Culebra Peak, the 14,053-foot high point of the 35-mile-long Culebra Range, is Colorado’s 41st highest fourteener, the southernmost fourteener in the United States, and the only private fourteener in the state. The elegant peak is one of the least climbed 14,000-foot mountains in Colorado since access is limited and a hefty fee is charged to climb it. Culebra, Spanish for “snake,” has been private property for hundreds of years, beginning as a Spanish land grant that changed hands several times. Now the peak is part of 77,000-acre Cielo Vista Ranch so anyone wanting to tag this wild mountain must make a reservation, pay $150 as of 2016, and check in at 6:00 a.m.
- You need to make a reservation to climb Culebra Peak. Days are limited, mostly to weekend days, so plan well ahead of time. Visit the ranch website http://cielovistaranchco.com to check available dates and make a reservation. Maximum number of people allowed per day is 25. The cost of an individual permit for Culebra Peak and/or Red Mountains in 2016 was $150. Some climbing days are also scheduled in winter.
- The ranch has specific rules for climbers. You must ascend and descend on different routes to minimize impact; you’re encouraged not to follow trails. Hikers must disperse while hiking and not hike single file or on existing routes. Step only on durable rock surfaces to protect fragile plants. Don’t pick wildflowers or feed animals. Follow Leave No Trace principles and carry everything out.
- Culebra Peak’s neighbor to the south on the range crest is 13,908-foot Red Mountain, one of Colorado’s 100 highest peaks. If you have the energy, sign up to climb both peaks beforehand. Red Mountain is a moderate 0.75-mile hike south from Culebra’s summit. Don’t forget you have to reverse the route back to Culebra to descend.
- Some other climbing procedures to follow for your Culebra climb: Download, sign, and bring a waiver for each person climbing. No waiver, no climb. You must check in to climb on your day at 6:00 a.m. At 6:15 a.m. the gate is locked and you forfeit your fee and climb. No dogs and non-climbers are allowed on the ranch. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is required to reach the trailhead. You must sign out by 6:00 p.m. If you do not, emergency procedures begin. If you fail to leave or sign out by 6:00 p.m. then you must pay $100 to Costilla County Search and Rescue.
Recommended season(s): Year-round.
—Stewart M. Green