Climbing Giants: The First Ascent of the Last 14er

By John Cameron Crestone Needle rises from the valley floor as an imposing and jagged peak. It was the last 14,000-foot peak in Colorado to be climbed, a feat once presumed to be impossible. During a daring expedition in 1916, two of the best known climbers in North America would prove that the summit was …

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Places: Willow Lake

By Ericka Kastner

The Rocky Mountains are scattered with high mountain lakes, and Central Colorado is no exception. One of the best lakes I’ve seen yet lies at about 11,800 feet in elevation just east of Crestone. While the Willow Lake Trail is wildly popular with visitors on weekends, it still makes for a spectacular overnight adventure or a long day hike. Travel the trail on a weekday, and you’ll nearly have the place to yourself.
I first learned of this gem after admiring a painting by Salida artist Joshua Been. He’d just returned from an annual backpacking trip to the area and had captured Willow Lake in an oil painting. I was struck by the lake’s beauty as portrayed in his work and vowed to make the journey later that summer to see it for myself.
In reality, it wasn’t until the next summer, in late August under a blue moon, that I managed to get in a trip up to Willow Lake. My then 8-month-old pup and I thoroughly enjoyed the steep yet magnificent 4.5-mile backpack trip up to the high mountain basin.

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The Rainbow Trail

By Mike Rosso

The Rainbow Trail, which celebrates its 101st birthday this year, could well be seen as an allegory for the various uses and controversies surrounding Colorado forest lands over the past century.

At just over 101 miles long, it spans four counties – Saguache, Chaffee, Fremont and Custer – and ends at the Huerfano County border.

Along its length, outdoor enthusiasts can access numerous 14,000 foot peaks, including Kit Carson (14,165’) and Crestone Peak (14,294’), and over a dozen alpine lakes. The Trail has an average elevation of 9,000 feet and winds in and out of thick spruce forests and aspen groves, as well as high mountain meadows. What initially began as a foot and horseback trail is now accessible to mountain bikes, motorcycles and, for the entire stretch in Custer County, all-terrain vehicles.

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