Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
4,075.00 ft (1,242.06 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
17.00 mi (27.36 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

West Willow Creek to San Luis Peak is a 17-mile out-and-back to the top of San Luis Peak (14,014’), the highest point in the La Garita Mountains. This route is located in the La Garita Wilderness in the Gunnison National Forest north of Creede, Colorado. It features alpine forests, colorful wildflowers,  open meadows, talus slopes, breathtaking mountain vistas, and views overlooking the Rio Grande Valley and the San Luis Valley. This is a challenging, yet scenic and rewarding adventure that is suitable for runners, hikers, and backpackers.

The La Garita Mountains are part of the San Juan Mountain Range, which is a subrange of the Rocky Mountains. Getting to the highest point of this range requires a long day at high altitude. The elevation range along this route is approximately 10,300' to 14,014' (at the peak of San Luis Peak) with an overall gain of 3,670'.

There are two popular approaches to San Luis Peak: one via West Willow Creek and one via Stewart Creek Trail. Despite being physically challenging, both are fairly straightforward. The route described here begins at West Willow Creek and ascends the southern ridge.

As far as technical difficulty is concerned, this route is considered an easy class 1 hike. When it comes to physical effort, steep sections of loose, rocky trail, along with the distance and high altitude, make for a challenging day.

DIRECTIONS

Drive along Forest Road 503 until it turns into an old four-wheel drive road. From there, continue up the road by foot (unless you have a vehicle that can cross the rugged terrain) until you reach the West Willow Creek Trailhead.

Follow the San Luis Pass Trail to San Luis Pass. Turn right when you reach the Colorado Trail (CT) / Continental Divide Trail (CDT).

At the junction with the San Luis Peak Trail, turn left and follow the southern ridge up to the top. To get back to the start, you'll retrace your steps.

WHEN TO GO

The best time to visit this area if you want to avoid snow is in the summer. Keep in mind that summer also brings afternoon thunderstorms and chances for lightning. Make sure you check current weather conditions before heading out and have a plan in case you do encounter bad weather.

CAMPING

Dispersed camping is allowed in the national forest as long as visitors follow the appropriate regulations. For more information please visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd576017.pdf.

CONSIDERATIONS

  • Prepare to spend the entire trek at high elevation. 

  • Prepare for quickly changing weather, especially in the summer season.

  • Start early to avoid being near the summit during an afternoon thunderstorm. 

  • This route passes through the La Garita Wilderness, which is subject to Wilderness Restrictions.

  • The trailhead can be difficult to access and may require a high clearance vehicle. 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Current Weather on San Luis Peak

How Do I Stay Safe from Lightning at High Elevations?

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Peak bagging. Scenic vistas. Picturesque landscapes.

Cons

Trailhead is difficult to access.

Trailhead Elevation

11,106.00 ft (3,385.11 m)

Highest point

14,014.00 ft (4,271.47 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Wildlife
Near lake or river
Big vistas
Geologically significant
Wildflowers

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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