Redcloud Peak and Sunshine Peak: 14er Hike Review

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Redcloud Peak (14,034ft.) and Sunshine Peak (14,001ft.) are two of the most prominent peaks in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, located in Hinsdale County near the town of Lake City. The peaks are part of the stunning San Juan Skyway, a scenic byway that connects Durango, Silverton, and Ouray in a 236-mile loop through the San Juan Mountains. Indeed, Redcloud Peak and Sunshine Peak are near some of the most stellar peaks in Colorado, including three additional 14ers: Handies Peak, Wetterhorn Peak, and Uncompahgre Peak.

Redcloud Peak and Sunshine Peak are popular among hikers and mountaineers due to their accessibility and stunning views. The most common hiking route is Sunshine Peak via Redcloud Peak’s Northeast Ridge, which is a strenuous 12.0 mile trail that begins at the Silver Creek/Grizzly Gulch Trailhead. The trail is rated as a Class 2 difficult hike due to its steep ascent and rocky terrain. However, the spectacular views from the summit and the surrounding San Juan Mountains make the hike well worth the effort.


Mountain Information

The history of Redcloud Peak and Sunshine Peak is intertwined with that of the surrounding San Juan Mountains, which were formed over 30 million years ago by volcanic activity and uplift. For centuries, the mountains were home to various indigenous groups, including the Ute, who lived in the area for thousands of years before being forcibly removed in the 19th century.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the San Juans experienced a mining boom, with prospectors flocking to the region in search of gold, silver, and other minerals. The nearby towns of Silverton, Lake City, and Ouray were founded during this time, and the mountains themselves were mined extensively. Today, the legacy of this mining can be seen in the form of abandoned mines and ghost towns scattered throughout the range.

While there are variations to the origins of their names, Redcloud Peak is most likely named due its distinctive red hue, which comes from the red sandstone that is prevalent in the area. Redcloud’s neighbor, Sunshine Peak is named for its prominent location on the ridge line, which allows it to receive sunlight for most of the day and for its sunny, south-facing slopes that make up its lower flanks.

Redcloud Peak and Sunshine Peak

  • Summit Elevation: 14,034ft. & 14,001ft.
  • Range: San Juan
  • Location: Redcloud WSA
  • Nearest Town: Lake City

Trail Guide

Route Information

  • Route: Sunshine via Redcloud
  • Class: 2
  • Type: Out-and-Back
  • Trailhead: Silver Creek/Grizzly Gulch
  • Trailhead Elevation: 10,340ft.
  • Route Length: 12.0 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 4,423ft.
Difficulty – 0
Scenery - 0
Crowds - 0
Fun Factor - 0

Route Overview

  • Mile 0-.5: The well-maintained trail starts near County Road 30 and gradually ascends through a forested area. 
  • Mile .5-1: As the trail continues to climb, hikers will come across several crossings of Silver Creek. The trail follows along the creek, offering glimpses of its clear waters and rocky bed.
  • Mile 1-2: As the trail approaches treeline, vegetation becomes sparser and views begin to open up. Hikers will start to see surrounding peaks and valleys as the trail steepens, with switchbacks leading up to a ridge.
  • Mile 2-3: After cresting the ridge, the trail climbs towards Redcloud Peak. This section of the trail is quite steep, with several switchbacks and a few sections of loose rock. 
  • Mile 3-4: The final push to the summit of Redcloud Peak is relatively easy, with a gentle incline. Once at the summit, hikers are rewarded with panoramic San Juan Mountain views.
  • Mile 4-5: The trail from Redcloud Peak to Sunshine Peak begins with a steep descent to a saddle between the peaks. From this saddle, hikers can see the final push to Sunshine Peak’s summit.
  • Mile 5-6: The final mile of the ascent is quite steep with loose rock and switchbacks leading to Sunshine Peak’s summit
  • Mile 6-7: After enjoying Sunshine Peak’s summit, retrace steps back down the steep switchbacks to the saddle between the peaks.
  • Mile 7-8: From the saddle, climb back up the steep trail to the summit of Redcloud Peak. This section of trail can be challenging, as hikers will again ascend loose rock and scree.
  • Mile 8-9: After reaching Redcloud Peak’s summit for the second time, enjoy the views and descend back to the trailhead. The trail down from Redcloud Peak is steep and rocky, with several sections of extremely loose rock.
  • Mile 9-10: The trail steeply descends to treeline, with switchbacks leading through the forested area.
  • Mile 10-12: The final portion of the hike is relatively easy, with a gentle descent. Hikers can take in the views of the surrounding mountains and valleys one last time before reaching the trailhead.

Planning Tips

Getting There

The road conditions to access the trailhead for Redcloud Peak and Sunshine Peak can vary depending on the time of year and weather conditions. The trailhead is located near Lake City, Colorado, and can be accessed via County Road 30, part of the beautiful Alpine Loop. This is a dirt road that is typically passable by two-wheel drive vehicles during the summer months. During the spring and fall, the road may be muddy or snow-covered and require a four-wheel drive vehicle or high clearance vehicle to access.

Overall, the road conditions to the trailhead can be variable, so it’s important to check conditions and plan accordingly. It’s also a good idea to have a vehicle with good clearance and to drive slowly and carefully to avoid any damage to the vehicle or road.


