Challenger Point and Kit Carson Peak Review
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Challenger Point and Kit Carson Peak: Hike Review

Challenger Point (14,087ft., 34th tallest in CO) and Kit Carson Peak (14,171ft., 23rd tallest in CO) are two 14er mountains situated next to one another in the Sangre de Cristo Range of southern Colorado. Technically speaking, Challenger Point is a sub-peak of Kit Carson Peak, but each mountain holds its own distinction as a Colorado 14er. Further, regardless of whether you hike one or both mountains during your outing, you’ll be treated to absolutely stunning views of the San Luis Valley, including a birds eye view of the extraordinary Great Sand Dunes. 

Since the Sangre de Cristo area is far removed from the busy Denver metro, hikes here are much less crowded than popular Front Range 14er hikes where parking can be problematic. In fact, most hikers of Challenger Point and Kit Carson are rewarded with a bit more solitude and opt to bag both peaks in one very long day hike or overnight in the backcountry near Willow Lake to make it a two-day hike. The most common approach to summit both mountains is via the Willow Creek and South Crestone Trailhead, taking the Class 2 North Slope approach up Challenger Point, hiking the saddle between Challenger Point and Kit Carson Peak, then summitting Kit Carson Peak’s West Ridge via “The Avenue.” This combined, two-peak route is rated as an Easy Class 3 and is about 14.5 miles in length.

Hike Review Series: Challenger Point & Kit Carson Peak

Mountain Information

Challenger Point, which is the first 14er mountain you’ll reach on this route, is named after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster that occurred in 1986. Although Challenger Point is a sub-peak of Kit Carson Peak, the mountain does hold its own distinction within the famed Colorado 14er mountain group. The second 14er mountain you’ll reach is Kit Carson Peak, named after Christopher Houston “Kit” Carson, the famous, but controversial, 19th century frontiersman.

Challenger Point

  • Summit Elevation: 14,087ft.
  • Range: Rocky Mountains
  • Sub-Range: Sangre de Cristo Mountains
  • Location: Rio Grande National Forest
  • Nearest Town: Crestone, CO

Kit Carson Peak

  • Summit Elevation: 14,171ft.
  • Range: Rocky Mountains
  • Sub-Range: Sangre de Cristo Mountains
  • Location: Rio Grande National Forest
  • Nearest Town: Crestone, CO

Trail Guide


We recommend an early, alpine start for a day hike of Kit Carson Peak via Challenger Point, though those dynamics would change if you plan to camp along the way. If you are hiking at a fairly fast pace, the full hike will take somewhere in the range of 8-10 hours. Alternatively, a more moderate pace will keep you outdoors most of the day, so do keep that in mind.

In terms of wildlife, you may be lucky enough to see some big horn sheep along the hike route. In addition, you’re likely to spot some of the Trinchera elk herd and other alpine critters like yellow-bellied marmots and pikas. Also, if you’re interested in wildflowers, pick up a naturalist guidebook such as Plants of the Rocky Mountains to assist with plant identification. 

Route Information

  • Route: Kit Carson (West Ridge) via Challenger (North Slope)
  • Class: Easy Class 3
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Trailhead: Willow Creek & South Crestone Trailhead
  • Trailhead Elevation: 8,850ft.
  • Route Length: 14.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 6,300ft.

Fun Factor

Route Instructions

Planning Tips

Provisions and Dining

The small town of Crestone, CO has a few options for provisions and meals before or after a hike up Challenger Point and/or Kit Carson Peak. Below are our recommendations for places to stop in town.

In our opinion, the best guidebook for information on Colorado’s 14er mountains is Gerry Roach’s Colorado’s Fourteeners: From Hikes to Climbs. All other guidebooks pale in comparison. Thus, this book will suit you well for hiking Challenger Point and Kit Carson Peak. Although Roach’s book is incredibly detailed, you’ll still want to carry a topographical map such as National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map for the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. In addition, we included a couple of our favorite field guides for plant and bird identification. These guides provide useful information that we find add to the outdoors experience and obviously help answer questions about animal and flower species. 

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