Colfax County Highpoint Trip Report

Little Costilla Peak (12,854 feet)

Date: May 26, 2006
Author: Dave Covill

Beckie and I did Little Costilla Saturday, 5/29/06, after consulting with Taos and Questa USFS Ranger Districts on Friday. Little Costilla sits astride the divide separating Taos & Colfax counties. The USFS, for some bizarre reason (like, elk can't jump a fence?) has declared the Taos side of the Valle Vidal Wilderness to be an elk calving zone, closed to hiking 'til July 1st. Colfax side is OK to hike in. There is an ancient barbwire fence most of the way up the ridge along the county line, in very poor shape.

We camped at corrals 100 yards E of line, hiked steeply straight up the line in dense woods and talus to ridge top. From there, very easy ridge walking to summit. We did NOT go like others have, W of county line along Grassy Creek to main ridge bottom of LC ridge. We went up county line on smaller subsidiary ridge, stayed legal, only had to lose & gain about 100 feet on subsidiary ridge crossing over to main ridge here.

We descended to the saddle between the two ridges, and started straight uphill to the main ridge. About 200 feet up (it's maybe 600 feet total up to the main ridge crest from the saddle) we encountered a faint use trail, curving uphill to our right. Perfect! We followed it until it was most of the way to the ridge crest, then broke off of it and hiked the last 100 feet straight up the now flatter terrain, as the trail started to level off. It may be a game trail, but if it is, it's the best one I've ever seen. Regardless, it was somewhat difficult to find going down, and we cairned a way to it from where we broke off of the ridge crest. We followed it downhill unitl it went further to the south than we really wanted to be, and we peeled off and headed straight down to the saddle. I would say you could hike it from about 150 feet above the saddle, to about 100 feet below the crest. This is significant in that the terrain is steep and would be slow going without it, although not a talus grunt like the first ridge nose was. There were no other real trails anywhere above there.

On the way down, we skirted east of the south nose of the very steep ridge just above the road, and went down through pleasant trees and grass most of the way, this would be better to go up and down here than on nose of ridge.

We stayed on east side of subsidiary ridge along its one mile length, faint path there. We stayed on crest of main ridge until well above timberline, then stayed slightly E of it to avoid wind. There is one minor 100+ foot hump just above timberline, it will be obvious to contour to the left (west) side of it.

There was a Red Can Richard Carey register on top, with a tiny notebook in it, from 7/04. It was already full, mostly with Philmont Scouts etc.... Only one cohp'er from NV, did not recognize name. We put into the can an emergency Colo Mtn Club register I keep in the bottom of my pack.

Tons of elk around. Nice day. Good views in all directions, saw 8 cohps from there, maybe 11. Note that the BM on top is called "CUERVO".... no tequila in evidence, what a shame....

Driving directions

From highway 159/522 in Costilla, 1 mile south of CO /NM state line, drive southeast on NM 196. Zero Odometer. At 6.5 reach town of Amalia PO - a series of homes along a two mile stretch of pleasant open valley. At 10.7 the pavement ends, turns to good gravel. Go through some tight valleys with cliffs towering above. At 16.8 reach the NF boundary, road becomes FR 1950. At 18.4 keep right at an intersection on the better road, along Comanche Creek. At about 26.0 reach the crest of the road, which is NOT the county line. It goes slightly downhill for a ways, then at 26.3 reaches a fence with cattle guard, which IS the county line (Taos/Colfax). Go right (south) into the corral area, plenty of parking, and flat grass for tents. We did NOT note any campgrounds along the route, maybe there are some to the east. This road goes another 20+ miles east to US 64 in the Philmont area.

Route Map