Kit Carson Peak
standard Via Challenger Point
 Easy Class 3 
Risk Factors:Exposure: Considerable
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: Considerable  
Commitment: Considerable  
Trailhead:Willow Creek
Start:8,850 feet
Summit:14,165 feet
Total Gain:6,250 feet from TH
3,450 feet from Willow Lake
850 feet from Challenger Point
RT Length:15 miles from TH
5.5 miles from Willow Lake
1.5 miles from Challenger
USGS Quad.:Crestone Peak
County Sheriff:Saguache: 719-655-2544
National Forest:Rio Grande
Wilderness Area:Sangre De Cristo
Last Updated:8/2021


Take Colorado 17 to the town of Moffat. On the south side of town, look for the sign for Crestone and turn east on the "RD T" road. Drive approx. 11.5 miles to Crestone. Continue straight and turn left on Alder Street. Drive through town a bit and turn right onto Galena. Follow Galena out of town and it turns to dirt. Now on Forest Service road #949, it's approx. 2 miles to the trailhead.


Follow the Challenger Point - North Slope Route to the summit of Challenger. From Challenger, you can't miss Kit Carson - #1 and #2. Descend east to the small, 13,800-foot saddle between Challenger and Kit Carson (#3) and climb onto a Class 2 ledge called Kit Carson Avenue that runs south along the side of the peak. Continue up the avenue (#4) to reach a small, 13,960-foot saddle between Kit Carson and a large fin called The Prow - #5.

From here you can see the next part of the hike - a longer section of the Avenue which descends east - #6. Hike down the Avenue and pass through a wide notch - #7. #8 looks back on the upper half of the Avenue. Your next goal is to locate the entry point into a broad gully on the left, before a rock rib, and near the end of the avenue - #9, #10 and #11. Near 13,650', Turn left into the broad, shallow gully - #12. STOP! Before you leave the Avenue, look around and become familiar with the area so you know how to return to the Avenue on your descent - #13.­­

From here, it's approximately 450 feet to the summit. Hike up the center of the gully on mostly Difficult Class 2 terrain - #14. As you hike higher, you will likely encounter a few sections of easy Class 3. Look for brief trail sections and small cairns as you take the easiest path up the center - #15. As you approach the ridge crest, angle left and pass through some final rock-outcroppings - #16. Near 14,000' the terrain opens up and the summit is up to the left - #17. Continue to the summit ridge (#18 and #19) and over to the summit - #20, #21 and #22. Taken from Crestone Peak, #23 shows the upper route.


This is the easiest way to climb Kit Carson, but it's a lot of elevation gain in one day. Consider a camp just below Willow Lake. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Sangre De Cristo Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.

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