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Sangre de Cristo Mountains: Hermit Pass Peaks

Rito Alto Peak & Hermit Peak | Saturday & Sunday, September 4-5, 2021

After spending the last couple days hiking high points in Arizona and New Mexico, it was now time to start heading back home through Colorado, but of course I planned to hike at least a couple more peaks on the way back! As I followed the Sangre de Cristo Mountains north out of New Mexico and into Colorado I thought it would be a good time to hike some peaks in that range since it’s been quite a while since I’ve spent any time there. Originally, I was considering continuing my quest of the The Four Sacred Mountains of the Navajo by hiking Blanca Peak, but didn’t think that would be a good place to find much solitude now, especially in the middle of a holiday weekend. I think I’ll save the last two Sacred Peaks for a little road trip next summer. Instead, I decided to head up the road to Hermit Pass near Westcliffe so I could not only hike some high 13ers, but also so I could drive up to a pass that I had never been to before. The road was not difficult or dangerous, but it was very bumpy, slow and annoying. I found a place to spend the night above Horseshoe Lake and then spent the rest of the evening relaxing at camp and watching the clouds move through the sky as sunset approached.

Driving higher into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the Hermit Pass Road.

Hermit Pass Road

From my campsite above Horseshoe Lake I had a great view to the east over Middle Taylor Creek to the Wet Mountain Valley and the Wet Mountains beyond.

Wet Mountain Valley

The Road to Hermit Pass

Road to Hermit Pass

The clouds were moving quickly this evening and the light was constantly changing.

Light & Shadow

View From Above

View From Above

Nice light on PT 12671

12er Light

A view over Middle Taylor Creek from my campsite.

Middle Taylor Creek

I liked the look of this ridge, especially when the light struck it.

Ridge Light

There were a couple of small tarns below.

Tarns Below

Warm light on Yahoo Mountain shortly before sunset.


Horseshoe Basin Sunset

Horseshoe Basin Sunset

Eureka Mountain Sunset

Eureka Mountain Sunset

I got up early on Sunday morning and finished the drive up to Hermit Pass in the dark. I started to watch the sunrise from the pass for a little bit before I began hiking up the ridge toward the summit of Rito Alto Peak (13,794). It was still a bit smoky out this morning, but that made for an amazing sunrise!

Parked at Hermit Pass in the soft glow of the dawn light.

Hermit Pass Morning

A view from the pass to Hermit Peak and Eureka Mountain.

Hermit Peak Morning

The Earth’s Shadow was very vivid this morning.

Earth Shadow

Watching the sun come up over my Jeep at the pass.

Hermit Pass Sunrise

Sunrise on Rito Alto Peak as I followed the ridge to the summit. It was a fun, easy and scenic ridge-walk.

Rito Alto Peak Sunrise

My Jeep parked below at the pass with colorful light all around.

Jeep Parked Below

The light at sunrise was pretty amazing this morning, and there were even some low clouds in the Wet Mountain Valley below.

Peak Morning

Hermit Peak at Sunrise

Hermit Peak Sunrise

The top of Gibson Peak catching some light.

Gibson Peak

Spread Eagle Peak over Megan Lake and North Taylor Creek.

Spread Eagle Peak

Looking back down the ridge to Hermit Peak and Eureka Mountain.

Hermit Peak & Eureka Mountain

Someone had placed a flag on the mountain, but not at the true summit.

Rito Alto Peak Flag

I continued up the ridge to the actual summit.

Ridge To The Summit

On the summit of Rito Alto Peak. If I don’t end up climbing a 14er next weekend, which isn’t looking good at this point, this might be the highest peak that I climb all year!

Rito Alto Peak Summit

The Rito Alto Creek valley was hidden in the shadow of the mountain.

Rito Alto Shadow

The view north along the crest of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains was pretty amazing!

Sangre de Cristo View

Looking back to Rito Alto Peak as I made my way over to Hermit Peak.

Rito Alto Peak

Looking down the southwestern ridge from Hermit Peak over to Gibson Peak.


A view from on top of Hermit Peak.

Hermit Peak Summit

Heading back down to Hermit Pass.

Leaving Hermit Peak

Here’s a shot of Horseshoe Lake I took as I started driving back down from Hermit Pass.

Horseshoe Lake

After driving back down the long and bumpy road I decided that I wanted to head home to relax for the rest of the weekend instead of climbing more peaks on Monday like I had originally planned, so I headed west on Highway 50 until I was home. It was a good way to end a nice little road trip through the Four Corner states.

>> Hermit Pass Peaks Photo Gallery


  1. Dianne
    Dianne September 29, 2021

    I admire your tenacity. I look forward to seeing the other peaks, too. I am very interested in Navajo Mt. because the old trips to Rainbow Bridge. ( This hiking in the Sangre de Cristo didn’t look as scary as some you hike. Thanks for a peek, peak.)

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat September 29, 2021

      Unfortunately, I won’t be visiting the summit of Navajo Mountain since it’s not actually one of the Four Sacred Peaks of the Navajo and they don’t allow anyone to hike it. As far as Rainbow Bridge, I had a permit to backpack there in spring of 2020, but COVID cancelled those plans and the Navajo Nation was still closed in spring of 2021, so we are hoping to try again in 2022…

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