Antora Peak (13,269′) | Rio Grande National Forest
Villa Grove, CO | 06/05/21 | 5.86 miles | 2,621′ gain | YDS Class 2
It was dry, dry, dry down in the southern half of the state, so Allie and I planned to hike an easy 13er down by the San Luis Valley. Antora Peak was seeing a lot of early-season action, and numerous people reported nearly dry conditions. It would be a perfect peak to start the summer season; a relatively easy route and very little snow. The forecast was calling for storms, but we decided to take our chances. Both of us were itching to get back to our beloved 13ers.
The road to the trailhead was an adventure to say the least. We’d read that there was a 2wd route, but we went the wrong way into 4wd territory, a bit much for my Subaru Crosstrek. After a few attempts on a sketchy section, we finally made it up to the small parking area at the junction of two forest roads. There was no one around.
We should have started hiking straight past the car, but we somehow didn’t see the road there, so we again headed in the wrong direction. Soon enough we realized our error and bushwhacked back to the old closed road, which we followed past a wetland and into the forest before cutting off the road to head up to the ridge.
We climbed about 600′ through the forest, hopping logs and dodging the occasional patch of snow. Although this hike was relatively short, it was steep enough that my out-of-shape legs and lungs struggled after a winter of easy, low-elevation hikes. Eventually we reached the crest of the ridge and could just make out the summit of Antora Peak through the trees.
Once on the ridge, the route-finding became a bit easier. We followed the ridge through the thinning trees and into the tundra. The going was steeper through this section and somewhat loose.
Once above treeline, our intended route became visible. We left the ridge and angled west toward the Sheep Mountain/Antora Peak saddle. The side-hilling here hurt my feet pretty badly, they’d gone soft over winter.
From the saddle, it was another 700′ to the summit. We headed more or less straight up, skirting the few remaining snow patches. Tundra gave way to talus as we neared the summit.
We finally reached the summit. Storm clouds had formed all around us but we were somehow in a bubble of clear sky. We couldn’t believe our luck! Instead of getting chased down by lightning, we could actually take our time and enjoy the views. And what great views they were. Antora Peak is the southernmost 13er in the Sawatch Range, off by itself practically in a mini-range of its own. Since it’s the tallest mountain in the area, you can really see out to the mountains in the distance.
On our way down, the predicted weather finally hit us with a few sprinkles. We moved quickly just in case the weather worsened.
We retraced our steps back down to the car. Once back on the closed road, a strange noise caught our attention. It sounded like a big animal moving noisily through the forest. After some hesitant investigation, we found the culprit: a stick stuck in a culvert, scraping the metal as water flowed through.
Crisis averted and finally convinced we weren’t going to be eaten, we loaded up into the car and followed the road back out. The difficult spot from the drive in was much easier going downhill and we had no further issues. We did take the time to stop at a few historic mine sites we’d seen on the way in. First up was the Bonanza Mine & Mill. This was HUGE and it was safe to enter certain parts (much of the wood floors were rotten and very dangerous, so we avoided those sections). This area is full of mines, ghost towns, and old cemeteries. We wish we’d had more time to explore!
Our last stop was the Exchequer Townsite and its last remaining cabin. This site had a Forest Service sign and designated parking. There is also a cemetery nearby but we were done with walking for the day.
After we made it back out to the highway, we headed to Allie’s parents’ house in Alma where we’d spend the night. We had a day of easy exploring planned for tomorrow.
I would like to acknowledge that Antora Peak is on the ancestral land of the Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute).