Pagosa Peak, the iconic mountain overlooking our beautiful area. This is a summit hike that’s not officially recognized by the forest service. Which means it’s not maintained. And that absolutely shows. Year after year, more and more beetle kill falls across this trail. And I’ve heard estimates of having to climb over 200 trees in order to complete this hike. Which means you are pushing yourself to the limit here in attempting to climb this trail.
Make no mistake…make sure you are in shape and you’re ok with exposure if you’re going to attempt this hike.
Alright, to start off, many folks recognize this trail as a little under four miles long out and back with 2,500 feet of elevation gain. But since the road to the trailhead requires high clearance four wheel drive, All Trails now counts the road leading up to the trailhead as part of the trail. And they have the distance at a little over 11 miles out and back with 4,000 feet of elevation gain.
So to stay true to one of the apps most people will use, I parked my 4runner at the entrance of Black mountain road and took the longer route here. The road is rocky and gradual, climbing about 1500 feet in a little under four miles. And this is the easiest part of the hike. No obstacles. Just a steady climb through some aspen groves with some occasional views along the way.
The trailhead to Pagosa Peak can be easy to miss if you don’t know what to look for. But it’s right at the 2nd switchback after you cross Pagosa Creek. There’s a small cairn partially covered by the tall grass around it.
From here it’s about 2,500 feet of climbing in about 1.8 miles. Which means this trail is steep. VERY STEEP!And to add to that difficulty, you’re climbing over quite a bit of deadfall. This hike is a workout and honestly can be kinda miserable at times unless you’re the kind of person that oddly enjoys misery.
At times the trail can be difficult to follow because of the amount of deadfall in the way and various routes previous hikers have taken to get around these trees. But after about a mile in, you’ll cross over Pagosa Creek and begin the steep climb up to the saddle. Be sure to enjoy the beautiful views of the Four Mile Creek on your right and Piedra on your left.
From here on, you’re exposed to the elements. So if there’s any chance of storms, make sure you’re on your way back down from Pagosa Peak by 11am.
At this point, you still have over 1000 feet of vertical left to climb. But at least the views keep your mind occupied. Once you get near the top, you approach a false summit that has some exposure to it. Trip and fall and you will roll quite a ways. So make sure you are ok with heights at this point. You’ll scramble over some small ledges, nothing more than three feet high. It’s here you’ll stay a bit more to your left as you climb up.
You’ll cross the Pagosa Peak false summit and then make a short descent and short climb to the actual summit. Thankfully it’s not too far away. Stay more to the right here and you’ll find an easy path to the top.
And once you are at the top, man oh man can you see literally everything in this county from this spot. Take in the views, get some rest because heading back down is a leg and quad workout. Which is great for getting you in shape for those upcoming powder days at Wolf Creek.
Overall, Pagosa Peak is a difficult hike. It’s not for everyone and not everyone in your group will make it to the summit. But no matter where you decide to stop, take in the views, take in nature and be proud of the work you did put in to get you where you’re at. And while you’re at it, bring a beer with you to celebrate because this hike is indeed an accomplishment.
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