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Hiking in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness: Music Pass Trail No. 1337

The trail to Music Pass
The trail to Music Pass
Deb Stanley

One of the best things about hiking in Colorado is the "Ahhhh" moments -- when you stand in a place that just amazes you. Music Pass in southern Colorado is one of those incredibly, beautiful places. The pass is right on the border of the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness and the Great Sand Dunes National Preserve.

Music Pass, Sangre de Cristo Wilderness
Deb Stanley

The hike starts on the east side of the mountains, near Westcliffe (directions below). If you don't have a high clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicle, you'll likely have to start the hike at the Grape Creek Trailhead. There's dispersed camping at the Grape Creek Trailhead, a bathroom and parking. Hike up the road or drive up as far as your comfortable. It's about 2.9 miles from the Grape Creek Trailhead to the Music Pass Trailhead. (Note, some descriptions call the Grape Creek Trailhead, the lower Music Pass trailhead.)

The road is steep at times, and quite rocky, but come in July and you should get a wildflower show with many varieties.

At the Music Pass Trailhead, you'll see lots of parked vehicles and a sign pointing you right 1 1/4 miles to Music Pass Trail No. 1337. Continue hiking up the next section of road that is closed to vehicles. You'll quick pass a dirt berm put on the trail to keep vehicles from driving any further.

The hike here is very pleasant. The trail is a bit steep and rocky, but you're in the thick forest and it's nice. About 0.2 miles from the upper trailhead is a register box and a sign. If there's a register, please sign in for the Forest Service will know how many people are using the trail.

Continue hiking up the old road/trail until the trees begin to open up at about 0.8 from the upper trailhead. Soon you'll be getting glimpses of the peaks up ahead. If you need a break, don't forget to turn around and admire the view of the valley below you.

As you get closer to the top, the trees start to thin out a bit and you'll pass a sign that says "Great Sand Dunes National Preserve." While you won't see the Sand Dunes on the this hike, you are in the National Preserve's protected area.

At the top of Music Pass, a sign explains that the pass was named for the musical sounds some hear when the wind blows over the pass. The trail now flattens out for a short distance. You'll come around a corner and there it is -- a view of the valley to your west.

While you may not hear the wind making the musical sounds, you will likely feel your heart filling with joy at being in this incredible place. This is the Sand Creek Basin. There are three 13,000-foot high peaks out there -- Tijeras Peak (13,604') is the pointy one. Music Mountain (13,356') and Milwaukee Mountain (13,522') are also in that range to the right, out yonder.

There are lots of spots up here to find a rock to sit and enjoy the view while eating lunch or a snack. If you decide to continue on, there are two very nice lakes -- Lower Sand Creek Lake and Upper Sand Creek Lake in that valley down there. You'll have to drop about 400', then climb more elevation to see them.

For many, the hike to Music Pass is a good adventure to a beautiful place.

Details: The hike from the lower trailhead to Music Pass is about 8.6 miles with about 2,200 feet of elevation gain. The hike from the upper trailhead is about 2.8 miles roundtrip with about 800 feet of elevation gain.

Find more great hikes in this list of 200+ hikes across the state. Don't miss any of my trip reports, sign up for an email alert by clicking on subscribe at the top of this page and follow me on Facebook.

Directions: From Westcliffe, take Highway 69 south about 4.5 miles to County Road 119 (Colfax Lane). Turn right on CR 119 and follow it about 5.6 miles to a "T" intersection. Turn left and follow the road another 5.2 miles to the Grape Creek Trailhead/Lower Music Pass Trailhead/Rainbow Trail.

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