“A truly epic hike covering three of Colorado's hardest 14ers in one fell swoop.
— Tyler Prince
Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
If you take a dog on this hike, you'll be forced to turn around the second you hit the first class 3 area. Leave Fido at home!
This is a unique shuttle route designed to give its finishers ultimate bragging rights. Starting from the Kilpacker Trailhead, this hike takes you through loose rock over the summit of El Diente Peak, across one of Colorado's four grand traverses, down Mt. Wilson, up Wilson Peak, and down the Rock of Ages Trail
. This is without a doubt one of the most dangerous, technical, and physically demanding hikes on this site. Expect a very full day - this took me 14 hours, well over half of which was spent on perilously loose rock.
Need to Know
Experts only! If you aren't comfortable climbing low class 5 without a rope or traveling on extremely loose rock for hours on end, avoid this hike.
And, if you don't already know what to bring and when to start a 14er...avoid this hike! And please do bring a helmet and a partner.
From Telluride, drive south on CO 145 over Lizard Head
Pass. Continue south for 5.1 miles and turn right onto Forest Road (FR) 535. Drive 5 more miles on 2WD dirt road to reach the signed Kilpacker Trailhead. Turn right and drive 0.1 miles to camping and the start of the trail.
Get an early start. 3 AM is a good time - it will be light by the time you start the technical portions and gives you a chance to beat the weather. If weather turns by noon you can evacuate down Navajo Lake Trail
back to Kilpacker Trailhead. If it's still good you can complete the entire route.
Start up the Kilpacker Trail
, staying right at the junction with El Diente Southern Slopes
approach. Don't go up and into Navajo Basin unless you plan to split up these peaks - it takes more time. Summit El Diente and continue across the Wilson Traverse
to summit Mt. Wilson. Descend Mt. Wilson Trail
into Navajo Basin. Hike up the northern side of the basin via the final portion of the Navajo Lake Trail
to reach the Rock of Ages Saddle. From here, hike Wilson Peak Trail
to the summit of Wilson Peak. Backtrack back down to the saddle, and head down the other side on the talus of Rock of Ages Trail
. Once you reach the road, it's just a class 1 walk out.
You'll probably be pretty scraped up after this. There's a stream a mile down the road once you reach the Rock of Ages Trail
parking area. It's a good place for a quick dip.
This is an absurd "grand slam" of a hike. If it's your kind of thing, check out the Chicago Basin Grand Slam, or string together some routes near Blanca Peak or the Crestones.
Flora & Fauna
You'll see plenty of marmots and pika anywhere, but the Wilsons boast some more unique wildlife. The wolverine, a kind of marmot-bear-looking critter, may be seen in Navajo Basin, usually up by some abandoned mining equipment. Below these majestic mountains, beautiful alpine basins contain stunning San Juan wildflowers.
History & Background
Wilson Peak may look at least subliminally familiar to many Americans. Unfortunately this isn't due to its climbing history, but to its association with a certain brewery. Yes, it is the mountain in the Coors logo.