Formerly known as "North Carbonate", this mountain now has an official name, approved by the Department of Interior in May 2005. Cronin Peak is named in honor of Mary Cronin (1893-1982) who in 1934 became the first woman to climb all the fourteen-thousand foot peaks in Colorado.
Cronin Peak is Colorado's 75th highest summit. It is a gently sloped, reddish mountain in the Sawatch Range, a close neighbor to fourteeners Tabeguache Peak, Mount Shavano, and Mount Antero. This mountain was formerly known as "North Carbonate" for its proximity to Carbonate Mountain, one of its lower neighbors, three humps to the south. With its accessibility and a commanding, 360-degree view of the surrounding high mountains, Cronin Peak should be high on your Colorado centennials climbing list.
There are two main trailheads: Baldwin Gulch, and Cyclone Creek.
Baldwin Creek Trailhead: Turn west on Chaffee County Road 162 from U.S. 285, 6 miles south of Johnson Village. If you are coming from the south, the turnoff is about 15 miles north of the U.S. 285/U.S. 50 intersection in Poncha Springs. Go west on the County Road 162 (paved) for 12 miles to the Baldwin Creek Road. Park at this junction. With a 4WD vehicle you may proceed on the Baldwin Creek Road about three miles farther, to a road junction at 10,840 ft.
Cyclone Creek Trailhead: Provides access to North Carbonate's south side as well as several other thirteeners that are even closer. Drive 6 miles west on U.S. 50 from Poncha Springs. Turn north onto Chaffee County Road 240. Drive a little over 8 miles to the ghost town site of Shavano, which is conspicuously marked. You will need a high clearance vehicle, but not necessarily four wheel drive, to make the last four miles of this road. Nice campsites are available along the road.
North Ridge: Class 2 scramble. Twelve miles round trip from Baldwin Creek Trailhead. 4450' elevation gain.
East Ridge: Class 2 scramble. Seventeen miles round trip from Baldwin Creek Trailhead. 4970' elevation gain.
Southwest Ridge via Cyclone Peak: Shorter and less crowded, but with unpleasant portions - crash through willow swamp and climb long, unstable slope to Cyclone Peak. Class 2. Ten miles round trip from Cyclone Creek Trailhead. 4110' elevation gain.
Southwest Ridge via Grizzly Mountain: Class 3 ridge traverse. Twelve miles round trip from the Cyclone Creek Trailhead. 4340' elevation gain.
This mountain is in the San Isabel National Forest. All visitors and forest users are subject to Federal Regulations. Read the rules, which address camping, vehicles, camp fires, pets, and several other issues.
Cronin Peak is situated in the San Isabel National Forest, where there are countless recreation opportunities, and dozens of campgrounds.. Visit the official Forest Service web site here. There are at several developed campgrounds along Chaffee County Road 162 within three miles of either Baldwin Gulch. Three of these (Cascade Campground, Chalk Creek Campground, and Mount Princeton Campground) accept advance reservations. Visit ReserveUSA.com, or call toll free, 1-877-444-6777 to make reservations.
Dispersed camping is also permitted in many areas and with certain restrictions. If your destination is the Cyclone Creek trail, the Angel of Shavano Campground is about 4 miles below the trailhead along CR 240. Fee is $12 per night. Above that campground and along the same road there are approximately a dozen other small camping areas, good for one to five campers, with no fee. You may have to get there early to claim them, however. The North Fork Reservoir Campground ($6 per night) is two miles beyond the trailhead at 11,000 ft.
Current, local conditions are maintained by the Forest Service at their newly updated web site. Besides the current weather, they publish campground status, road conditions, trail status, and closures. You may also call the Forest Service office at 719-553-1400.
The summer months provide the best time to climb mountains in the Sawatch. You are by no means assured of safe conditions on any day of the year, of course. Don't get caught unprepared in sudden blizzards or lightning storms that kill Colorado hikers nearly every year. As always, use good judgment, and Check the Weather Forecast before you go.
Consider the summit views from this mountain...