Help keep our trails and parks open during COVID-19 by committing to social distancing. Some trails or park services may be closed this weekend so check with local authorities before heading out.
Learn more

Kit Carson Mountain Via Willow Lake Trail

hardYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(30)
Rio Grande National Forest

Kit Carson Mountain Via Willow Lake Trail is a 12.3 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Westcliffe, Colorado that features a lake and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is best used from July until September. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Length 12.3 mi Elevation gain 6,289 ft Route type Out & Back

Dog friendly

Hiking

Nature trips

Bird watching

Lake

Views

Waypoints (0)
Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (30)
Photos (259)
Recordings (30)
Completed (98)
Cecilia Potter
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Jun 22 2020
HikingMuddyOff trailRockyScrambleSnow

Wow, what a beautiful trail! I would strongly suggest that you set up camp at Willow Lake before tackling Challenger Point + Kit Carson. This trail is rocky and incredibly steep. The beginning of the trail is well marked by cairns and easy to follow. Once you reach the couloir, the cairns get harder to spot. The couloir is an easy class 3 scramble, but it is icy in the morning and muddy later in the day. You may need to get creative as you maneuver through this section (aka a little off trail action). The current conditions set my friend and I back by about an hour, so make sure to start early and give yourself some time. The snow fields are 95% avoidable, but there are at least two that you need to cross in the couloir. Once you’ve made it out of the couloir, the ridge will take you straight to Challenger’s summit. The views to the right of the ridge will make you weak in the knees, so know that you can hike a bit below it. Kit Carson is an epic peak that should not be missed. The current conditions are slightly snowy/icy but not enough to use spikes. The first chunk of Kit Carson Avenue looks snowy from Challenger Point, but is 100% avoidable. As you descend Challenger Point, stick slightly right of the snow fields and avoid the gully. You will see a sign that says “DANGER! loose rock many climbers have died” or something along those lines. Avoid that gully! Stay right of the sign and continue up to KC Avenue. As I mentioned above, the first chunk of KC Avenue looks very snowy. It’s wider than it seems, so stick to the right of the snow field. You will see the Prow to your right. Continue left to curve down and around Kit Carson. The wide notch that you have to pass through is icy currently. If you have microspikes, you can safely climb up and over it. You can go around the ice if you hug the right side without microspikes. Continue down KC Ave. You will see a rock rib in front of you (that is near the saddle of KC and Columbia Point). Avoid said rock rib otherwise you may get lost in steep terrain. Turn left into the wide shallow gully and follow the cairns. 14ers.com recommends that you go straight up the middle of the gully. This is one of the ways to ascend Kit Carson, but it is mostly scree. There is a new trail to your left marked by cairns. Follow the left trail and you’ll be at the summit in about 15-20 minutes. The rocky terrain is stable and well marked. The mileage on All trails, 14ers.com, and Trail Run Project say that it takes 2.6ish mi from Willow Lake to summit both mountains. We clocked our RT mileage at 6.2. I would say that the muddy conditions and the rock scrambling could easily add miles to your trip. Take your time and start early. Your feet and knees will be talking to you afterwards, but it is an incredible hike!

Ashley Bennett
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSat May 23 2020
HikingIcyRockyScrambleSnow
View Ashley's Recording
Mario Delgado
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Sep 07 2019
Hiking

pretty tough hike but very worth it! As usual, watch for storms around noon so leave early!

View Mario's Recording
Alex Shah
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarSat Aug 17 2019
Hiking

Basically a scramble the last 2 miles

View Alex's Recording
Finna Hansen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarThu Jun 27 2019
Hiking

A guy named Tyler was hiking in this area Sunday and hasn’t been seen since. Fawne stiegerwald on Facebook has a photo and more information. Thanks!

James Oliver
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMon Feb 19 2018

I did this in one day. It was pretty hard on the feet, especially on the seemingly endless descent. But it was an incredible experience overall! Lots of beauty up there! I knocked one star off for the somewhat nasty, slippery trail up Challenger. Be careful! Trekking poles help! Rocky Mountain Field Institute was up there building another trail in 2017, in what looked like a much more solid region, so it might be much better now. Be careful when descending Kit Carson that you come down the same way you went up, as it is very easy to end up too far east and to miss the avenue and go too far down, into hazardous territory. Avoid the temptation of following the cairns that you might see up there, as they apparently belong to a trail that goes over to Columbia Point. Use GPS to make sure you hit the avenue's entrance. Mark it on the ascent.

Chris Long
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarTue Sep 02 2014

Cool peak in a beautiful area. I approached from the east and camped near south colony lakes. Makes for a long hike, but it was well worth it. Looks like you could play football on the bears playground.

Matt W
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSun Jul 12 2020
Hiking
View Matt's Recording
Peter Lohrisch
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarWed Jul 08 2020
Hiking
View Peter's Recording
Therese Chavez
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarWed Jul 01 2020
Hiking
View Therese's Recording
Justin Duncan
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Jun 28 2020
Hiking
View Justin's Recording
Marv Huynh
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Jun 13 2020
Hiking
View Marv's Recording
Ashley Belak
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Jun 07 2020
Hiking
View Ashley's Recording
Ashley Belak
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Jun 06 2020
Hiking
View Ashley's Recording
Alec Landingham
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarThu May 28 2020
Hiking
View Alec's Recording
Jeffrey Stefanov
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Oct 13 2019
Hiking
View Jeffrey's Recording
Ray Higgs
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Oct 13 2019
Hiking
View Ray's Recording
S W
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Sep 21 2019
Hiking
View S's Recording
Lukas Seelye
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Sep 21 2019
Hiking
View Lukas's Recording
Justine Ann
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Aug 20 2019
Hiking
View Justine's Recording
Stan Krol
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Aug 17 2019
Hiking
View Stan's Recording
Richard Waterman
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarSat Aug 10 2019
Hiking
View Richard's Recording
Randy Smith
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarThu Aug 01 2019
Hiking
View Randy's Recording
Showing results 1 - 23 of 30