Castle Rock

Page Type
Colorado, United States, North America
La Plata
10441 ft / 3182 m
1501 Hits
82.48% Score
Log in
to vote
Page By:
Castle Rock
Created On: Aug 18, 2015
Last Edited On: Oct 20, 2017


Zoomed view of Castle Rock from near Elbert Creek Trailhead

Castle Rock is a part of Hermosa Cliffs, a long line of cliffs that rise to the west of Route 550 south of Purgatory Ski Resort (aka Durango Mountain Resort) in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. Looking east, from the summit of Castle Rock, you will see cliffs/steep slopes dropping 1600 ft below your feet to where Route 550 runs. Electra and Haviland Lakes as well as some of the peaks of the area will also be in good view. Looking west, however, you will find yourself standing on the edge of a forested plateau and your only view will be that of the trees immediately in front of you. Castle Rock has only 100 ft of prominence and is therefore not a ranked peak.

Castle Rock is usually approached from the south via Elbert Creek Trail. I will also describe a descent route north down the ski slopes of Purgatory Resort.

Hermosa Cliffs from Haviland Lake, Castle Rock to the right of the opening in the cliffs

Getting There

From Durango, drive roughly 25 miles north on Route 550 (3 miles south of Purgatory Ski resort) to Needles Country Store on the west side of the road. Elbert Creek Trailhead can be found on the south side of the store. Parking is available.

Route, ascend Elbert Creek, descend Purgatory ski slopes

Map of Castle Rock hikeMap

Here are the elevations and distances (per my GPS) for a one way hike from Elbert Creek Trailhead to Purgatory Ski Village.

Elbert Creek Trailhead
8780 ft
zero miles
Trail Split
9840 ft
1.80 miles
Castle Rock Summit
10441 ft
0.55 miles
Ski Lift Top
10450 ft
1.05 miles
Purgatory Ski Village
8900 ft
2.60 miles
6.00 miles

Head west on the trail going toward a valley created by Elbert Creek in Hermosa Cliffs. The first part of the trail is a narrow easement through private property.

Hermosa CliffsHermosa Cliffs

The trail goes into a mostly aspen forest and makes a number of switchbacks going up in elevation. Highway noise can be heard in this area.

On Elbert Creek Trail

Castle Rock from the forest.

Castle RockCastle Rock

The trail will then take you into the Elbert Creek Valley. After going by an abandoned cabin, a meadow opens up.

On Elbert Creek Trail
On Elbert Creek Trail
On Elbert Creek Trail
On Elbert Creek Trail

Shortly after the cabin, you will see a trail branching on the right. This junction is not signed. Leave Elbert Creek Trail and follow the new trail up the meadow and into the forest to reach the top of Castle Rock. Views from the top.

Route 550 & Hermosa CliffsHermosa Cliffs
Potato Hill & The Twilight PeaksPotato Hill
Electra & Haviland LakesElectra Lake
Looking eastLooking east

Hermosa Cliffs, Potato Hill on the rightHermosa Cliffs
Route 550Route 550
Hermosa Cliffs
Looking straight down

The Needle MountainsThe Needle Mountains

You can go back the way you came or can go north to Purgatory Skis Resort. It is hard to give exact directions here. Look at aerial photos to familiarize yourself with the area. I continued the trail north into the forested plateau until it turned into an abandoned Jeep road. At a T, I turned left and then right where I reached the top of ski lifts. I then followed the ski runs 1500 vertical feet to reach Purgatory Village. Some of the ski slopes were covered by very tall grass. Be sure you follow the correct ski runs. If you follow some of the western lifts, you may end up down in Hermosa Creek Valley far from Purgatory Village.

Top of Purgatory Ski AreaTop of ski slopes

Red Tape

No fees or permits for Elbert Creek Trail.
When the ski slopes are open, you must obviously contact the ski resort.