California Peak  
Condition Updates  
Route: South Ridge
Posted On: 2022-06-17, By: Crestoner
Info: The road is clear to the Huerfano/Lily Lake Trailhead. There are some downed trees the first mile or so on the trail...not too much trouble. All clear after Lily Lake Trail turnoff. Route is clear of snow all the way...but that slope above Lily Lake still sucks. We descended east from ~0.5 mile down the North Ridge...a great descent route, no problems at all...intersected the trail at the west end of the big meadow, ~0.3 mile from the trailhead. 
Route: West Ridge
Posted On: 2022-05-30, By: dcruz654
Info: Almost totally snow free except maybe the last 100 vertical. Easy access to Zapata falls th, any car can make it. Route felt longer and steeper than it looked on paper. Great route though 
Route: From 13577, W Ridge descent
Posted On: 2022-02-19, By: -wren-
Info: Mostly talus, some tundra, same snow as last reports up until you start climbing up California - super dry. The west ridge descent kinda sucks - a lot of supportive snow that would occasionally give out since it was getting warmabove treeline, and then loose talus below treeline. The ridge line for all of these peaks has some pretty gnarly cornices in spots. Definitely would not end well if one failed while you were standing on it, so give them wide breadth. Otherwise, zero avy danger. 
Route: South Ridge
Posted On: 2021-12-10, By: EthanBeltramo
Info: Not much snow at all. Just a little below the treeline and that's it. Brought spikes but didn't use them. Was able to drive to the upper trailhead. Lily lake is frozen thick and the upper lake is too, very pretty. Snow conditions will probably change with the next storm 
Route: South Ridge
Posted On: 2021-11-22, By: halfapackofapache
Info: Very little snow the entire route as of 11/21/21. Might as well be summer conditions if it weren't so cold! Light dusting of snow from the night before that melted off as soon as the sun hit. Wore trail runners the whole time. No spikes or flotation needed. Drove all the way to the trailhead with no issues. Was surprised to see 3 other people out there! 
6 1
Route: North Ridge
Posted On: 2021-11-14, By: bfaulkne
Info: Too much wind for me today. Would be doable on a day with calmer winds. Plenty of snow hiding in the trees around 11,000', but nothing that requires microspikes. Patches may become icy with more traffic. Made it to 13,500' to see the remaining route. See photos. Much of the ridge was well windswept. 
Route: West slopes, from Zapata Falls
Posted On: 2021-07-30, By: mijoflynn
Info: Returned to Zapata Falls TH to retry California after being turned back by weather last week; successfully summited this time. After PM'ing with another member, I went directly up the west ridge instead of California Gulch (see 07/24/2021 CR). The ridge was better, I guess, but not by a lot. It's got several sections: 1. After leaving the North Fork trail at a cairn at 2.8 miles, ascend a heavily wooded slope. No big deal. 2. After arriving at the base of a talus pile at 3.0 miles, head directly up the northwest side of the steep (~1700' in a mile) ridge, which is a simultaneous combination of loose dirt, loose talus, and thick pine trees. There are occasional cairns and trail segments to help out a little here, but I had a hard time following them consistently, and thought this was by far the hardest part of the hike. 3. Clear treeline at 3.4 miles and keep ascending talus. There's a good, clear trail through this section. 4. Hit a high-alpine meadow at 3.6 miles. 5. At 4.0 miles, start climbing talus for the final 900' to the summit. There's no trail through 4 and 5, but the summit's visible above you and there's not much chance to go astray. When descending section 2, I almost immediately lost the cairns, and strayed just a little to the left (south) of my ascent line. But that put me on the southwest side of the ridge, which is even steeper and sloppier than the northwest side. It was a real mess to climb down. Stay on the northwest side if you go this way -- or maybe the best option is just to do this peak from the Huerfano valley to the east, where it's supposedly much more pleasant? Amazing views of the Blanca group from the top, though. 
