Peak out two fourteeners on this gorgeous hike, with the option of camping out at the serene Willow Lake the night before.

There are a couple different trailheads that lead to Kit Carson Peak, but the one from Willow Creek Trailhead will give you the opportunity to peak another fourteener, Challenger Point, and let you pass through and/or camp at Willow Lake, which is a beautiful destination by itself.

If approaching from the north, go 13.8 miles south on Colorado 17 from the Colorado 17-US 285 junction. If approaching from the south, go 16.8 miles north on Colorado 17 from the Colorado 17-Colorado 112 junction in Hooper. Turn east onto a paved road 0.5 mile south of the center of Moffat. Go 12.5 miles east to the town of Crestone. Measuring from the Galena Avenue-Alder Street junction in the center of town, go east on Galena Avenue, enter the Rio Grande Forest at mile 1.1, and reach the trailhead at mile 2.3. (37.9888 -105.6626)

From the Willow Creek Trailhead it's a simple 4.8 mile trail to follow to Willow Lake, but the majority of it is switchbacks that will bring out a nice sweat as you go from 8,880 ft in elevation to 11,600 ft. 

Once you reach the lake, hike around the north side as you approach the large waterfall on the east side. Climb 0.8 mile south up a long slope that starts off as grass but steepens near its top and involves some route finding. The slope leads to Challenger Point's northwest ridge. Follow this Class 2 ridge 0.4 mile southeast to the summit at 14,081 ft. (37.9803 -105.6066)

From Challenger Point, descend 0.2 mile east to the saddle. From this saddle, do an ascending traverse 0.1 mile south-southeast, go around a corner, and reach a tiny saddle. Cross the saddle and do a descending traverse 0.2 mile east along the "Kit Carson Avenue Ledge". Follow the ledge until you are east of the summit, then scramble 0.1 mile northwest up a Class 3 gully to the summit.  

Pack List

  • Hiking Shoes
  • Plenty of Water
  • Multiple Layers
  • Camera
  • Bug Spray
  • Snacks
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RT Distance 12.4 Miles
Elevation Gain 6323 Feet
Activities Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking, Fitness, Rock Climbing
Skill Level Advanced
Season Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Food Nearby
Forest
Lake
Picnic Area
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Swimming Hole

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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