When you see the Sangre de Cristo Range's ragged sawtooth sillouhetted against the sky from the Wet Mountain Valley floor, Horn Peak is a dominating presence amidst an impressive vista. This massive mountain's position, jutting east of the range crest á la Colony Baldy and Humboldt Peak, means it's very visible from places like the town of Westcliffe.
Horn is an important peak chiefly for its accessibility. The Horn Peak Trail provides a way for even the most novice of hikers to catch a glimpe of what the Sangre de Cristos have to offer. For the experienced peak-bagger, Horn has a more adventurous route to its summit, and can be combined in a long loop hike with neighboring Fluted Peak and Little Horn Peak.
While the peak, Colorado's 289th tallest, does see some traffic during the summer from guests at the nearby Horn Creek Ranch, it endures the soles of relatively few boots compared to the magnificent 14ers of the Crestone Group a few miles south. Try a hike of Horn in mid to late May, and experience classic Sangre solitude and fabulous views of some of Colorado's most abrupt and fantastic peaks in snow-capped glory.
Because Horn Peak juts so far east of the range crest, it's almost universally accessed from the Horn Creek Trailhead.
The Horn Creek Trailhead is located near Horn Creek Ranch southwest of the town of Westcliffe. To get to the trailhead, drive south from Westcliffe on SH-69 and turn right on Schoolfield Road after ~3 miles. Go a mile west on Schoolfield and then turn left on Macey Lane and head south for 2 miles. Turn right on Horn Road and head west to Horn Creek Ranch, which is reached after ~3.5 miles. At the ranch, turn right at a signed junction and reach the Horn Creek TH after .25 miles. Some of the drive to the TH is paved, and the dirt roads are in great condition.
In addition to the Horn Peak Trail, Horn can be climbed from Dry Creek. According to Jason Moore, the loose scree on Horn's south slopes above the lower Dry Lake are to be avoided at all costs. Instead, climb to Horn's saddle with the range crest by using grassy slopes found leading up from the second lake.
Horn Peak is located within the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness. Typical wilderness restrictions apply. Contacting the managing agencies (see 'Mountain Conditions') is the surest way to get up-to-date information.
Leave No Trace suggests you observe these principles when traveling and camping in all public lands, especially wilderness:
1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
3. Dispose of Waste Properly
4. Leave What You Find
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
6. Respect Wildlife
7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
The easiest time to climb Horn Peak is June-October, but this varies year-to-year with the snowpack. Because of the peak's position close to the valley floor, it is a very reasonable winter and spring hike for two reasons: roads are maintained to the Horn Creek Ranch, providing good access, and the trail gains the ridge crest relatively low, providing an avalanche-safe route to the summit.
Camping is permitted in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness. Good camp spots are available along Dry Creek, however, camping along the Horn Peak Trail specifically may be more difficult to find.
The US Forest Service is your best bet for determining current snow conditions and gathering other such information. The San Carlos Ranger District (719-269-8500) of San Isabel National Forest is responsible for the Sangres east of the range crest. Another good contact number for the east side is the Westcliffe Ranger Station (719-783-2079).
For weather information, the National Weather Service is a good place to start:
Horn Peak experimental point forecast