Electric Peak Overview
Electric Peak, the 191st tallest peak in Colorado, is a distinguished mountain, easily viewed from the San Luis Valley. It, along with fellow bicentennial neighbor Cottonwood Peak, anchors the north-central Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Reigning proudly from its position on the range crest, it's the tallest mountain in the Sangres north of Rito Alto Peak. Far from the fourteeners which draw so many to the area, you can find peace and isolation here. Among Major Creek's highlights are groves of tall aspen, numerous beaver ponds, some of which have redirected water onto the trail or even overtaken the trail entirely, and a small natural arch. Electric Peak is composed of angular, blocky sandstones and shales, not of the famed Crestone conglomerate found in the Sangres further to the south.
Electric has several subpoints which add to its stature and symmetry, including dramatic Point 13,220, Point 13,060, and Mount Niedhardt, which provides an alternate approach from the west. Appropriately named Banjo Lake, at the head of Middle Brush Creek, rests beneath Electric's southeast face.
If you're up to it and the weather permits, a climb of Electric Peak can easily be combined with a summit bid for the thirteener Lakes Peak and unranked thirteener Thirsty Peak, Electric's neighbors to the north.
Electric Peak may have received its name from the same people who named Thirsty Peak: Bill Arnold, Lester Michel, and Jim Michel (who was 14 at the time). These three traversed the range crest of the Sangres from Poncha Pass to Music Pass over the course of 9 days in 1961 with the help of food caches. When they reached Thirsty Peak, they had run out of water and had to descend to the Brush Creek Lakes to retrieve more. Two days later, they began battling daily monsoonal dousings, at which time I'm speculating that they may have noticed the prominent Electric Peak attracting some lightning. The Poncha to Music Pass traverse is now known as the Michel-Arnold traverse.
Getting ThereAs with many Sangre peaks, it's your choice: the San Luis Valley or the Wet Mountain Valley.
North Brush Creek Trailhead: The eastern approach from the Wet Mountain Valley offers a longer approach hike – 6.5 miles just to reach Upper Brush Lake – and a slightly shorter drive from the Front Range communities. From just south of Hillside, which is 11 miles south on SH-69 from US-50 or 13 miles north of Westcliffe, turn right on Custer County Road 198. Follow this road for 3 miles, passing the Lake Creek Campground. Turn left on Forest Road 337 at the fork in the road. This road intersects the Rainbow trail after 1.5 miles. This is the Duckett Creek Trailhead, where passenger cars should park. From here, hike the Rainbow Trail 1 mile and turn right on the North Brush Creek Trail. This trail leads up forested slopes to the North Brush Creek drainage and ultimately to both Lower and Upper Brush Lakes. Those with high-clearance vehicles can elect to follow the now-rough FR-337 2 miles from the Duckett Creek Trailhead to the North Brush Creek Trailhead.
Briefly, the hike to the summit leaves Upper Brush Lake and takes the Crossover Trail south up Lakes Peak's east ridge and then begins a descending traverse. It leaves the Crossover Trail at 12,200' and follows another trail to Electric Pass. From here follow the Major Creek route to the summit.
Major Creek Trailhead: For the western approach from the San Luis Valley, drive 26 miles south from Poncha Springs on US-285 to the major intersection with SH-17. Take SH-17 and immediately look sharp on your left for Saguache County Road GG. The junction between 285 and 17 was reconfigured in 2003, so CR-GG is no longer accessed directly from 285.
Follow CR-GG for 6 miles to a fork. The left fork remains CR-GG and leads to Valley View Hot Springs. The right fork is CR-65 and leads to the Hot Springs Trailhead after 0.5 miles. After another 0.5 miles, take a sharp left turn onto CR 66-FF with the Major Creek Trailhead following 0.1 miles afterward. Please refer to the Major Creek route for details on the hike from here.
Red TapeElectric Peak is located in the heart of the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness, and typical wilderness restrictions apply. Contacting the managing agencies is the surest way to get up-to-date information.
Leave No Trace suggests you observe these principles when traveling and camping in all public lands, especially wilderness:
1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
3. Dispose of Waste Properly
4. Leave What You Find
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
6. Respect Wildlife
7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
When To ClimbThe easiest time to hike Electric Peak is May-October, but this can vary year-to-year. Because the expansive San Luis Valley allows plenty of direct afternoon sunshine to warm its flanks, the west side of the Sangre de Cristo range melts out faster than many areas in Colorado. Depending on the winter, you could be hiking on mostly dry approach trail as early as late-April. Avalanche danger is present, especially below Electric Pass, so beware.
CampingCamping is permitted in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness. Remember, you find a camping spot, you don't make one. Help sustain water purity by camping away from creeks and lakes.
Mountain ConditionsThe north-central Sangres are infrequently visited, and as such, Forest Service ranger districts are your best bet for gathering information on current snow conditions and other information. The San Carlos Ranger District (719-269-8500) of San Isabel National Forest is responsible for the eastern side of the Sangres near Electric. The Saguache Ranger District (719-655-2547) of the Rio Grande National Forest is responsible for the western side.
For weather information, the National Weather Service is a good place to start:
Electric Peak experimental point forecast