Sangre de Cristo Mountains – In Winter


A view of the Sangre de Cristo mountains approaching from the east.

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you already know that the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are my favorite nearby destination for summer backpacking. When winter arrives I’m typically heading for other mountain destinations or out to the plains for pheasant hunting, however, I’ve been wanting to visit the Sangre de Cristos during the winter to see what the snow levels looks like and if the trails are passable. Well, Lisa and I finally did it this weekend.


Some bighorn sheep along the road on the way to Westcliffe

Since the mountain range is only two hours from home we got up and out the door by 10am, packing that morning, grabbing some extra gear like boots, gaiters, a pack stove, water, food, etc. On our trip down there we spotted some big horn sheep along Colorado highway 96. That was a good way to get things going. Lucky us.


View from Westcliffe, looking west

We arrived in Westcliffe around noon, that is, lunchtime, so we stopped in a local bar and grill for lunch.

Afterwards, we drove down to the Horn Lakes trailhead. It was snowy, as expected, and I wanted to explore a little more, so next, we drove north to the Venable/Comanche parking area/trail heads.


The parking area was quite passable when we visited

At the parking area is the Venable Trailhead sign. I’ve seen this sign many times over the years and so I snapped a photo which I’ve posted here along with a photo of the same sign during the summer.


I took this photo January 2020.



Lisa took this photo September 2018

Even though the trail was packed snow and a little icy it was still quite walk-able. In fact, the Venable Trail and the Rainbow trail are quite rocky so, in some ways, it was better walking than when there is no snow. Quite a surprise!


In the summer this is where we like to cool our feet after a long hike!

The bridge on the way to the Rainbow Trail was covered with snow and the creek could be heard, but not seen. Quite a change from the rushing water of the summer months.


Uhmmm . . . we won’t be hiking the 4.75 miles to the lakes today.

We got to the Rainbow trail after a half-mile or a little more and then walked the 100 feet or so to the Venable Lakes Trailhead. Things were looking a little snowier here.


Where the trail is exposed to the sun it can be nearly clear of snow

We turned back down the Rainbow trail and stayed on this for a half-mile, or so, to get over to the Comanche Lakes Trailhead.


It’s been 10 years since I’ve been on this trail, but would also not be hiking this today

The trek back to the Jeep was short and in all we hiked about 2 miles. If we had brought more gear I think we would have ventured up to Venable Falls, so maybe next time.


Always a favorite. Boiling water in winter on the M-1942 Mountain stove

Back at the Jeep, I started up my Prentiss Wabers, WWII, M-1942 Mountain Stove and boiled water for tea. The M-1942 is a really good winter stove. The sun was setting behind the peaks to the west and it was getting cool, so the hot tea felt great.


Views of Pike’s Peak on the return trip

The return trip provided some great views of Pike’s Peak as we drove past the SuperMax Prison south of Florence! HA! But, seriously, the views were nice for the drive home.

It was a nice short day, and I think I’d like to head back out there with some Ice Trekkers and snowshoes and do a little more winter exploring.

Thanks for visiting my blog.





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