BETA PHOTO: Jagged's North Face on the approach. (sorry about ...
This is one of the harder peaks in the state, both because it is nowhere near any road, and the easiest way up is easy 5th class. It's located in the center of the San Juan mountains, in between the Needles and the Grenadiers. It's basically a fin of cliffs, so there are many subsidary summits and spires as well. The approach is long, but the area is awesome for longer backpacking trips, and it's probably more likely to see mountain goats than people on the mountain.
The standard approach I've seen described comes up the no-name drainage from the Animas River, I have not done this, but it would involve riding the Durango-Silverton train or a very long hike. The way I approached was over Hunchback Pass from the north. This is up a four wheel drive road with some decent obstacles, but we saw an older subaru 4x4 wagon at the trail head the last trip. To reach the trail head, from Silverton drive northeast out of town toward Howardsville, turn right after the second bridge once the road turns to dirt up Cunningham Gulch (look for gold mine tour signs), follow this past the tours for a couple miles, and turn left up Stony Pass. This 4x4 pass is pretty mellow, the worst parts are coming back down the steep Silverton side (I need to use low range to avoid riding the brakes), crossing Pole Creek (1+ feet deep) at the bottom, and a spot just past Pole Creek that gets super muddy and slippery after it rains. This road goes past the Rio Grande reservoir toward Creede, and could be approached from that direction, but I haven't driven that stretch. Soon after crossing Pole Creek, turn south (right) toward Beartown and Kite Lake and cross the Rio Grande, which has been pretty shallow every time I've crossed it. The next 4 miles up to Beartown are mostly dirt with dried up mud puddles (unless it rained) with a couple steep hills and some rocky sections. From Beartown, the road gets a bit rougher with more rocks, and a mud hole that's usually somewhat deep. Just at the end of the trees and about a half mile below Kite Lake is the trailhead for the Continental Divide trail on the left. If you don't have a 4x4, you could also go to the end of Cunningham Gulch and do several extra miles on the continental divide trail starting there. From the trailhead, go over Hunchback Pass, and down toward Vallecito Creek. The divide trail branches left part way down. To camp close to Jagged, you could continue down Vallecito to either Leviathan or Sunlight creeks and hike up them. I haven't done either from Vallecito. Where I camp is up Stormy Gulch, which is close to the Grenadiers. For this approach, either go down to the meadows where Trinity Creek flows into Vallecito, cross Vallecito just above the confluence, and find a small trail above Trinity Creek, or there's a shortcut up higher. After the third creek crossing on the way down, there's a few switchbacks, then the trail comes close to the creek just below a waterfall. Cross the creek on small logs- this could be difficult in high water now that the big log is gone to a camping area with a small rock alcove. A small trail cuts off here, peters out quickly (go up to find the trail again, or cut down and across to the trail up from the confluence) until the two trail merge, follow this up to a large meadow/marsh. there's a couple decent camp sites here, but it's better to continue up the trail to treeline, pretty much below the north face of Storm King, there's nice camp spots here, and a trail that heads up around the east side of Storm King. From this camp site, it takes about 3 hours to hike to the base of Jagged. Go around the east side of Storm King, over the pass to it's south, then turn south to a small lake on a pass between Peaks 7 and 8. From here, traverse south to a saddle (staying high is easiest with day packs, there's some scrambling that would be hard with big packs) and continue to another saddle above Leviathan Lake. Traverse around the head of the drainage to the pass to the south (loose scree to the right heading down, more grassy and steep to the left, then to more talus around and up to the pass). From here, Jagged is just across from you to the south, traverse on a trail to a pass north of Jagged, then on to the base of the peak. Other approaches would be to hike up Vallecito Creek from Vallecito reservoir, or from Molas Pass up into Vestal Basin.
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Jagged Mountain:
The route starts just to the right of the large snow filled gully. We went straight up some wet rock ledges that ended at a 20 foot corner ~5.5. The easier way we found on the way down is to cut left up toward the gully on an angling ramp (4th class ramp described in guide books?) that was somewhat wet grimy but pretty easy, and even had mountain goat tracks on it. From here, it's easy grass up to below the upper cliffs, traverse right behind a small detached block, across the top of a gully ...[more]Browse More Classics in CO
Here is yet another approach to Jagged Peak. I think it is a good option if you are approaching from southeastern/southcentral Colorado. First we approached the Beartown trailhead from the northeast. Drive past Creede towards Lake City and take the Rio Grade Reservoir turnoff. Continue past the reservior to Stoney Pass cross the Rio Grande and continue to the Beartown trailhead. Hike over Hunchback Pass to the upper Vallecito Drainage. Cross to the westside of Vallecito across from the Guardian and [definitely] before you have to cross Rock Creek. There is an excellent unmarked outfitter trail along the west side of the creek from this point. Continue south to Sunlight Creek. Follow the unmarked [climber's] trail along the north side of Sunlight Creek to the basin between Jagged Mountain and Leviathan Peak. This approach can be done in a very big day.
