Climbing Mount Wilson | A 14er With A Fierce Reputation
Mount Wilson and its neighbors are some of the most rugged and dangerous peaks in the San Juan range. Many people have been injured or killed due to the significant exposure and rockfall while climbing Mount Wilson. Wait to conquer the Mount Wilson route until you’ve tackled some easier 14ers and gained some experience. The reward for the risk is an adventurous climb that often involves a mix of snow and rock climbing late into the summer. Take your time on this mountain, and be ready for the risk. Plan your climb up Mount Wilson with my free route guide below.
Climbing Mount Wilson: Fast Facts
Climbing Mount Wilson - North Slopes Route
Most people climbing Mount Wilson take the Rock of Ages approach that I share here, but you can also use the Navajo Basin Approach to reach the Rock of Ages saddle and carry on with this route guide from there. From the Rock of Ages trailhead, head south along the trail.
Turn left a bit over a mile into your hike and begin gaining elevation. You’ll eventually climb over the ridge to your right to enter the Silver Pick Basin.
Follow the trail along the basin, avoiding turn-off’s that lead to private property along the way. Near 12,100 feet leave the main mining road you’ve followed to the right along a trail.
Hike along to the center of the basin past an old, crumbling rock house. Continue to the end of the basin and and turn right, following the trail up a steep slope. Around 12,600 turn left to traverse more steep slopes before you reach the Rock of Ages Saddle. This is a good spot to stop for a rest and snack, and to check the weather conditions before continuing onward. This is also the first time while climbing Mount Wilson that you can see the peak itself to the south.
Head off of the saddle, heading in the direction of Mount Wilson which rises above you to the south. Follow the trail down to the creek, and take a left onto the path in Navajo Basin. Near 12,300 feet, leave the trail and descend to the bottom of a shoulder that leads to Mount Wilson’s summit. Head across the creek and begin to climb the shoulder.
Follow trail segments and look for cairns as you ascend this shoulder. Around 13,400 feet you’ll come to a large buttress, which is covered in lichen. Head straight up the face of this buttress. There is easier terrain on top.
Rather than continuing from there to the ridge, begin to traverse the slopes to your right while ascending gradually, guided by small cairms. If you climb too high too quickly you will run into class 3 and 4 terrain unnecessarily. There may be snow fields to cross in early and mid summer. I recommend studying this area in depth before you climb using sources like 14ers.com and summitpost.com. Near 14,100 feet, get to the last gully and climb the upper portion to reach the northeast ridge.
This final section has serious class 3 and 4 climbing – do not proceed if the weather looks questionable. Head right to find a notch. Take a left and take the quite narrow ridge toward the summit. The crux of climbing Mount Wilson route is just below the summit. This class 4 section of rocks blocks easy passage to the summit, with significant exposure on either side. It’s easier to head left to climb over and through them, as the right side has the most exposure. Once through, scramble the remaining distance to the summit.
Enjoy the top and your accomplishment, and be sure you head back with time to make it to tree line before afternoon thunderstorms. I hope you found this Mount Wilson route guide helpful and informative. Good luck climbing Mount Wilson!
Bring a topographical map with you while climbing Mount Wilson to help you navigate and stay on route. You can download this map on your phone or print out a copy to bring with you on your climb. Always bring some hardcopy map in case your digital version fails or breaks.
Climbing Mount Wilson is a serious undertaking, requiring special gear to help you succeed and stay safe along the way. Here are some of my top recommendations.
First, you will need a good pair of hiking boots. I recommend one of these boots specifically. They have good traction to grip slick rock and snow, and their ankle support reduces your chances of spraining or twisting your ankle. Make sure you take time to break in your boots before climbing Mount Wilson.
You will also need a backpack to carry food, water, and the other ten essentials with you on your journey. These backpacks have the right capacity and quality to help you reach the summit without breaking your back. Don’t forget to fill your bag with the ten essentials.
Climbing Mount Wilson involves a serious risk of rockfall, making a climbing helmet essential for your safety. There are many good options on the market, but I recommend one of these four helmets for 14ers like this one.
Lastly, you need to bring a map with you to help navigate. While many people just print out a map online, I recommend investing in something better. These maps and route guides are sturdier and show more info than a printed map. Even better, you can buy a personal locator beacon, GPS unit, or satellite messenger, which are the best navigation and emergency device of them all.
Camping near Wilson Peak:
There are also many dispersed camping opportunities along forest roads near the trailhead ideal for those climbing Wilson Peak. Learn more about dispersed camping near 14ers here.
Lodging near Wilson Peak:
There are many cabins available via Airbnb and other services in Telluride and Ridgway, perfect for those climbing Wilson Peak.
The area around Mount Wilson is beautiful, one of the most spectacular regions in the entire state. Practicing Leave No Trace ethics while climbing Mount Wilson will help you preserve this mountain for future generations. These practices include:
- Plan ahead, review the route and pick a weekday or day in September to hike.
- Stay on the trail, and keep dogs leashed on and off-trail to reduce trampling of alpine grass.
- Leave your Bluetooth speaker at home and let nature’s sound reign.
- Urinate off trail, and pack out your waste – a cathole won’t work at high altitude.
- Give wildlife a wide berth – 100 meters if possible. If they approach, back up to keep space.
- Take nothing but pictures, and leave nothing but footprints.
Safe travels, and good luck climbing Mount Wilson!
Hiking & climbing 14ers is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe.
- Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
- Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
- Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
- Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
- Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
- Bring a buddy on your first ascent, preferably someone experienced.
Climbing Mount Wilson and other mountains, scrambling and climbing up Colorado’s high peaks are inherently high-risk, dangerous activities. There is a significant risk of injury or death, even with proper planning and experience. Those using my guide accept all risks associated with climbing 14ers and do not hold this website or any information they obtain from it liable for any accidents or injuries that occur while engaging in these activities on Colorado’s high peaks. It is each hiker or climber’s responsibility to research their route carefully, bring the ten essentials, and practice other safe practices, though even these precautions do not eliminate risk and danger. Visit these summits at your own risk.