With over 1,000 feet of vertical prominence, Saint Charles Peak has earned the right to have a USGS quad named after it! In the Wet Mountains, Saint Charles Peak is second in elevation only to the Greenhorn Mountain. With the high timberline in this part of Colorado, only the tippy top of the summit dome of this peak rises above the trees, but it’s enough to afford dynamite views of the surrounding mountains. All around are vistas of the encompassing Wet Mountains, and across the Wet Mountain Valley, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains jut abruptly from the valley floor to steal the show!
Easily accessible from the paved CO Hwy 165, this is a great mountain to save for snow season, particularly because the trail system on this mountain is popular with motorized users in the summer months. Winter’s snows keep crowds, whether on feet or wheels, to a minimum – you just may have the mountain to yourself as your break trail through fresh powder! A trail goes almost all the way to the summit (just skirting the top of the peak) requiring only an easy off-trail jaunt to reach the top.
Rank: 1417th highest peak in Colorado
Prominence: 1,124 feet
USGS Quad: Saint Charles Peak
Rank & Prominence: Lists of John
Saint Charles Peak is roughly 35 miles west of Pueblo, Colorado, near the landmark of Bishop Castle. There are three primary ways to access this peak:
• From the northeast: The Saint Charles Trail can be accessed from CO Hwy 165 (paved) about two miles south of Bishop Castle. This is the commonly used winter access.
• From the southeast: The southern end of the Saint Charles Trail can also be accessed by following RT 375 out of the town of San Isabel.
• From the west: Finally, the peak can be reached via a system of Forest Service roads from the west by taking FS 369 to FS 335. In snow-free conditions with a 4x4, this route would require the least foot-powered effort to reach the summit.
Note that regardless of route chosen, all roads and trails on this mountain are motorized.
There is little red tape in this part of the San Isabel National Forest. There are no fees to park or recreate in this area.
National Forest Campgrounds
|Campground Name||Elevation||Sites||Nightly Rate||Season||Notes|
|St. Charles||8,800 ft.||15||$15||May through October||Near Lake Isabel Recreation Area|
|Ophir||8,900 ft.||30||$15||Late May to early September||Very close to Bishop's Castle|
|Davenport||8,500 ft.||12||$13||Late May to early September||Close to Ophir CG|
|Oak Creek||7,600 ft.||16||Free||Year-Round||Lowest elevation; Closest to Cañon City; No water|
|La Vista||8,600 ft.||27||$15-$19 (RV)||Mid-April through Mid-October||Only CG in San Isabel NF with electric hookups|
This community has a few limited lodging options, mostly on the simple end of the spectrum. Visit this page for more information about lodging in the Cañon City area.
This city of more than 100,000 residents has a reasonable selection of hotels and restaurants for visitors. Visit this page for more information about lodging in and around Pueblo.
The Wet Mountains generally tend to be warmer and drier than most mountain ranges in Colorado. (They are considered "wet" compared to the arid Pueblo and Cañon City areas, however.) The trail system on Saint Charles Peak is popular with dirt bike riders. If you desire to climb this peak without the whine of engines, I suggest snowshoeing or skiing during snow season.
Summer: Expect summers to be relatively hot compared to other mountainous areas of Colorado.
Fall: The autumn leaf display in the Wet Mountains is simply spectacular. In addition the ubiquitous golden-hued Aspen, these mountains also boast thick stands of orange-to-crimson Gamble Oak.
Winter: Nowhere near as high or steep as the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to their west, many of the Wet Mountain summits sit below timberline providing nice cover from winter winds. Combined with a generally smaller snow-pack, much (though not all!) of the Wet Mountains can be enjoyed in snow season without that tingling fear of avalanche experienced in much of the Colorado high country.
Spring: The snows will typically melt earlier in the Spring in the Wet Mountains than in other, higher ranges and mountains to the north.
Bishop Castle is very close to Saint Charles Peak. If you haven’t visited this local landmark, you may wish to visit just to…take it all in. In addition to the hand-built castle, you may enjoy the cultural and political views loudly shared by Mr. Bishop himself. If you are offended by his views, remember you are on his property, and you can always simply excuse yourself.