Wilson Peak

Wilson Peak

Wilson Peak: Sentinel of the San Miguels

Wilson Peak in the Summer

Located in Lizard Head Wilderness of the San Juan and Uncompahgre National Forests,  Wilson Peak  (14, 017 ft.) attracts climbers at first sight of its raw beauty.  The “Wilson Group” referred to by locals, lies 13 miles southwest of  Telluride. This  rugged massif of the San Miguel Range in the western San Juan Mountains have some of the more challenging climbs in Colorado. Wilson Peak is a mere 1.5 miles from it’s parent peak, Mt. Wilson (14,246 ft.) and often times the two are confused. A third 14er, El Diente (14, 159 ft.) creates  one of the classic Colorado Traverses with Mt. Wilson. Not to overlook the jagged 13,913 ft. Gladstone Peak that lies among the 14ers, this bundle of awesome volcanic  peaks offers extraordinary adventures in spectacular mountainous settings.

Wilson Peak is easier than Mt. Wilson and El Diente. Ascension of Wilson Peak is often used as a tune up for the other two; although climbing Wilson Peak in it’s own right is an incredible accomplishment. There are various routes to attain the summit of  Wilson Peak,  all require at least class 3 scrambling and climbing. While the more difficult routes are recommended to advanced mountaineers.

SJMG is the premier guide service offering guided trips into the Wilson Range including Mount Wilson, El Diente, and Wilson Peak.  These iconic peaks adorn the southern skyline of the Telluride area and are home to some of the best rockies mountaineering in the state.

Approaching Wilson Peak

A common question in regards to this area is which approach is best suited for climbing Wilson Peak. Those climbers who would either like to see Navajo Lake, or are combining a climb of Wilson Peak with the other two 14’ers we recommend the Navajo Basin approach. There is a good high camp in Navajo Basin for access to the three peaks.  For our guests who are only doing Mt. Wilson & El Diente, we recommend the Kilpacker Basin approach, as it offers a relatively short backpack to the camping areas, and provides great access to El Diente’s S. Face route and subsequently the traverse over to Mt. Wilson.

The Silver Pick Basin approach is the most efficient and direct way to access Wilson Peak.

Bilk Creek Basin is another approach route used mainly when climbing Wilson Peak’s east flanks.

Gary is not only a very professional guide, focused on safety and skill building – he is also passionate about the sport and about the outdoors. It was really a pleasure to spend the 3 days with him and learn new skills. I look forward to doing this or another course again. – Glenn T. Private Program 2010

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Wilson Peak Trip Itinerary

The classic traverse from Mt. Wilson

Itinerary Note

Wilson Peak can be combined with the Mt. Wilson/El Diente Traverse, this would require at least two days.

Wilson Peak can be climbed in one day. 

Early start is key for a successful climb. This allows for more enjoyment and a comfortable pace. In the later summer it is pertinent to begin perhaps even earlier to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. Round trip Wilson Peak via the southwest ridge takes an average of  about 8 hours.

It is possible to originate this trip from Telluride, Ouray or Durango. From Durango it is about a 3 hour drive to the trailhead. From Ouray it is about a 1.5 hour drive to the trailhead. From Telluride, it is about a 45 minute drive to the trailhead.

The southwest ridge is the easiest route up Wilson Peak and it can be accessed from Silver Pick Basin or Navajo Lake Basin. If  Wilson Peak is the only objective, the Silver Pick access is preferred because it is much shorter. Navajo Lakes provides good access to all three peaks.
Follow the trail to the  Rock of Ages saddle at about 13,000 feet. This is a well used rocky trail.  From the Rock of Ages Saddle the trail becomes a little trickier to read, traversing through boulder fields and rocky terrain. The route takes you to another small saddle between Wilson Peak and Gladstone. It continues NE around the rocky terrain to reach the southwest ridge. There is a false summit at about 13,900 feet. True summit is not far off, however, the rest of the route is class 3 scramble and climb. To gain the summit, climbers have to carefully down climb about 50 feet.  Then, cross some loose rocks to reach the final up climb of  about 120 feet of some class 3 engaging climbing.

Wilson Peak Equipment List

  • Backpack: Internal frame, 30-40 liter day pack, Guides’ pick: Osprey
  • Small thermos: Optional, but nice to have
  • Water bottles: 2 liters combined capacity; bottles or bladder. Guides’ pick: Nalgene or Osprey

