Everyday countless commuters heading south on Santa Fe or taking the light rail to Mineral see the prominent summit rock of Turkshead Peak rising 2000 ft above Waterton Canyon - but very few would be able to name this obscure peak.
Despite its prominent appearance, Turkshead Peak is actually only a rock outcropping along the rim of a smaller plateau, located between the canyons of Willow Creek ,South Platte and Bear Gulch. The highest point along the rim is actually 300 ft higher than Turkshead Peak. Wouldn't it be for private property one could basically park right next to the summit block and conquer the summit in 2 to 3 minutes - but what fun would that be. Therefore, the only suitable starting point to get to the summit is from Waterton Canyon.
Turkshead Peak is the perfect scramble for any masochist bushwhacker - you have to wade through the South Platte before you can even start scrambling.
Your route leads you through ravines full with oak scrub, thorn bushes, agaves and cactus - and you have to take the same route back after you finally made it to the top - after you are done I am sure you will always remember this trip.
From the C-470 and S. Wadsworth intersection in southwest Denver. Take Wadsworth south for several miles until you see a turnoff for Waterton Canyon on your left (This is the point where Wadsworth starts heading west). Drive south for several hundred yards. You'll see a parking lot on your left. Park in the parking lot.
Cross the road and walk on a gravel road several miles into the Waterton Canyon - a mountain bike would be a great help.
Turkshead Peak rises above the South Platte to your right shortly before you reach the Strontia Springs Reservoir.
Find a suitable place to wade through the South Platte and scramble up the ravines to the right of Turkshead Peak until you reach the summit (Class 2/3).
Expect lots of oak scrub,thorn bushes and cactus - and do not be surprised if you see a rattle snake. This environment is prime habitat for these reptiles.
Any land to the west of the peak is private property, so you have to climb back the same way you came up.
Best season for this climb is late fall when the water level of the South Platte is low and one does not get roasted on the slopes like in summer.
It will get very hot in the summer months because of the comparable low elevation of the canyon.
Crossing the South Platte will be challenging in winter and spring due to the ice cold water /high water flow.
Camping in the canyon itself is prohibited and no sane person would try to bivouc in ravines full of thorn bushes and cactus.
You could roll out your sleeping matt on the summit itself, though.
Red TapePRIVATE PROPERTY
Turkshead Peak is barely within the Pike National Forest boundaries.
Any land in spitting distance to the west of Turkshead Peak is private property - check the map to make sure you stay on public land.
WATERTON CANYON REGULATIONS
Waterton Canyon is only open during the day (30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset).
NO DOGS are allowed inside Waterton Canyon to protect the herd of bighorn sheep in the canyon.
DO NOT approach bighorn sheep or let them approach you - help to keep these animals wild for their own good!
Waterton Canyon has a problem with bighorn sheep approaching hikers. They are wild animals and unpredictable in their behavior.
Any sheep wich harms people has to be killed by national forest personnel.
DO NOT feed any big game to avoid the spread of the chronic wasting disease.