Crestone Needle Trail

HARD 6 reviews
#15 of 84 trails in

Crestone Needle Trail is a 12.6 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Westcliffe, CO that features a lake and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.

12.6 miles 5980 feet Loop

dog friendly



fly fishing


nature trips

off road driving

rock climbing




trail running

horseback riding





wild flowers






Some of the most exhilarating hiking in the Sangre De Cristos Follow the directions for my Creston Peak hike. From Crestone Peak descend back into the red couloir several hundred feet, then traverse to the left (east) and look for cairns. The trail initially is difficult to find, but once on it easy to follow. The trail will lead up an down through several gullies. Then begin a steep ascent up the west face of Crestone Needle. Careful route finding is essential. One key is to pass just below what is known as the black gendarme. A large rock protrusion on the ridge. Above this your route is easy to find. The final pitch to Crestone Needle is steep class 4 terrain. Try to stay near the ridge on this section as it is the most solid and easiest rock to climb. After reaching the summit of the needle backtrack my route for Crestone Needle. Roach's fourteeners guide book has a great description of the route that is essential. Wear a helmet on this route. Many find ropes to be essential for this route as well.

2 months ago

Beautiful hike! I started at 4:30 from the 2WD trailhead off County Rd. 120. Beautiful walk up from pasture around 8000' to the summit. I had heard that you need to be careful in the upper section not to miss the route through the east and west gullies and cliff out. was helpful and the cairns too. Take your time coming down! I would recommend bringing a 4WD with high clearance so you can start from upper trailhead. The extra 2 miles at the end of the day back to 8000' is rough. Colony Lakes Basin, the cliffs, the flowers, the beautifully forboding and aptly named Broken Hand Pass, the Teton-esque horn that is Crestone Needle, the metamorphic rock that is frighteningly steep and unforgiving yet filled with hand and foot holds. A perfect experience!

1 year ago

Crestone Needle, Sangre de Cresto Mtns., is one of the most difficult of the Colorado 14ers. It is very Challenging and not one of those 14ers you take lightly. Route finding can be a bit challenging, especially on the descent. You have to make sure to return down the right gully or you can cliff out. Over-all I will certainly climb this again in the near future. The South Colony Lakes area is enjoyable.

1 year ago

Crestone Peak is rated as difficult by ; and I would certainly concur with that assessment. The South Colony Lakes trial to the Crestone's is great. The views of Crestone Needle and Peak are grand from the . Climbing up over Broken Hand pass is your first hurdle. In late spring, Broken Hand pass holds snow and actually makes this a fun gully to climb over if prepared with ice-ax and crampons. I found Crestone Peak route finding more challenging than Crestone Needle by far. Once you start up the Red Gully on the Peak and get over that obstacle, which is a lot of work, the solid rock continues to the summit. - Completed August 2011

2 years ago

This is the most difficult hike I have ever completed. I hiked this with my wife along with another group of people. This was my very first 14er and I was not prepared for the level of difficulty. Now that I have had fifteen years to think about it, I would like to give it another try. I will update this once I get back on the trail.

3 years ago

Crestone Needle is one of my favorite 14ers. Excellent scrambling and beautiful views.

5 years ago

Hand holes and foot holes help to get you to the top of this rocky 14er. Incredible views of the Sangre de Cristos awaits. Passed a large snow bank on the way and the flora was outstanding. Truly one of my most memorable hikes and the friends I was with made it even more special. The only unfortunate things were that I had to go to the bathroom really bad near the top and we got caught in a sleet storm on the way down.