OverviewKnown locally as “Willys” or "Willies", Williams Peak is located just west of Sunlight Ski Area outside of Glenwood Springs. Willies is an easy climb that makes for a moderate, scenic workout. Willies is probably best known as a backcountry skiing destination, and many people hike this peak in the winter for this reason. There are a variety of ski routes available on the northern and eastern slopes of this mountain.
Getting ThereFind 4-Mile Road off the south end of Midland Ave in Glenwood Springs. Follow 4-Mile road south for 8.7 miles towards the Sunlight Ski Area. Turn right onto a dirt road (still called 4-mile Road) about half a mile before you reach the ski area parking lot. Go 2.5 miles up the dirt 4-mile Road (past a big parking lot on your left) and pull off the right side of the road where there is space. Willies is on your left (south) but you cant see the summit from the road.
RoutesStandard Route (Northwest Ridge):
length: 3.8 miles (roundtrip)
elevation gain: 1,300'
From 4-mile Road, ascend the north slopes of Willys Peak through an ambrosial aspen forest. In the wintertime there is usually a well-beaten path through the snow all the way to the summit. In the summer the route is less obvious. No matter. Follow the path of least resistance up the moderate slopes until you reach the top. See topo map for more information.
From the 10,019’ summit, you get an excellent view of Mt. Sopris, Capitol Peak, and Snowmass Mountain. From this angle Mt. Sopris appears largest.
Babbish Gulch Route:
length: 6.9 miles (roundtrip)
elevation gain: 1,700'
Babbish Gulch offers a longer, more scenic way to reach the top of Willies Peak. This is probably a summer route, as it would be long and treacherous in the winter with some avalanche potential. From the dirt road turnoff on Fourmile Road, continue towards the trail as described for the standard route. Instead of passing the big parking lot on your left, however, park here and discover a large trail/road with a gate on the east side of the lot. Follow this road briefly before turning south (right) onto any number of various trails that funnel down into Babbish Gulch.
Follow Babbish Gulch on a consistent trail for 2.15 miles past a series of beaver ponds and meadows to a prominent saddle with a small lake and a wooden teepee frame at 9,300'. Contour west and north along the cirque rim towards Willies summit, bypassing Point 9678 and Point 9828 on the right (northeast). The last climb up the south face of Willies to the summit is steep and strenuous. The last pitch is steep enough, in fact, that the potential for avalanches in the winter and spring could definitely be present. Take caution and come prepared. Combining this route with the standard route makes a nice tour in either direction. See the topo map for more information.
Backcountry SkiingThere are a variety of backcountry skiing routes off Willies Peak. Most descend the open fields and gullies on the north and northeast faces. This takes you back to your car. The southern slopes of this mountain, however, are steeper. Scout out your own lines and carefully consider the avalanche potential. Though I am not an expert backcountry skiier, I would guess that most of the lines probably rate at D3 or D4. There may be lines on the south face that are a little more difficult.
Note about avalanches: Willies Peak is not known for avalanches, but anytime you are skiing in the backcountry it is important to carefully consider the avalanche potential. Many people die in Colorado's backcountry every year from avalanches. Slopes between 35-45 degrees are the most dangerous. The backcountry in the winter can be unforgiving for the unknowledgable and the unprepared. Take a class in snow safety, carry a beacon that you know and have practiced how to use, and be an investigator.