If you plan to hike both mountains starting at the Silver Creek/Grizzly Gulch Trailhead, we highly recommend camping nearby and opting for an early morning start the next day. There are a number of nearby established campgrounds and even closer dispersed camping options:

  • Dispersed Camping Options – County Road 30 offers numerous opportunities for dispersed camping close to the Silver Creek/Grizzly Gulch trailhead. However, be sure to follow Leave No Trace principles and camp at least 100 feet away from water sources.
  • Wupperman Campground – a Hinsdale County-owned campground located along Lake San Cristobal with 31 sites.
  • Williams Creek Campground – a first-come, first-served campground with 23 sites located along the Alpine Loop, open from June to October.
  • Mill Creek Campground – located near the town of Lake City, this campground has 22 sites with fire rings and picnic tables.


Dogs are allowed on the trail to Redcloud Peak and Sunshine Peak, but they must be kept on a leash at all times. It’s important to note that the trail is a popular hiking destination, and there may be other hikers on the trail who are not comfortable around dogs. To ensure a positive experience for all hikers, it’s important to keep dogs under control and clean up after them.

Weather Forecast

Always check the weather forecast before venturing into alpine country. Thunderstorms and lightning are frequent occurrences in Colorado during the summer time. Please plan ahead for your Redcloud Peak and Sunshine Peak 14er summit adventure.

Nearby Dining Options

The nearby town of Lake City has several dining options for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. The Packer Saloon and Cannibal Grill is a popular spot for burgers and beer, while Southern Vittles offers southern-style cooking. The Lake City Brewing Company is also a great choice following a long hike.


Hiking Boots

The Vasque Torre hiking boots are incredibly lightweight, provide excellent traction, and are quite affordable for their versatility. We like the Vasque Torre’s for everyday hiking that includes a bit of scrambling. In addition, with the “GORE-TEX” construction, you don’t have to worry about damp feet if the weather turns or you have to splash through streams or puddles along the way.

Hiking Pants

We love prAna’s hiking pants for their quality and versatility. Indeed, their Zion (for men) and Halle (for women) are great on- and off-trail, especially for travel. Constructed with a durable UPF-50 fabric, a water-repellant finish, and utility pockets, these have become a staple in our wardrobe. Remember that it can be rather chilly at alpine elevations, so consider hiking pants rather than shorts (both for warmth and sun protection).

Hiking Shirt

It can get chilly during alpine outings, particularly when you start early in the morning. Therefore, we typically opt for a long sleeve but lightweight shirt to keep us warm when it’s cold, but keeps us cool when we are working up a sweat later in the day. The no-cotton rule applies to shirts just as it does for pants and other articles of clothing.

Our preferred hiking shirt in the summer is Outdoor Research’s Echo Hoody because of its UPF sun protection qualities and lightweight (4oz.) breathable construction. The shirt has a hood for added neck protection and has thumbholes to protect your hands from sun exposure, if you opt to not wear sun gloves. Outdoor Research also makes different varieties of the Echo shirt (e.g., quarter zip, long sleeve without hood, t-shirt, etc.) if you prefer another style.

Insulated Jacket

The Arc’teryx Atom is easily our favorite insulated jacket. Yes, there may be lighter weight alternatives on the market, but we love the style, fit, packability, and function. Wear the Atom during early morning starts or when you reach the mountain summit. It’s a great addition to an outdoors wardrobe and comes in handy when the temperature dips.

Hiking Socks

For most of our hiking needs, we like Darn Tough socks over the multitude of options on the market. They last long and have an ironclad guarantee. In addition, Darn Tough has a variety of designs, ankle lengths, and cushioning options to choose from. We like the Hiker quarter length with light cushioning.

Headwear/Face Covering

We often wear a Buff as a neck gaiter to protect from the sun, given its UPF 50 protective construction. Buffs are also a great option to use as a face covering on the trail. In fact, there are 12+ ways of wearing a Buff, so it’s a versatile piece of gear.

Day Pack

We like REI Co-op’s Flash 22L pack for its affordability, lightweight design, and overall versatility. This pack has enough storage for a day hike and side pockets are available to store Nalgene bottles or other equipment. It is also hydration reservoir compatible. We think the 22L version has the perfect capacity, though REI does have an even smaller Flash 18L with a drawcord top.

Trekking Poles

Although trekking poles are optional and a matter of preference, we prefer to use them for added stability. We recommend choosing the lightest weight poles your budget can afford. The Black Diamond Distance Z is our top choice due to its extremely lightweight construction. If you are seeking just one pole, rather than two, consider Gossamer Gear’s LT5, which can be purchased individually.

recommended books

There are several great books that provide information about Redcloud Peak, Sunshine Peak, and the San Juan Mountains region in general. Here are a few recommendations:

  • Colorado’s Fourteeners: From Hikes to Climbs” by Gerry Roach – This book is considered the definitive guide to climbing Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks, including Redcloud Peak and Sunshine Peak. It provides detailed descriptions of various routes, as well as historical and geological information about the mountains.
  • A Climbing Guide to Colorado’s Fourteeners” by Walter R. Borneman – This book is another great resource for climbers and hikers looking to explore Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. It includes detailed route descriptions, topographical maps, and historical information about the mountains.
  • The San Juan Mountains: A Climbing and Hiking Guide” by Robert Rosebrough – This guidebook provides detailed information on hiking and climbing routes in the San Juan Mountains, including Redcloud and Sunshine Peaks.
  • Wildflowers of Colorado Field Guide” by Don Mammoser – This book features over 240 species of wildflowers commonly found in Colorado, including many that can be seen on the Redcloud Peak and Sunshine Peak hike.

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