OverviewThis hidden peak in the southern San Juan mountains is one to visit and climb. It stands guard over the center of the beautiful South San Juan Wilderness. Although not a difficult or visible, the attraction is the great views of the wilderness. Conejos Peak is mostly known for being the Conejos County highpoint; otherwise, the mountain is somewhat obscure. The mountain ranks 90th in prominance in the state. It is very difficult to see the mountain from a road, and is best seen from other summits or from the west.
Conejos Peak is not a difficult mountain to climb. In fact, there is a road to 11,600 ft. However, It is a great mountain to bring kids, dogs, and enjoy a day hike through the wonderful South San Juan Wilderness. If you are looking for terrific views, the top of Conejos Peak is the place to be.
Platoro and the Conejos River Valley has many other recreational opportunities. The 6000 acre Platoro Reservoir is the highest man-made lake in North America at 9970 ft. It is stocked yearly with brown and rainbow trout and offers excellent fishing opportunities. The Conejos River itself is a fly fisherman's dream offering classic dry-fly conditions.
Reflections of the South San Juan Wilderness in Tobacco Lake
Getting ThereConejos Peak is located in southern Colorado near the old mining town of Platoro. From Antonito, Colorado, drive west on Highway 17 for 23 miles until reaching Forest Service road 250. Here, there will be a small sign which says "Platoro". Turn right (north) on FS 250 and drive on this dirt road for 17 miles until reaching an intersection with a sign that says "Lake Fork Ranch" and pointing to the west. Zero-out your trip odometer. Turn left (west) on a well-maintained dirt road. After a half-mile (.5), a sign for "Lake Fork Ranch" is passed on the right. Ignore this sign and continue straight. At 4.2 miles a "Y" is reached. Go left at the "Y". At 6.0 miles, the trailhead for trail 720 is reached. Continue until 7.0 miles where the sign for "Tobacco Lake Trailhead" is reached. Turn left on a very rough road and continue for a half-mile to the trailhead. This final half-mile is somewhat rough. A sturdy 2WD SUV or better is recommended. Low-clearance passenger cars are not recommended for the last half-mile. The trailhead is at 11,600 ft. To get to the summit from the trailhead click here for the Tobacco Lake Trail route.
NOTE: The 1/24 quad (USGS map) does not show the final half-mile road to the trailhead. In fact, the trailhead and the first part of the trail on the map is incorrect. See the route description on the left side-bar for details.
Red TapeConejos Peak is located in the South San Juan Wilderness of the Rio Grande National Forest. The wilderness is reached after hiking approximately one mile down the trail. No motorized vehicles, uncluding ATVs or bicyles are allowed in the wilderness. About a half-mile down the trail, a gate is reached. Please secure the gate after passing through to prevent local cattle from escaping.
Conejos Peak Ranger District
Rio Grande National Forest
15571 County Road T-5
La Jara, CO 81140
When To ClimbThe Forest Service road (250) is only open from May to November. The road is closed in winter. Check with the ranger station above to make sure FS 250 is open if planning an early season climb. Also check to see if the road to the trailhead is open.
Violent afternoon thunderstorms are a daily occurance in the South San Juans. Start early and plan to be off the mountain by noon to avoid the storms. Almost the entire hike and climb is above treeline, so there is very little shelter in the event of a storm.
CampingThere are four Forest Service campgrounds on FS 250 and one Forest Service campground in Platoro: Elk Creek, Spectacle Lake, Conejos, Lake Fork, and Mix Lake. Most of these will accomodate an RV or camper. Click this site for more campground details. Reservations can be made at Lake Fork campground through www.ReserveUSA.com
In addition, there is a commercial RV park with hookups on Highway 17 and FS 250, another about seven miles up FS 250, and also in Platoro. Showers are available if you are tent camping.
Good backcountry camping sites can be found at Tobacco Lake.
Mountain ConditionsExcept for about 100 yards, the entire hike and climb is above treeline. The trail is very evident until reaching Tobacco Lake. After the lake, the trail is somewhat obscure and route follows cairns across alpine tundra. Due to horse traffic, the trail can be muddy in places.
Maps/GuidebooksMaps: Trails Illustrated #142 - South San Juan/Del Norte
U.S. Forest Service - Rio Grande National Forest
USGS 1/24 - Platoro
Guidebook: Falcon Guide - Hiking Colorado's Summits by John Mitchler and Dave Covill