Overview, Route, Getting There, Camping, Red Tape
Geneva Peak sits on the Continental Divide about 1.5 miles southeast of Santa Fe Peak and about 1 mile southeast of Sullivan Mountain in Colorado’s Front Range. At its easiest, the summit is a Class 2 hike along tundra and rock. There is no cover anywhere close out here, so check the sky before you start hiking and watch it even more carefully as you hike.
Most mountains in this area of the Front Range are gentle and broad, often with wide, flat summits, and Geneva is no exception, but it does display a rugged eastern face that may attract sporting climbers to seek a harder, more exciting way up to the top. This face is most easily reached from the mountain’s northwest ridge, which stretches from the Geneva-Sullivan saddle to the summit. Climbers on this section will find Class 3 and 4 climbing if they want it, and loose rock and dirt whether they want that or not.
The ridges out here are cairned because they are part of the Continental Divide Trail, but few people visit these summits. Geneva is, in fact, one of a series of five peaks making a long, high ridgeline between Webster Pass and Santa Fe Peak along the Divide, and a traverse across this ridge system would make an outstanding way to experience Colorado’s high country.
At 13,266', Geneva's rank among Colorado peaks is 425.
ROUTE VIA NORTHWEST RIDGE
The easiest way to climb Geneva is via Sullivan Mountain from Santa Fe Peak (see Getting There). This route is approximately 3 miles round-trip and involves a total of about 1400’. It is Class 2 unless one wants to explore the mountain’s eastern face as mentioned in the preceding paragraph. Staying on the mountain’s northwest ridge rather than following the trail below it makes the going Class 2+.
From Santa Fe Peak, descend to the saddle connecting it with Sullivan Mountain and then hike to Sullivan’s summit, gaining about 270’. Viewed from Santa Fe, Geneva seems to have a knife-edge leading to its top, but the view from Sullivan reveals that the ridge is not as exposed as it first appeared and has a trail following its right side. The ridge does drop steeply and dramatically on its left side, with many jagged pinnacles and outcrops breaking the ridge proper, and it is there that one would exit to access the peak’s rugged eastern face.
Drop to the saddle between Sullivan and Geneva and then ascend about 600’ to Geneva’s summit. There are many spectacular rock formations along the ridge, and you will miss most of them if you stick to the trail. Your call—the ridge is more exposed and windier but more exciting, and the trail is safer and more sheltered but less interesting.
Climbing Geneva this way requires negotiating the 4WD road up Santa Fe Peak. Some details about the road:
• The road to Santa Fe Peak is marked as a 4WD road for good reasons. It is very steep in places (climbing to over 13,000’), with tight switchbacks and some off-camber spots. I have made it up the road in 4-High before, but it is more comforting to use 4-Low in some places. Although the road is rocky in places, it is not too rugged for stock high-clearance vehicles. I do recommend using a vehicle with real 4WD, but skilled off-road drivers could probably make it up the road with just AWD.
Altitude aficionados may want to start lower and farther away so the climb will be a “true” ascent; that could make the RT hike as long as 13 miles, with almost 4000’ of elevation gain. I respect that mindset, but I personally like to start as high as I can unless there’s a specific route I want to do and doing it means starting lower. But it’s your call.
From U.S. 6 at the eastern end of Keystone, take the signed road to Montezuma. This road is easy to find if one is traveling eastbound, but there is no direct access to it for westbound travelers, who will have to watch for the road and then make a U-turn to get to it.
It is five miles to Montezuma, where the road turns to dirt. The road to Santa Fe Peak takes off to the left, but it is not signed. Look for a road heading uphill into the wooded slopes above the tiny town, or look for a telephone/power pole marked 5325 and turn left onto the road there.
It is 5.1 miles to where I parked my jeep and began hiking. When the road finally tops a plateau-like area near the base of Santa Fe Peak at about 4.5 miles (the peak is ahead and to your right), there is an intersection. TURN LEFT. The right fork seems to head straight for the peak, but it dead-ends shortly, though far enough away that you can’t see that from the intersection. The left fork eventually turns southeast and heads toward Santa Fe Peak, edging along the right (west) side of the summit. As it edges along the side of the summit, the road is narrow, rough, and, for a vehicle, exposed, and this section may unnerve some drivers. But if you continue on, the road will start descending steeply. Park in a small rocky area just off the left side of the road and about a hundred vertical feet above the saddle connecting the peak to Sullivan (see photo in this section-- right column).
DO NOT PARK ON THE ROAD. No matter where you decide to park, make sure you are off the road (and not on the tundra). This road is too narrow for people to be blocking it even a bit.
RED TAPE AND CAMPING
No red tape.
There are some primitive camping areas along the road to Montezuma. There are very few decent camping areas along the road to Santa Fe Peak, and many of them are either on posted private property or between 12,000 and 13,000 feet in altitude, where it’s not very comfortable for most people to sleep.