Route: North Ridge Ascent, South Ridge Descent
Posted On: 2021-07-26, By: Phill the Thrill
Info: A picture paints a thousand words. We ascended the north ridge route, starting from the Zapata Trail near our campsite on FS 580. Photo 1 shows how much of the route looks (grassy slopes). We had a pleasant climb in the early morning and it took exactly 3 hrs to reach the summit of California Peak. Photo 2 shows the crappy, loose talus/scree we descended from PT 13,577 to reach Lily Lake on the south ridge route. Which looks more fun to you? The ONLY reason to take this route, in my mind, is to enjoy Lily Lake and the incredible views of Blanca Peak, Ellingwood Point, and Little Bear Peak (Photo 3). Beautiful wildflowers in peak bloom as well (Photo 4). 
4 1
Route: West slopes, from Zapata Falls
Posted On: 2021-07-24, By: mijoflynn
Info: Drove down from BV to hike California today because the weather around the Blanca massif was supposed to be better -- clear till late afternoon, with 5 mph winds. About that: during the early-morning drive down, it looked like the entire Sangres were wreathed in clouds; the Blanca massif definitely was by the time I got to the TH at 6:30, and I didn't see the sun for hours. Plus, wind was whipping down California Gulch, and pushing waves of swirling, dark clouds over the ridge from the east; when I got to about 12,700' at 9:30, the top 500' of the mountain weren't visible. I waited about an hour and a half to see if things would clear; when they didn't, I started back down. From where I was sitting, you could see that the San Luis valley, the Sand Dunes, and Twin Peaks were all getting sun -- and I know people did Blanca and Ellingwood today. Apparently the bad weather was centered on Cali. And of course, by the time I got back to the TH at 1:00 the clouds had lifted enough that the summit was clear. Not my most successful day in the mountains. Anyway, in the hopes that it will help someone: I did the west ridge from Zapata Falls because it was about an hour and a half closer. The South Zapata Lake Trail is in really good condition; the North Fork Trail isn't as well-maintained, but is still easy to follow (but carving the name of the trail into an aspen trunk? Come on.). Once you leave the North Fork trail, you have a couple of options. I decided to go up California Gulch, following SnowAlien's TR. That wasn't a great choice. There is no trail, just occasional flattened grass that shows other people have tried that route. Part of the time you'll be doing steep sidehill on uneven talus; the rest you'll be bushwhacking through thigh-high undergrowth that's so thick that you can't see where you're putting your feet. I missed my step several times on the way down and took a spill on the last one; I'm grateful I didn't break my ankle. FWIW, if I had to do it again (and I probably have to, because unsuccessful hikes grate on me), I'd go straight up the west ridge as soon as I hit it instead. That's the route Roach suggests, and the one Captain Suburbia's TH uses. 
Route: North Ridge
Posted On: 2021-06-16, By: cdgibbons
Info: Very nearly summer conditions. 3 areas of snow to cross, only one of consequence is a mildly corniced drift right at the saddle which can be skirted on climber's right. Trail is a little hard to follow in a meadow around 11,000' in the dark. This is a beautiful route with wonderful views. 
Route: North Ridge from Lower Huerfano
Posted On: 2021-05-15, By: supranihilest
Info: Highlight: I wore trail runners 95% of the day and could have gotten by 100%. The road is blocked by snowdrifts at the landslide, 1 mile from Lower Huerfano trailhead, though mostly dry - it's just the stubborn drifts preventing driving. At the lower trailhead take a right and follow the Zapata trail, which is signed. It's mostly dry with one wet section (the trail here is literally a stream) and one or two snow drifts. Follow the trail to a fence in a meadow. Instead of taking the trail all the way, simply aim for the saddle off to your right. It's mostly dry in a direct line, but if you try to follow the trail like I did in the morning you'll find yourself with tons of snow to contend with. The direct route is steeper, but way less snowy. The saddle itself is guarded by a large cornice, just continue past it to the north and find easier access. I tried going up it early in the morning and would have needed crampons and at least one ice axe, maybe two, but if you go around it you don't need any snow gear at all. Once at the saddle just follow the ridge south to California, it's very obvious. Some rolling ups and downs and some snow along the way but nothing terrible. I added Point 13,577 and Point 13,660 A, but you could just as easily return down the north ridge to Lower Huerfano. No snow gear needed whatsoever. 
