R. Scott Rappold, The Gazette
Crestone Needle - guess how it got that name?
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Backpack trip of the week: South Colony Lakes
April 24, 2012 9:11 AM
This is for the peak baggers among you. With this year's light snowpack, this area should be accessible without snow gear soon, if it isn't already.
This lovely alpine basin in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is the main access point for four fourteeners: Humboldt, Crestone and Kit Carson peaks and Crestone Needle. The basin itself also is extremely popular, with a road leading almost to timberline and scores of makeshift campsites, so the U.S. Forest Service in 2009 closed South Colony Road 2.6 miles below the old parking lot. The next steps could be fees and camping permits.
Distance: 3.5 miles, 1,600 feet of elevation gain to camping area, varying distances to the summits.
Getting there: In Westcliffe, go south 4.5 miles on Colorado Highway 69 and turn right on Colfax Lane. Where Colfax ends in 5.5 miles, turn right and go 1 mile on a dirt road, and continue straight through a junction to the two-wheel-drive trailhead. The upper trailhead, rough but reachable by most passenger cars, is 2.7 miles farther. Walk up the road beyond the closure to the old trailhead. Return via the same route.
Details: No permits required. No camping with 300 feet of the lakes. Wilderness rules apply in the upper basin. Car camping available at the road closure.