Peak(s):  California Peak  -  13,849 feet
Date Posted:  10/03/2016
Modified:  10/05/2016
Date Climbed:   10/02/2016
Author:  JQDivide
Additional Members:   bmcqueen, RyGuy
 Gold Rush: Cali from Huerfano Basin   

Gold Rush: California Peak in Fall
Zapata Trail from Huerfano Basin
Cali Peak on the right, with the basin to the south: Huerfano Peak, Lindsey, Blanca, Ellingwood & Little Bear.

Under 8 hours to hike it at a moderate pace, with 30 minutes at the summit.

Hiked it with Brad McQueen and Ryan Richardson, which just happened to be his 90th Centennial.

There is only one sign for the Zapata trail, along with a trail sign for Huerfano, both in a narrow section of road. There is plenty of parking just past the signs and room for dispersed camping.

It's a Class 1 trail that switch backs through the trees and pops out in a some-what flat grassy area before heading back into the trees. But this area has some pretty good views. You'll be able to see the saddle on the ridge where the trail eventually hits it, a little to your right (north), but the trail will go left (south) and up the slope.

We hiked up from the road, the aspens, and through the grassy area, which has a fence, and back toward the trees. At this point you'll hike next to a rocky outcropping with a cairn, go left (south) here, around the rocks and you should see a hidden cairn. Continue on the obvious trail that leads you into the trees.

We didn't. We bushwhacked up and to the right and came across a man-made drainage ditch that was taking water from a gully and moving it north... maybe to the reservoirs?

Up we went until we hit the trail again, and then shortly to the ridge. The ridge up to the California summit didn't have a trail... a 13er without a trail, who would have guessed that. It was a fairly gentle slope with several highpoints and down slopes before we reached the rocky summit.

THE VIEWS WERE AWESOME. I hiked Ellingwood and Blanca earlier this year and to be honest was disappointed in the views. Give me the San Juans any day over the Sangres. But this hike was redemption for the Sangres. We had spent a day at the upper TH for Brad (and Dan) to hike Lindsey, while I fished the Huerfano River (love me some Brookies). Now we were looking over that upper basin once we hit the saddle. Beautiful.
Huerfano Peak
Iron Nipple
Little Bear
Twin Peaks
All in front of us.

If we turned around we saw the Great Sand Dunes. Kit Carson. The Crestones. And views of the southern Swatch.

The weekend was PRIME for Fall Colors... such an amazing display of Aspen Gold. The basin was filled with color. The lower portion of the trail took us through a beautiful Aspen grove. From the ridge we could see gold for miles in nearly every direction.

There are so many peaks in this state to climb, in easier to reach locations... but I would gladly do this hike again, especially in the fall.

The grassy flat area. You can see the rocky area cairn in between the hikers.

Grassy Flat area (Brad's Photo) But again, you can see the tiny cairn in the left of the photo.

heading up from the saddle (Brad's photo)

Crestones to the North

Heading up one of the highpoints


One more up and over before the summit (Brad's photo)

On the summit (Ryan's photo)

From the Cali summit looking South

Heading down, basin and views to the NE

Lower trail section

Aspens in the lower trail section


View of the basin from the road

The road in

Land Slide image

Land Slide and road

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Comments or Questions
Very, very nice....
10/03/2016 15:49
I did the same thing you did (with the bushwhack up and mostly trail down). And I agree that the views from the top of Cal are the best in the area - much better than Lindsey, Ellingwood or Blanca. What I didn't do (and now wish I had) was go in the fall. What gorgeous colors! Guess I'm going to have to put this on my to-do-again list. Thanks for posting this one.

The fall colors in your photos...
10/03/2016 17:00
...look great, and I agree with you and Jay about the nice views of the nearby peaks. I'll have to get back down to the Sangres soon.

Ice ax?
10/06/2016 13:10
I tried an eastern approach back on June 5th and didn't make the summit, I did summit from the west on a later hike. However, I left my red ice ax at one of the high points on the ridge. I had planned to approach from the east again to try and get it, but with life and the road being blocked, I never made it back.

Any sighting?

Nice report and pictures.

   Not registered?

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

Please respect private property: supports the rights of private landowners to determine how and by whom their land will be used. In Colorado, it is your responsibility to determine if land is private and to obtain the appropriate permission before entering the property.

© 2022®, 14ers Inc.