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Southern Rockies: Twilight Peaks, CO

Explore a secret wonderland in the West Needle Mountains.
march 210 twilight peaks 445x260Twilight Peaks, CO (James Kay)

Despite their impressive appearance from Molas Pass between Durango and Silverton, most hikers pass by the twisted, slabby West Needle Mountains on their way to somewhere else. Too bad, because one of Colorado’s best peakbagging weekends is a climb of the three Twilight Peaks—North, Central, and South are each a hair more than 13,000 feet high. From Molas Pass, hike six miles to Crater Lake.

It’s moderately popular, so keep going before setting up your basecamp. Continue a quarter mile southeast, climbing across metamorphic slabs to the obvious pass above Crater Lake. Cross it and drop several hundred feet, then turn southeast and traverse beneath the rugged face of North Twilight. Pitch camp here at an unnamed lake perched at 11,700 feet and surrounded by craggy summits. To the south, you’ll have views across the yawning gulf of the Animas River gorge. The Twilight climbs are rugged but technically straightforward class 2-3 scrambles.

Allow a full day for any two of the peaks. Aggressive parties might be able to bag all three in a day. Take helmets for the solid but rarely traveled rock slabs, and a light rope in case of trouble or routefinding errors.

The Way
Crater Lake Trail #623 starts from the Andrews Lake Day Use Area, off milepost 63, just south of Molas Pass on US 550.

Map
USGS quad Snowdon Peak ($8, store.usgs.gov)

Contact fs.fed.us/r2/sanjuan

Trip Data backpacker.com/hikes/563531

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