Clothing and Personal Equipment

  • Hiking boots: Sturdy, waterproof, comfortable boots. Please contact us with questions or further recommendations.
  • Socks: medium weight wool or synthetic blend socks.
  • Base layers: Synthetic t-shirt and synthetic underwear
  • Soft shell pants: warm enough for cool mornings and nights, yet light enough for warm days. Guides’ pick: OR Ferrosi
  • Soft shell jacket: light weight. Guides’ pick: OR Ferrosi
  • Insulated vest and/or jacket: down or synthetic. Guides’ pick: OR Transcendent
  • Hard shell jacket: waterproof and breathable, no insulation. Guides’ Pick: OR Helium
  • Hats: one with brim, one for warmth
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen and lip balm: water/sweat-proof
  • Headlamp: with extra batteries. Guides’ pick: Black Diamond Spot
  • Toiletries: Toilet paper, baggie for used TP, toothbrush/paste, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.
  • Personal first-aid kit: for your personal meds/needs; guide will have a large one as well
  • Stuff sacks: for convenient packing
  • Camera
  • Lunch food: Everything you eat between breakfast and dinner. May include: bagels, dried meats, cheese, trail mix, candy bars, peanut butter, etc…

Climbing Equipment

  • Harness
  • Locking carabiner: Pear shaped, wide mouth.
  • Helmet
  • Boots: Hiking boots, or alpine boots – many options. No tennis shoes.
  • Crampons: General mountaineering crampons (for May/June trips only – conditions dependent)
  • Mountaineering Axe: 60 – 70 cm mountain axe (for May/June trips only – conditions dependent)

Training & Follow Up Climbs

As always, being in excellent physical shape is an important component of our our programs. A good mixture of cardiovascular fitness, muscular fitness, and especially core strength will help you to maximize the potential rewards that are possible on a great climbing trip.

1Before Your Trip

Nearing the summit of Mt. Wilson

Wilson Peak is a strenuous trip conducted at altitudes above 10,000 feet. Therefore, previous experience hiking in the mountains and/or multi-day backpacking experience will be very helpful to you on this program. Though the actual climbing level required for this trip is not difficult, the best training regimen would include a mixture of cardiovascular fitness training (running, biking, hiking etc.), and muscular/core fitness exercises. The addition of some yoga/stretching exercises will help to insure that you maintain good muscular flexibility as well.

For Wilson Peak 14’er you should be ready for:

  • Hiking approximately 7 miles  with up to a 15 lb pack at altitudes between 9,000′ – 12,000 ‘
  • 6-10 hour summit days with a “day pack”
  • Wilderness Experience

2Follow Up Climbs


Very professional. Nate’s guidance/knowledge was exceptional and contributed to making this trip the experience of a lifetime. Loved having the food taken care of after those long and tiring days! The pre-trip equipment checklist and phone conversations helped lots with ensuring having proper equipment. – Andrew G. 2012 Wilson/El Diente

Telluride, Colorado: Getting Here

Telluride is located in the SW corner of Colorado, at the intersection of the sandstone towers of the desert, and the jagged, San Juan Mountains. A mecca for climbing, hiking, cycling, and foodies; make sure you plan to spend some time in town before and after your SJMG trip. Participants can either base out of Telluride for this climb, or you can also arrive to either Durango or Ouray where we have office locations.  Please communicate with our office staff regarding your preference.

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Flights: The best option for flying to the area is to fly into Montrose, CO. Many airline options exist, and most connections originate from Denver, CO.  It is also possible to fly into Durango, CO,  Telluride, CO, or Albuquerque, NM.  It may be necessary to rent a car and drive to Ouray or Telluride if you’d like to fly into one of either of these airports.

Driving: Below are some approximate driving times if you’d like to drive to Ouray.  If you plan on renting a car, please consider the winter weather when selecting your vehicle and at a minimum choose something that offers either front wheel or all-wheel drive.

  • Montrose, CO: 45 mins
  • Durango, CO: 2 hours
  • Denver, CO: 6 hours
  • Albuquerque, NM: 4.5 hours
  • Salt Lake City, UT: 6 hours

Hotels: Ouray has a number of great hotels, suites, and vacation rentals for you to stay in while you’re in the area.   Give our office a call at 800-642-5389 if you have any questions about what would suit you best for this trip!

Additional Information

  • Cost Includes:
Wilson Peak Climbers
  • Guiding and trip leadership
  • Breakfasts and dinners on the mountain (additional fee)
  • Group camping and cooking equipment (tents, stoves, etc.)
  • Group climbing equipment (ropes, etc.)
  • Harness, helmet

  • Not Included
  • Transportation to Ouray, Telluride, or Durango, CO
  • Personal Lunch Food
  • 5% land use surcharge
  • Trip cancellation insurance – recommended
  • Personal backpacking climbing clothing
  • Costs associated with early returns, weather delays, or other factors beyond our control
  • Guide gratuity

  • Registration and Cancellation:
  • Advance Registration is required for this program.  You have the option to either call our office and register via phone, fill out our pdf Registration Form and send it in via fax or email, or utilize our secure Online Reservation System.  All participants must read and sign an Assumption of Risks/Liability Waiver and agree to our Reservations and Cancellations Policies.

The guides were professional, knowledgeable, and friendly. The office staff was also great and very helpful. Thanks for a great trip and I look forward to more trips with San Juan Mountain Guides. – Trevor Y. Chicago Basin 14’ers 2011

Call 800.642.5389 to Reserve

Register Now Online

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