We started at 4:10 in the afternoon at Vallecito Trailhead. Humped in along Vallecito Creek 9 miles till 8. Got up at 4, went another 2 miles along Vallecito then cut up along Sunlight Creek. The trail becomes a real bitch here. Then after a few miles you hike straight uphill to the bow-shaped lake. Beautiful hike. Unfortunately trying the mandatory day and a half approach in a night and a morning caused us to be too sketched to try the low 5th with stormclouds approaching. REAL BUMMER! Gorgeous area, though.
To emphasize what Ben said...if you are coming from the north (via Hunchback Pass), your best bet is to cross over to the west side of Vallecito Creek at the Rock Creek junction. From the junction, go 30 meters north or so on the trail, then cut left (west) through a field to a marshy area. Stay north of the marsh and continue west up a small hillside into the woods. Soon after you will hit the creek...I was able to find a suitable crossing on some rock slabs. From the Vallecito, continue west and soon you will encounter a faint trail heading SW that parallels the creek. It should be about 30 meters from the crossing. If you can't find the trail, just head SW staying about 100-200 meters west of the creek and you will eventually pick it up.
The trail itself is indeed intermittent, and will have you scratching your head at times. However, if you just continue SW staying 100-200 meters west of the creek, you will eventually cross Leviathan Creek and finally intersect the Sunlight Creek trail (which is on the north side of Sunlight Creek). This approach is plenty fast despite some routefinding and allows you to avoid a more involved crossing of the Vallecito further downstream.
The Sunlight Creek trail is initially prominent and easy going, but after a half mile or so, things quickly fall apart! You reach an overgrown hillside and the trail disappears into a sea of downed trees, bushes, boulders, and tall grasses. Prepare for battle and carefully make your way west across the hillside, aiming for the bottom edge of a large aspen grove. You will begin to approach Sunlight Creek, but stay on its north side and grunt up a steep ridge with a now intermittent trail. Eventually the trail becomes more prominent and crosses the creek several times before arriving at a pristine meadow with towering granite walls. At this point, the creek splits into 3 separate channels: one coming from the south, one coming down a steep boulder field to the west, and a smaller channel coming down a rock gully to the north. Cross the creek to its north side and climb up the north gully. This will deposit you into a long, narrow meadow. You could choose to camp here, but a better option is to continue west across the meadow and climb one final hillside to the north onto a broad bench. A campsite on this bench is primo for an attempt at Jagged Mountain.
Sea of downed trees. Submitted By: Mitch Musci on Nov 14, 2011
North gully is right of center. Submitted By: Mitch Musci on Nov 14, 2011
Long, narrow meadow. Submitted By: Mitch Musci on Nov 14, 2011
These approaches are all lovely in their own right, each with unique adventures. As evidenced by these photographs and my own fond memories, some have excellent little outcrops or other peaks for diversions on your way in and out, some have downed forest to negotiate with creek crossings, others further down require fording Vallecito. All, when down low are susceptible to bugs during the summer. Szszzzzzszsssszz! So, my particular favorite involving snow in the early season, enables a quick\climber friendly crossing to Jagged. Later in the season, when an adze and pick are useful for one spot, there is the nice treat of contouring a lot of nice talus fields. -Seriously, the fine art of moving across the larger of these rocks in their myriad configurations with a full pack is thoroughly enjoyable.- Anyway, once descending the switchbacks from Hunchback and crossing Nebo Creek, just past the confluence of Trinity Creek and Vallecito Creek, head up Stormy Gulch. Once at the tarns below Trinity Lake, contour southeast to gain the high traverse to Jagged. Go west over Peak Eight - Storm King pass, south between Peak Eight - Peak Seven. Countour to the bench below point 13064. (If you have time, a huge slot/chimney on the south side of this point is a good outing-bring big pro-descend to the northeast.) From here, let the north face of Leviathan tempt you, and cross the Point 13475\Leviathan Peak pass. See "Late Start" photo for the flat nook below Jagged's north side.