Date Climbed: June 11, 2023
Trailhead: West Peak Trailhead
Trailhead Access: 2wd (road may have shallow ruts in spring but still 2wd)
West Spanish peak is one of those orphaned peaks that stands alone (except for East Spanish peak, a 12er right next door). Its solo prominence makes it exceptionally enticing to climb; you can easily pick it out even from a hundred miles north. But the climb itself is one of the easier ones among the 13ers, and the navigation not so difficult.
West Spanish Peak is known for it’s incredible views of stegosaur-like rock in the valley below, called igneous dikes. This alone makes the hike well-worth it.
The trailhead itself has several (4 I think) paid, designated campsites, costing $13/night, called the Cordova Pass campground. The downside is there are signs telling you to not camp anywhere else, so although the campsites are nice and have a picnic table and fire pit, they’re all pretty close to each other, so you may or may not get a good night’s sleep depending on the other parties there.
The other thing to note is you have to pay for parking, which is $10/day. Judging by how stuffed the payment slot was it doesn’t seem like the rangers come around that often to collect and check.
There’s a simple vault toilet and a trash can meant only for food scraps (to discourage bears).
The trail is open to hikers and horses, but nothing else (including mountain bikes).
The trail to the summit is well marked and includes signage, especially lower down. Above treeline the trail is a little more difficult to find and there seem to be several parallel trails that all technically work, but with the plethora of cairns you can’t really get off route.
Starting from the West Peak Trailhead, go down the W Spanish Peak trail.
At the first intersection, continue straight on the West Peak trail.
We had a lot of mist that morning. It was about 7:30am when this photo was taken.
We came upon another intersection that wasn’t on the map, but we continued straight on the more trail-looking trail. Not sure where the trail on the left goes.
From here the trail is super obvious.
Once you get above treeline, you have to turn left off of the main trail and start up the obvious ridge to the summit. Here the trail on and off becomes less visible, but is well-marked by cairns. If you lose the trail, look for the cairns.
At several points there are several mini-trails running in parallel. Choose the path of least resistance.
Most of the trail above treeline is quite steep. This is where you gain the most elevation on the route.
The trail eventually tops out onto a ridge. This is not the summit, but the true summit is only about a 5 minute, easy walk from here.
We were mostly shrouded in mist for this section.
A picture from the summit; Kate emerging from the mist.
The clouds parted for a hot second and we were able to get some views from the summit.
Because the route is mostly Southwest facing, there was hardly any snow we had to go over (mid-June). And what snow there was was pretty easy to walk on as it had consolidated already. I think this makes West Spanish peak a good Spring hike.
From Denver, it’s basically a straight-shot down I-25 for over a hundred miles. Only when you’re within an hour of the trailhead do you turn off onto I25 business exit near Walsenburg. Continue into Walsenburg and turn right onto US 160. Take this road for a while until you encounter US 12. Turn left onto US 12 and take this all the way to Cordova Pass. Turn left onto the pass.
Cordova Pass road is a 2wd dirt road. However, when we went in the spring there were some deepish ruts from 4wd vehicles trying to make it up in snowy/rainy conditions. I think it was still fine in a 2wd car, but you’ll have to navigate around the ruts and some rocky patches.
Your destination is at the top of the pass. There are plenty of parking spots here.
As mentioned earlier, there are 4 camping spots that cost $13/night. Unfortunately, you’re limited to these spots as there are signs prohibiting you from camping elsewhere.
Even just parking in the lot costs $10/day.