

On the way around the basin I came across a Ptarmagin a couple of feet off the trail. Everytime I see one of these (Winter or Summer) I am always amazed at how perfectly camouflaged they are.

Image 12) Ptarmagin

Crossing a trail marker along the way, though not really needed on such a well defined trail.

Image 13) Trail Marker with San Luis in the background

After circling the basin and angling up towards the base of the gentle ridge that leads to the San Luis summit.

Image 14) Approaching the final ridge to San Luis Peak.

On the summit ridge. The trail isn't well defined on the ridge but the rock is small and easy to walk on.

Image 15) On the summit ridge.

Approaching the Summit.

Image 16) Approaching the summit

Self Taken summit photo. It was a spectacular and largely cloudless day.

Image 17) On the Summit. What a bluebird day!

Took this image of some very interesting rock formations above the trail on the return.

Image 18

The West Willow creek route to San Luis peak is a less traveled route (we saw 4 other people the whole day) and is well worth your consideration as an alternative to the Stewart Creek TH. If you are interested in camping anywhere along this trail there is one good spot we encountered just off the trail in the section through the trees about 2.5 miles in.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Comments or Questions
Doctor No

Great work!
06/28/2010 03:32
I always enjoy the well-written reports of lesser-climbed routes.

Those trail markers were really odd-looking (we climed San Luis yesterday, going up Stewart Creek, but returning along the Colorado Trail). They always seemed to be in places where it was obvious as to the trail‘s destination.

Mooney Pilot

06/28/2010 20:36
When I get around to hiking San Luis, it will probably be from the Creede side, so thanks for submitting this helpful report.


Perfect timing!
06/29/2010 02:09
I have this peak on my agenda in the next few weeks - have been looking at the routes, thanks for the very helpful details!
Looks like an excellent day out and nice hike!

Eph 2 5
Nice trip report
06/29/2010 04:10
I hiked this route 4 or 5 years ago and really enjoyed it. Did you notice if there are any campsites along the dirt road to the trailhead. I think I remember seeing someone camping about halfway up the road, but it‘s been awhile since I‘ve been up there. I‘m heading back there in a few weeks.


Thanks for the comments
06/29/2010 14:18
Eph 2 5, I didn‘t specifically see any campsites along the road. There is quite a bit of private property that the road crosses through until you get past the Equity Mine. However, I am sure there are some spots near the trailhead. I am thinking of the areas in the trees visible in picture # 2 above. The nice thing about that area is you have access to Willow Creek as a good water supply.


nice pictures!
06/29/2010 19:53
I love the photo with my dog on the summit! Great report, nice route, and awesome pictures!

Creede access
08/06/2010 14:02
Great report, thanks for adding this. I am thinking of doing this route week after next with my two college age sons. I can't really figure out the driving route/directions from Creede to the WW Creek trailhead. Google map doesn't match the trail description in this website. Also if it is accessable in a 2wd pickup or Tahoe. Any thoughts?


Creede access
08/06/2010 15:42
In my TR above I reference a turn off for Bachelor Creek road and following the signs for FR 504. Alternatively you can drive a little further (less than 3 miles further on 149) and turn right on What Google Maps shows as FR 507 or Miners Creek Rd. and follow the signs for FR 504. If you do you that and stay on 504 until it terminates at a T with FR 503 then you should have no problem with a 2wd pickup. The road a little ways past the Equity mine has a small stream crossing and can be steeper in a few spots and therefore you may just want to park near there and hike the mile to the 4WD TH.


Dirt Road
08/24/2010 04:37
I am trying to cut down on the 40 miles of dirt road to get to the standard route. How long roughly do you need to travel on dirt to reach this trailhead?

Thanks, great TR


Dirt Road
08/24/2010 12:52
It's about 8 miles.


From Lake CIty
08/30/2010 18:01
Randal, We will be in Lake City and are thinking of doing this route. My assumption is that it will take us about 90 minutes to get to the trailhead from LC. Great report - it should be of benefit to our group!


From Lake City
08/30/2010 18:05
That's probably a good estimate. It's about an hour to the turn off and 30 minutes is a good guess to get to the TH from there.

Slow Moving Fun Seeker

05/26/2012 14:20
Almost two years after you posted this, we are using it for Memorial Day weekend 2012.

Mark A Steiner

Better late than never
10/15/2013 03:44
Late post Randal, but the shot of those rock formations is interesting. Appears to me to be hoodoo formations of pebble or boulder conglomerate. What do you think?

Good hike - thanks for the details.


Hey Mark
10/15/2013 04:40
Been a long time since my college Geology class, but I would say your thought on the formations is probably accurate without seeing them up close. The area around Creede has some really interesting Geology worth checking out including the Wheeler Geologic area.


Bicycles allowed?
08/11/2014 13:34
I am considering the West Willow trail you describe so thoroughly here and am wondering if bicycles are allowed on at least the first few miles of this trail? The sign post shows no motorcycles or ATVs but doesn't discuss bicycles. Thanks.


08/11/2014 16:30
I have the Colorado Trail book and the San Luis Peak is in the La Garita Wilderness section of the Colorado Trail. Bicycles are not permitted. There is a re-route for bicycles that is north of the colorado trail but wouldn't really help you with the San Luis peak approach.


08/11/2014 18:14
I don't want to belabor the point but from examining the maps and satellite images, it seems that there are a couple of miles of trail that would be fun on a mountain bike and are before you enter the wilderness. I will try to do some more research. Thanks.


08/11/2014 20:31
Yeah, that section before you reach the bench near point 12,540 may very well be outside the wilderness. I will say, however, that some of the steepest section of the entire trail is in that first 2 miles. Hope you have a great trip!

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