Sangre De Cristo Mountains Overview
Within the northern section of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains sits Little Baldy Mountain. The name Sangre De Cristo dates back to the early 19th century. Believed to have been named for its’ reddish alpenglow at sunrise and sunset. It is not known for sure, how the name came about, but according to legend I found on Sangres website, a Spanish Priest by the name of Father Francisco was mortally wounded by an Indian’s arrow. In his dying moments, he raised himself up on his elbow gazed on the setting suns red glow atop the mountain range and gasped these final words, “Sangre De Cristo.” (Spanish for Blood of Christ.
The Sangre De Cristo range is located in the southernmost section of the Rocky Mountains. The Sangres are one of the longest mountain ranges in the world. On the north, the town of Salida, Colorado. On the south, Santa Fe, New Mexico. The range is nearly 250 miles long.
Within the wilderness boundary of the Sangre De Cristo range are ten peaks over 14000ft and more than 25 peaks over 13000ft peaks. Numerous peaks above 12000ft and 60 alpine lakes.
Little Baldy Mountain OverviewRising to just under 13000ft. Little Baldy Mountain summits at 12982ft in elevation. It is ranked number 15 in 12ers.
Surrounded by well known monoliths, such as Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle, Kit Carson Mtn and Humboldt Peak, the views from atop Little Baldy Mountain are awe inspiring to say the least. It’s almost as though you could reach out and touch each one of those peaks. On the south side, you can look down into a valley and see Macey Lakes. On the north, Horn Lakes.
There are no trails to the summit. Before I went, I plotted a route on my gps unit. The forest gets very dense at times. Making it very difficult to know where you are without the help of a gps. Because of the thickness of the woods, there are only a couple of chances to spot a landmark. Making travel by compass alone a little difficult. Plan on squeezing between trees, zig zagging and getting snagged by tree branches until you emerge from the treeline.
My RouteI took the Horn Creek trail up to the Rainbow trail and went south one quarter mile below the Horn Creek bridge. At this point I left the trail.
The first mile is an easy class one hike. Most of the remaining route would be class 2, with a final short section at the summit of no more than a 2 1/2. Depending on your personal bragging rights. There is very minimal exposure. No sheer drops.
The route up from the trailhead parking area to the summit has an elevation gain of just under 3900ft in 5 miles.
Most of the climb is in the second and third mile. The last mile or so is spent gaining, then losing elevation as you climb over about a half dozen false summits. It reminded me of riding a roller coaster.
I'm not 100% sure, but it looks like, with snow on the ground, it may be possible to climb from the valley floors on both, the north (Horn Lakes) or the south (Macey Lakes) to the summit with the use of an ice axe and possibly crampons.
As winter ends and snow melts, I will be getting out in the area more frequently and update the possibility of climbing from either of these valleys, with or without snow.
Getting ThereYour ultimate parking destination is the Horn Creek trailhead. However, during winter to early spring, the last half mile is not plowed and remains impassable. You will have to find a place to park along the road, approximately one third to one half mile from the trailhead.
Directions to the trailhead from the north, east or west
From the north, east or west, take highway 96 to the town of Westcliffe, Colorado. Then south on highway 69 approximately 3 miles to Schoolfield Rd. aka County Rd. 140. Turn right/west to County Rd 129. Go left/south to County Rd 130. Turn right/west and go approximately 3 miles. You will come to the entrance of the Horn Creek Ranch Conference Center. Turn right/north prior to entering the ranch/conference center driveway. After turning right and going approximately ¼ mile, the road becomes dirt. Continue on the dirt for ½ mile to the Horn Creek trailhead parking area. There will be signs to the Horn Creek trailhead along the entire route, starting at hwy 69.
Directions from the south
I've separated this direction due to snow conditions. If you look at a map, exiting County Rd 130 from northbound Highway 69 looks to be the most direct route. When there is no snow on the ground, this is the case and the recommended route to take. However from about December (earlier in heavy winters) to early spring, County Rd 130 west, from Hwy 69 to County Rd 129 is not plowed. To compound problems, the Custer County road crew also piles a large snow berm just prior to where it intersects with County Rd 130. Meaning, you may have to backtrack six miles and return to highway 69.
If you see a large amount of snow on the ground, I recommended that you continue north on highway 69 past County Rd 130 to Schoolfield Rd/Co Rd 140 and follow the previous directions to the Horn Creek trailhead. During summer months, Rd 130 should be fine and will save you a few miles of travel.
Red TapeThere is no red tape. No permits are required. Sign in at trailhead registration booths are appreciated by the U.S Forest Service, if applicable.
CampingThere are no camping sites in the general vicinity of the Horn Creek trailhead. The nearest public campground is the “seasonal” Alvarado Campground located near the Commanche/Venable Trailhead a few miles north.
Alvarado Campground Availability
There is open camping in the wilderness just about anywhere, except posted, private property. It shouldn’t be too hard for seasoned campers and outdoor enthusiasts to locate a flat spot in the vicinity. There are several all year running streams in the vicinity as well. As in all national forests, camping is prohibited within 200ft of lakes or streams.
Local food and lodging is also available Motels and Restaurants in the towns of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff, just a few miles down the road.
External LinksFor additional information pertaining to the local forest and current conditions, contact:
USDA (Unites States Deptartment of Agriculture/Forest Service)
Westcliffe Work Center
5 Hermit Ln
Westcliffe, CO. 81252
Phone 719 783 2079 or 719 269 8500
You can send me an email or private message. I will try to assist if possible.
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