Climbing Sunlight Peak Colorado is a difficult fourteener ascent, with a challenging class 4 summit block that has a lot of exposure. As a Chicago Basin 14er, Sunlight Peak requires either a multi-day backpacking trip or a train trip to reach this remote wilderness area. Many people setup a base camp in the Basin and try to climb several high peaks while they are in the area. Plan a climb of Sunlight Peak with my free route guide and info below.
Climbing Sunlight Peak Fast Facts
CAUTION: This Route is Hazardous!
You are responsible for your personal safety in the backcountry.
These peaks can be unpredictable and dangerous. Help is often hours or days away: your safety is primarily your responsibility. Prepare for your trek, understand your limits, be aware of the risks, and equip yourself with the necessary skills and gear.
Climbing Sunlight Peak - South Face Route
It’s harder to get to the Needleton trailhead than any other 14er trailhead… the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad provides train service to the location, which is how most people get there. Click here for information and buy tickets – make sure you call them and tell them you’re stopping at the Needleton stop. While you can do this trip without taking the train, it’s an extremely long backpacking trip only recommended for experienced hikers and backpackers. Follow the Purgatory Creek trail if you choose to try that option.
The best route description for climbing Sunlight Peak is found on 14ers.com, the best site for 14er route guides in general. Make sure you read their description of the route before you attempt to visit the Chicago Basin.
Anyone climbing Sunlight Peak Colorado should bring along a topographical map of the route within the Chicago Basin area. I recommend that you 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.
Use these two sources to check the weather conditions before climbing Sunlight Peak in Colorado. Consider the temperature high and low, wind speed, precipitation, and whether there are any storm systems on the horizon to be aware of. No Sunlight Peak Route Guide is complete without weather forecasts.
Below is a complete weather forecast for those climbing Sunlight Peak. Provided by the National Weather Service, it includes in-depth information and I recommend reading through it thoroughly before your climb.
If you are taking the railroad, be sure you arrive at the correct station. Double-check your ticket if you are not sure.
DIRECTIONS TO THE RAILROAD PARKING LOTS:
There are a few types of gear you will need while climbing Sunlight Peak if you want to increase your chance of a safe and successful ascent. Here’s what I recommend bringing with you for this fourteener.
- A good pair of hiking boots for 14ers
- The ten essentials for mountain safety.
- A day pack to carry your gear, food, and water.
- Headlamps are helpful for early starts (and late nights).
- Good snacks to keep you fueled
- Trekking poles are optional but highly recommended
- A personal locator beacon might save your life.
- Bring a climbing helmet to protect against falling rock.
Read all of my gear reviews and recommendations by clicking here.
Camping near Sunlight Peak:
There are no organized campgrounds in the Chicago Basin area, however, dispersed camping is available below the lakes in the higher parts of the Basin. Please follow all signage and area closures while selecting a campsite.
Lodging near Sunlight Peak:
- The Bent Elbow Hotel – Silverton
- The Avon – Silverton
- Comfort Inn – Durango
- Purgatory Village Condo Hotel
There are many cabins available via Airbnb and other services in Durango, Silverton, and the surrounding area, ideal for those climbing Sunlight Peak.
Sunlight Peak and the other Chicago Basin fourteeners are located in a pristine wilderness area that faces an increasing number of visitors each year. Help preserve these peaks for future generations by following these Leave No Trace practices while climbing Sunlight Peak.
- 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 Sunlight Peak! Learn more about LNT on 14ers here.
More info coming soon.
Climbing Sunlight Peak 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 Sunlight Peak is an inherently high-risk, dangerous activity. 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.