Culebra Peak, 2016

Tucked away down in the southeastern part of Colorado stands Culebra Peak at 14,047 feet.  Of the 53 mountains in Colorado officially recognized as “14ers”, Culebra Peak is the only one of them on private land (the Cielo Vista Ranch).  It requires you to book a reservation and pay an access fee.  Also, there is no trail up to the summit.  Accordingly, I brought along a compass, map, and a satellite tracker.

Staying at the San Luis Inn the night before in the town of San Luis, I had an easy 20-minute drive to the ranch where I was met at the gate at 6:00 am by the ranch manager.  After a small exchange of dialogue about the ranch, the mountain, the rules, and places to pay attention to so I didn’t get lost, we headed up to the ranch headquarters where I signed in.  The drive to the so-called “4-way” trailhead itself was a steep, rutted 3.5-mile climb on a dirt road where a typical automobile would struggle to make it.

I left the car and began walking at 6:30.  The first mile was an easy stroll up a dirt road.  I then crossed a creek, ascended a small rise and began chugging to the  east through a meadow with patches of rocks here and there.  The ascent became steeper and steeper until I crested the main ridgeline of a large bowl.  Here, one has to take a sharp turn to the south, descend a saddle, and then climb up a field of boulders and talus towards a prominent false summit.  I’d say this portion of the climb qualifies as Class 2 scrambling.  This, coupled with the route finding, makes me give the Culebra Peak climb a moderate rating — possibly a 3, no more than a 4, out of 10 in terms of difficulty.  Once at the false summit, it was an easy walk across a grassy alpine meadow up to the summit.

The weather was cool, slightly windy, and sunny.  The views from the summit were amazing in any direction.  After a snack, I headed back down, carefully backtracking my way to my car.  Altogether, I’d say I hiked 7 miles with an elevation gain of just over 3,100 feet.  It took me a leisurely 4.5 hours, including stops along the way.  To be honest, given the logistics of getting a permit and the rumors that the ranch is currently for sale, I am glad to get this climb in the books.  7 down, 46 to go 🙂


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