Climbing Wilson Peak, like its neighbors El Diente Peak and Mt. Wilson, is a dangerous endeavor. While more manageable than its class 4 sister peaks, it’s an exposed climb with significant risk of rockfall. The climb up the Southwest Ridge is a long day, better for more experienced peak baggers. However the view of the southern San Juans from this perch on the range’s edge is glorious to say the least. Before climbing Wilson Peak, plan your trip with my route guide below.
Climbing Wilson 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 Wilson Peak - Southwest Ridge Route
The best route description you can find for Wilson Peak is on 14ers.com. It is a detailed guide to the route and I recommend you take some time to review it all in detail.
If you’re climbing Wilson Peak, you should have have a good map with you to navigate.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.
If you plan on climbing Wilson Peak, use these two sources to check the weather conditions before your trip. Consider the temperature high and low, wind speed, precipitation, and whether there are any storm systems on the horizon to be aware of. No Wilson Peak Route Guide is complete without weather forecasts.
Climbing Wilson Peak 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 Wilson Peak.
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 Wilson Peak 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 Wilson Peak is pristine, one of the most spectacular regions in the entire state. By practicing Leave No Trace ethics you can help preserve this beauty for future generations. This includes:
- 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 Wilson Peak!
Wilson Peak is named after A.D. Wilson, the chief topographer with the Hayden Survey. Mount Wilson is also named after him. Local indigenous people called the mountain Shandoka, which means “Storm Maker.”
The prominent, symmetrical peak is well-known in popular culture, being featured on the Coors beer logo, numerous commercials, and movies over the past three decades. It is among the most famous of the San Juan fourteeners, which are generally less well-known than the state’s northern peaks.
The exposure and rockfall on Wilson Peak has made it the site of many hiking, climbing, and mountaineering accidents over the past century. Rescue is far away in this remote and sparsely populated area. Take extra caution if you decide to try climbing it.
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 Wilson Peak 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.