Peak(s):  Cottonwood Pk A  -  13,588 feet
PT 13,123 B  -  13,123 feet
Thirsty Pk  -  13,213 feet
Date Posted:  04/02/2011
Date Climbed:   04/01/2011
Author:  piper14er
 West Ridge loop  

Cottonwood Peak A 13,588 - ranked 195 Bi-Centennial Peak
PT 13,213B - ranked 549
Thirsty Peak - unranked

12.6 miles
10 1/2 hours
6000 feet

I drove to the Valley View Hot Springs Canyon trailhead Thursday night. The trailhead is accessed by driving 4 miles south of Villa Grove to the Highway 17 exit that heads to the Sand Dunes. Immediately take Road GG when you exit Highway 285 which is marked and is to the left. Follow Road GG 7 miles as it heads straight east and then after a few bends turn right on 65. Go about a 1/2 mile to the trailhead on the left. It is signed.

I headed out about 6:30 am on the Hot Springs Canyon trail which is signed and goes off to the left.

Lower part of the trail. The trail follows the drainage all the way to the ridge.



The trail at 10,200 feet

Looking back down the trail

I took the right fork at the point where the drainage split

I did not use my snowshoes, which I was packing on the ascent. There was some snow starting at 10,200 feet where one may have wanted to put on the shoes. The snow was not too bad and there was some postholing up to about 10,800 feet. I opted to boot it.

The ridge

The ridge to Cottonwood peak was fairly mellow, as was basically the ascent up the drainage. I made the 5 miles and 5000 feet in just a little over 4 hours. As I mentioned the snow between 10,200 feet and 10,800 feet was a little soft and sometimes over my knees so it did slow the ascent some. The warm weather and dry winds will be melting that rather quickly I suppose, even though that section is in the shade.

The summit looming ahead

The summit

Wulsten Baldy 2-2 1/2 miles away and another 12er before that.

13,123B and Thirsty Peak

The wind was there of course as I made my way up the ridge but it was better than in the past month. 20-25 mph and some gusts but the air temperature was warm enough.

I headed down the ridge to the south and for 13,213B. The saddle between Cottonwood Peak and 13,123B

The West Ridge up to Cottonwood was a nice mix of grass and some rock but the ridge to 13,213B and Thirsty was very rocky. There was some hard pack snow, which can be avoided also. I mixed the rocks with kicking steps on some of the hardpack. The wind was not too bad but I stayed to the west mostly to 13,213B. The same to Thirsty but I stayed on the ridge edge coming back down as the wind has lessened. The ridge is definitely better as it is more solid and there is some grassy stretches along the way


The summit cairn was a mix of t-posts and rocks, quite the artistry

Looking back to Cottonwood Peak

There was a summit registry hidden within the cairn, which had suggestions by more than a few people wanting to put their name on this unnamed peak

I headed onward and down the ridge. This is heading up to Thirsty Peak


The summit with Eagle Peak in the background

Thirsty Peak all and all had a little more character than the other two peaks with more interesting rock formations and walking the edge back to the saddle between 13,123B and Thirsty Peak

Lakes Peak and south

The Crestones

This is back at the saddle between 13,123B and Thirsty Peak and looking down towards the ridge that is the upper end of the Garner trail.

I lost the trail off the saddle and went towards the right and down to the right of the drainage. There looked to be less snow that way. I hooked back into the Garner trail where the trail ran down into the drainage and below the fork

I packed my snowshoes for 12 of the 12.6 miles but did use them for a short section down through the drainage to this point where as I connected back into the trail

I really enjoyed the Garner trail. It had just about everything you could ask for, the trail was dirt and hardly any rocks, creek crossings, trees, trees, trees (must be very nice in the summer with the leaves on), beaver ponds, etc. Too many pictures to use here.


Merlin showing his balance on one of the four or five creek crossings


The trail went through private land

You follow a road for a ways to a gate, looking back up the Garner trail

There is a second gate (be sure to close both gates) and then just a few more minutes to the trailhead

It was warm towards the bottom, it must get very hot in the summer

The loop I think is definitely the way to go

A very good spring day

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

 Comments or Questions

nice aspens
04/03/2011 02:02
I like those pictures of the aspens Al...nice!!
You must be getting close to slim pickings for the Sangres, you've been down there a lot this year!
I'll have to remember this loop for a possible fall hike of Cottonwood, with those aspens I would expect a stellar day!
Major Creek trail is similar.


04/03/2011 17:40
That looks significantly easier than the approach from the east; at least, this time of year.


most interesting trees
04/04/2011 01:29
I really did like the Garner trail as I said, also trying to fill in the Sangre gaps from north to south, and the weather always seems to be better down there. Need Bushnell and other 13er there, DeAnza then it will be down at the south end

Derek I do believe that everything I do on my own is easier than your routes and yes that loop certainly appeared to be easier than it would have been from the east. What's next?


same Garner trail?
04/04/2011 16:22
I did that loop several years ago and am quite surprised about your description of the Garner trail. Not sure if they cleaned it up or due to the time of year, but I remember it quite differently. It was a swamp with thousands of downed trees, was nasty to navigate. Regardless of what I experienced back then, glad you enjoyed your hike.


yes same Garner I guess
04/04/2011 17:06
There were a lot of trees down along the way but not on the trail nor any that caused any navigation problems. No swamps so maybe it is the time of year and not that much snow melt either.


Very cool ...
05/10/2011 22:42
We've done that same loop a couple times (once in the spring). We packed our snowshoes the entire way. You've got some beautiful shots there. Nice seeing Merlin. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!

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