Route: West Slopes
Posted On: 2021-04-03, By: Carl_Healy
Info: 3 summited California Peak today. Two on two legs and one on four legs. Conditions from graberz report yesterday still hold true. Just adding some extra pictures and additional notes. 1) With graberz trench in place (thanks!) we actually put on our snow shoes hardly at all. Trench was firm enough in the morning that we didn't need them. Things were different on the way down but we were stubborn and still didn't really use them. 2) The main trail near the start of the route was still snowpacked on our way up but on the way down additional boot pack and melting made it way icier so traction might be advisable. 3) Zapata Falls Trailhead was absolutely packed with people making the short jaunt to the falls when we got back around 16:00 MDT. 
6 2
Route: Zapata falls
Posted On: 2021-04-03, By: graberz
Info: Road is clear to the trail head. Zapata trail is clear/packed snow all the way to the point of turning off at the gulch.. From here it required snow shoes. The snow was supportive at times in the morning but we still post holed thigh deep at other places in the trees. Gaining the head wall to ridge proper was the most difficult. Snow was Unconsolidated and waist deep. From there the ridge was unsupportive snow to bare at times. Above tree line we ditched snow shoes and snow was consolidated or avoidable to summit. Coming down was a mashed potatoe mess and yielded many cuss words. It was very warm and no wind. Spectacular views all around. Gaia had us at 4600 ft 9.23 miles in 8:45 
9 6
Route: Zapata Falls
Posted On: 2021-01-05, By: Sbenfield
Info: Not a whole lot of snow on the route. Currently snowshoes probably are overkill. Beautiful day out, definitely didn't feel like winter! 
Route: North Ridge
Posted On: 2020-10-04, By: areedhay
Info: North Ridge route from Zapata trail is dry all the way to the summit, including the endless false summits. Lots of elk to be seen, and the aspen trees are in full glory. TR to follow. 
Route: South Ridge
Posted On: 2020-09-06, By: MC.Ikema
Info: DESCENT NOTES for Option #2 ("descend a portion of California's north ridge before dropping east to reach Huerfano Creek."): As you descend down to tree line, the route description's GPX (purple line) brings you over to scrubby gully for descent down to the rock heap you later parallel. If I had a do over, I would investigate staying right of the trees and continuing down the grassy slopes to the rock heap and avoiding the gully (blue line). Once you are parallel to the rock heap it's easy walking to the end of the rock heap. The lower portion of the descent gets into the trees. Bring your blood hound/Indian scout skills as there's a very faint game trail through the woods (route description's GPX should get you close enough to maybe eyeball it). I am part homing pigeon, and even I struggled to maintain the game trail as it fades in and out. All said, the routes does exactly as intended, descends quickly to Huerfano Creek. If you get lost in the parking lot, this probably isn't the descent for you. 
Route: South Ridge
Posted On: 2020-08-13, By: BendExile
Info: Found climb tougher than advertised most likely secondary to my ascending too far to to the right above Lily Lake which cost me close to a hour of extra due time to sketchy loose class 3 rock. Views were wonderful. Weather was great with no haze and allowed me to stay on the ridge later than I usually like to. Descending North Ridge saved time but encountered lots of annoying scree. Lots of people climbing Mt Lindsey but only people I encountered all day on my climb were 15 backpackers descending from Lily Lake about 5:30 AM. Lily Lake is beautiful but if I climbed California again I would probably try a different route. 
Route: North Ridge
Posted On: 2020-06-22, By: E_A_Marcus_949
Info: Summer conditions from Lower Huerfano Trailhead. Great trail the way to the saddle then typical 13er 'find your own adventure' up and down the multiple grassy slopes. Various cairns/wood stakes to help you too until the saddle. Beautiful views from the summit of Lindsay, Blanca, Ellingwood, Little Bear, and the surrounding 13ers + Crestone group and Sand Dunes. 
Route: South Ridge
Posted On: 2020-06-12, By: dcsheldon
Info: From the trail head to the Lily Lake turn off the trail is soggy in a lot of places. Just a few detours to keep my feet dry. Only 10 feet of snow to go through on the ascent, just below Lily Lake. I descended California peak to its north side and then descended east to Huerfano creek. Some snow on that route but all avoidable. Didn't need traction throughout the hike. 
Route: West Slopes
Posted On: 2020-06-07, By: Reg0928
Info: Summer conditions from the Zapata Falls TH. No snow on route 

Return to the main Peak Conditions page
© 2022®, 14ers Inc.