Bill Hammons: Writing and Running in Boulder, Colorado


Sunlight Peak, Colorado

Sunlight Peak's Elevation: 14,059 Feet

Sunlight Peak's Rank Among Colorado's Fourteeners in Terms of Elevation: #39

Sunlight Peak is located in the San Juan Mountains

Sunlight Peak requires a scramble

Best months for climbing Sunlight Peak are July through September

Click here for a Mapquest map of Sunlight Peak

Sunlight Peak, with an elevation of 14,059 feet, is the 39th highest peak in the state of Colorado. Sunlight (not to be confused with Sunshine Peak) is one of three Fourteeners in the remote Needle Mountains of the San Juans (the Needles are known for their general cragginess). The most popular route to the summit is a ride along the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to the Needleton Trailhead, followed by a hike along Needle Creek and through the Chicago Basin. The summit is exposed rock requiring a Class 4 climb with rope suggested.

The Durango and Silverton train, as of 2006, runs from May 1st to October 30th and takes 2.5 hours to reach the Needleton Trailhead (reservations through the Animas River Railroad are required). Once off the train, use the footbridge to cross the Animas River and head east for .75 miles until you reach the trail for Chicago Basin. The hike from Needleton to Chicago Basin is 6.6 miles.

Camp at Chicago Basin, then follow the creek further east and north to the Twin Lakes at 12,500 feet. Then climb east into another basin and up the Red Couloir southeast of Sunlight's summit (the aptly-named Sunlight Spire will be on the right of the couloir). Scramble along the ridge, generally bearing left, and be prepared to climb (and descend) the large boulder at the top which forms Sunlight Peak's true summit.

Sources:,, Dawson's Guide to Colorado's Fourteeners, Volume 2: The Southern Peaks

This page last updated 8/15/06

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