Spread Eagle Peak is ranked the 306th highest peak in Colorado and towers over the beautiful Lakes of the Clouds basin. The peak dominates the western skyline while approaching the Gibson Creek trailhead from Westcliffe. It's close proximity to the Wet Mountain Valley makes it a nice dayhike with less crowds or a great winter climb.
The summit contains a CMC summit register showing that the summit sees a few folks on summer weekends with light mid-week traffic.
The easiest route on Spread Eagle Peak from the Lakes of the Clouds is steep Class 2 with a faint climbers trail for part of the way up to the saddle. From the saddle up to the south ridge never exceeds steep Class 2 but there is some exposure for the last 200 vertical feet of scrambling. Another route heads up Gibson Creek
Spread Eagle Peak Sunrise panorama
Spread Eagle Peak
Spread Eagle NE Face
Spread Eagle NW Face
Spread Eagle Peak
Spread Eagle from the North
From the center of Westcliffe, Colorado head south on Colorado Highway 69 for a short distance. Just as you are leaving town take a right turn on the well signed Hermit Road.
Continue west on Hermit Road for almost six miles. About halfway through the six miles the road will come to an intersection where the pavement heading west ends. Continue west (straight) on the now gravel Hermit Road. Spread Eagle Peak is now towering ahead of you.
At about six miles from Colorado Highway 69 you will come to a fork in the road. The left fork heads up the four wheel drive road to Hermit Lake and ultimately to Hermit Pass. Take the right fork which is the cut-off to C.R. 172 North Taylor Road. Take a left on North Taylor Road towards some private residences. You will soon see a sign for the Gibson Creek Trailhead and pass through the forest service gate.
Once through the forest service gate you will see parking for horse trailers and group camping. This last 0.2 miles from the gate to the signed trailhead is pretty rough but is passable to most high clearance vehicles. Four wheel drive would most likely be necessary in wet or snowy conditions.
Spread Eagle Peak Summit panorama
Lakes of the Clouds Trail/South Ridge
Class 2 - 13 miles RT and 4,400 feet
This is the standard route on Spread Eagle Peak and starts from the Gibson Creek Trailhead. Head north from the trailhead on a connector trail which leads to the Rainbow Trail. Turn right (north) on the Rainbow Trail. After about a half mile you will come to a signed trail junction. Take a left on the Swift Creek Trail towards the Lakes of the Clouds. You will soon come to the Wilderness Boundary and the Forest Service sign-in book. After a little over 3 miles from the trailhead you will come to another trail junction. Take a left towards the Lakes of the Clouds (right heads back down to the Rainbow Trail). The trail steepens with occasional switchbacks as it heads up into the basin containing the lakes. The lower lake is about 4 miles from the trailhead, the middle lake is about 4.25 miles from the trailhead and the upper lake is about 4.5 miles from the trailhead. There are several excellent backcountry campsites around the upper lake. There is also good fishing at the upper lake. This trail is described in detail in Falcon Guide's "Colorado's Sangre de Cristo Wilderness" book and is shown on the Trails Illustrated Map #138, "Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
From the upper lake, pick your way up grassy slopes well to the left of the small waterfall visible from near the upper lake, avoiding rock outcroppings and ledges towards the saddle south of Spread Eagle Peak. The only tricky part in this area is finding a good place to cross the creek which is well lined with vegetation. You may occasionally find a faint climbers trail that will ease some of your scramble to the saddle. Once at the saddle at just over 13,000' head left up the south ridge. There is a small 13,165 foot nub in the way you will have to hike over. The ridge narrows to less than 10 feet with exposure on both sides. At a point where the ridge becomes a technical climb the loose trail (more of a worn out section of tundra) veers right below the ridge to the east. From here the trail climbs the last few hundred feet through a mix of grassy slopes and boulders with great exposure to the right. From the summit the Crestones can be seen to the south and all the surrounding peaks just beg to be climbed!
Spread Eagle Peak South Ridge
Spread Eagle from lower lake
Hiking to the saddle
Hiking up the South Ridge
Looking down the South Ridge
Gibson Creek/East Ridge
Class 2 - 6 miles RT and 4,200 feet
This route makes a good winter climb since it is shorter and the fact that Gibson Creek doesn't have a great trail makes it impractical in the summer. Starting at the same Gibson Creek trailhead, follow the trail west and along the south side of Gibson Creek. You will arrive at a point where the valley steepens considerably at 10,400 feet where the trail ends where you will continue west up the slopes. The bushwhacking up these slopes can be rough at times but in the winter it is a snowshoeing slog. In deep snow this can be exhausting but you'll eventually reach treeline at 11,800 feet and the terrain becomes open rocky (or snowy) slopes. In winter keep a keen eye out for avalanche signs. Continue up the slope to 12,600 feet where the slope narrows into the west ridge. Follow the west ridge for a half mile to the summit.
PURPLE: Southeast face ski route - Class 2 and Steep snow
This peak can be climbed any time of year. Snow conditions can dictate how safe it is during winter so always check the avalanche and weather forecasts. In the summer standard hiking gear is needed but in the winter bring waterproof boots, gaiters, wool socks, warm gloves, snowshoes or skis and warm clothing. Ice axe and crampons will also likely be required. Avalanche beacon would be good to have if the snowpack is heavy and deep. There are some camping areas between the forest boundary and the trailhead. There is a backcountry campsite along the Rainbow trail between Gibson Creek trailhead and the Swift Creek Trail (trail to Lakes of the Clouds). There are several great backcountry campsites nestled among the three Lakes of the Clouds. The best sites appear to be between the middle and upper lakes. Our campsite was near upper Lake of the Clouds and had wonderful views of the northwest face of Spread Eagle Peak.
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