Added by Barry Holloway
Set in the rugged San Juan range of southwest Colorado, Redcloud Peak (14,034’) and Sunshine Peak (14,001’) are two 14ers which can be summited along an out-and-back hike in one day. With two options to drive to the trailhead, getting there is part of the fun!
The easier drive to the Silver Creek / Grizzly Gulch trailhead is reached by traveling south from Lake City and turning right onto County Road 30. Although parts can be rough and the shelf road around the base of Sunshine Peak may cause a tighter grip on the steering wheel, in dry conditions a high clearance 2WD vehicle should be able to make it. Approaching from the west from Silverton and over Cinnamon Pass (12,640’) is the other option. This route is recommended only for confident drivers with high clearance 4WD due to rough sections, steep inclines with loose rock, and tricky switchbacks. I drove in over Cinnamon Pass, but continued out through Lake City. For those wanting to camp, there are several primitive sites along the road near the trailhead. Plan to start your hike early to be off the summits and ridgelines before potential afternoon thunderstorms begin to form.
The Northeast Ridge route to Redcloud Peak and the connecting trail to Sunshine Peak is the most common and carries a Class II rating. Most of the trail is clearly defined, but some sections will require climbing steep slopes of loose rock and scree.
Beginning from the Silver Creek / Grizzly Gulch trailhead parking lot at 10,400’, the trail leads up a hill and into forest. About a mile in, the trees begin to thin and the trail follows more closely to Silver Creek. Two miles further, the area will have opened up into a wide basin below the summit of Redcloud. After crossing the basin, the trail becomes steeper as it zigzags up to the saddle at 13,000’. From there it’s a slow and steady climb to the summit. Take your time and be sure of your footing in the loose rock and scree. At the summit, catch your breath and enjoy the extraordinary view!
Now it’s time for Sunshine. It’s only one and a half miles away to the south, but the trail drops down to 13,500’ before climbing back up. The hike to the saddle is relatively easy, but it begins to get rough as the final 500’ climb begins. The rocks here make the going slow, but before long, you’ll find yourself at the top of your second 14er of the day with more incredible views! From the summit, you can look far down the western slope to see part of the trail you hiked earlier along Silver Creek, although some may be tempted to descend that way, it is much more steep and dangerous than it appears. Return the same way by which you hiked in.
Once back to the parking lot, congratulate yourself for making not just two, but three 14er summits in one hike; you did summit Redcloud twice!
- No permit required
- Water and food
- Trekking poles
- Layers and jacket, it can be windy and cold on the summits
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