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Rito Alto Four Pass Loop

Intermediate/Difficult

Trail

23.0 mile 37.1 kilometer loop
78% Runnable
Intermediate/Difficult

Elevation

Ascent: 5,843' 1,781 m
Descent: -5,841' -1,780 m
High: 13,004' 3,964 m
Low: 9,056' 2,760 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 10% (5°)
Max Grade: 40% (22°)

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Map Key

A secluded loop in the Sangre de Cristo mountains that crosses four mountain passes.

Michael Arrigo

Features Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Overview

Besides the 6 miles on County Road 160, this loop is entirely singletrack, exploring 6 bowls on either side of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, crossing four passes. Trips timed to coincide with the wildflowers in early summer or aspens turning in early autumn will be especially spectacular.

Need to Know

The route is strenuous and passes through some high alpine conditions. Be prepared with plenty of water, sun protection, and enough layers to withstand windy conditions. Highly recommend downloading the gpx file to your GPS watch or using the Trail Run Project mobile app as the trail can be hard to find at times and it is easy to get off trail without the map already downloaded.

Description

Start by heading uphill on the access trail to the Rainbow Trail #1336: Alvarado Creek to Hermit Pass, and head north until the trail crosses County Road 160, a four wheel road that climbs up to 13,000 ft where it ends on the ridgeline. There are several options to get water at Middle Taylor creek or take a detour to one of the several lakes. At the pass, continue past the boulders halting vehicle traffic, down onto the Rito Alto Trail.

Follow the trail clockwise around the bowl, which becomes the North Fork Crestone Trail, ascending the 2nd pass much lower than the first. Again, there is a trail that could take you to the lake if you wanted. After crossing the pass, follow the North Fork Crestone Trail, avoiding turning down to the creek on the San Isabel Trail. The trail crosses several streams which run even during late summer, so there are amble opportunities to get water. Another climb crosses the 3rd pass and down into another valley that would be worth a whole day exploring.

At the next trail juncture, stay high onto the Venable Trail which climbs to the 4th and final pass, the 2nd highest of the loop. After gaining the ridge, stay on the main trail, avoiding the side trails to the Venerable Lake Trail, and descend back to the initial Rainbow Trail intersection with the access trail spur back to the trailhead.

Flora & Fauna

All kinds of plants make their home along the slopes including pete moss, shrubs, aspen & Ponderosa trees &, various others.

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Sep 27, 2018
Joe Vandal

Trail Ratings

  4.9 from 11 votes

#1

in Westcliffe

#414

Overall
  4.9 from 11 votes
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Run Rankings

#1

in Westcliffe

#85

in Colorado

#414

Overall
86 Views Last Month
10,330 Since Dec 12, 2015
Intermediate/Difficult

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Photos

Looking towards the Rito Alto Lake valley after crossing the 1st pass.
Dec 12, 2015 near Crestone, CO
Final pass of the Four Pass Loop and the most challenging
Oct 27, 2019 near Crestone, CO
Venable Lakes.
Dec 12, 2015 near Crestone, CO
Incredible vistas and view of high alpine lakes
Oct 27, 2019 near Crestone, CO
Looking up to Venable Pass and the early slopes of Venable Peak.
Nov 3, 2016 near Crestone, CO
Sunrise from camp.
Nov 3, 2016 near Crestone, CO

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